And Then They Came For The Poets…

Poet Nasser Saber Bondek was arrested on 17 February at his home by people believed to be members of the Syrian security forces. His whereabouts are unknown and his life is in danger; a man arrested in the same neighbourhood that day died in custody.

Nasser Saber Bondek’s wife, Farizah Jahjah Bondek, who lives abroad, told Amnesty International that a local contact had told her that members of the Syrian security forces believed to be Military Intelligence arrived at Nasser Saber Bondek’s house in the Damascus suburb of Sahnaya at around 6.30pm on 17 February, arrested him and broke items in the house. A released detainee has reported seeing Nasser Saber Bondek shortly after his arrest at the Military Intelligence Branch 227 in Damascus. Since then, his wife has not received any information on his whereabouts, though an unofficial source told her in late April that he was “ok”.

Among those who were arrested in Sahnaya that day are human rights lawyer Jihan Amin and student Ranim Ma’touq, (whose father, human rights lawyer Khalil Ma’touq, has been subjected to enforced disappearance) and another man, whose body was returned to his family about three weeks later, from the same Military Intelligence branch where Nasser Saber Bondek was last seen. A local contact told Amnesty International that a judge ordered Jihan Amin’s provisional release on 29 April after questioning her about “distributing aid to terrorists”, due to accusations that she had assisted people internally displaced as a result of the armed conflict in Syria, perceived by the Syrian authorities as family members of who they consider ‘terrorists’. Ranim Ma’touq is still detained, and is also on trial for “distributing aid to terrorists”, due to similar accusations that she had assisted internally displaced people.

The exact reasons for Nasser Saber Bondek’s arrest are unknown. His wife told Amnesty International that he engaged in humanitarian assistance activities, such as aiding the internally displaced. Farizah Jahjah Bondek is a peaceful political activist herself, and is known for attending demonstrations. She had fled Syria with their children out of fear of arrest by the authorities before her husband was arrested.

Nasser Saber Bondek works at part of the Ministry of Information, the Arab Organization for Advertising. He also writes poetry. He is originally from al-Suwayda, a predominantly Druze area in southern Syria near the Jordanian border. For further information on the two women also arrested in Sahnaya, see UA 38/14, 21 February 2014 ( http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/009/2014/en ).

For an insight into the widespread torture and other ill-treatment in Syria’s detention centres, see I wanted to die: Syria’s torture survivors speak out ( http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/016/2012/en ). Thousands are reported to have died in the custody of the Syrian security forces since unrest began in 2011. Amnesty International documented this practice in the report Deadly detention: Deaths in custody amid popular protest in Syria ( http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/035/2011/en ).

If you felt like writing to the Syrian UN representative about this, you can contact them here: Permanent Representative to the UN
Bashar Ja’afari, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
820 Second Avenue, 15th Floor, New York,
NY 10017
Fax: 001 212 983 4439
E-mail: exesec.syria@gmail.com  
Salutation: Your Excellency

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