Son says Syrian activist in hiding, still talking

2011-07-08 09:13

One of the most prominent opponents of the Syrian regime fears for his life and is in hiding, but that has not stopped him from speaking out, his son said during a visit to South Africa.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has used brutal force against pro-democracy protests, but the demonstrations have only grown.

Human Rights Watch says more than 1?300 Syrians have been killed since the protests began four months ago.

Iyas Maleh said his father, 80-year-old Haitham al-Maleh, remains in Syria but has fled his home and is reluctant to use his mobile phone for fear that Syrian security agents will trace him.

Maleh said his father, who has been a critic of the Syrian regime for decades, has used other means to speak out, including emails and interviews over voice-over-Internet devices.

Maleh spoke yesterday during an interview with The Associated Press in Johannesburg.

“The fear is really not an arrest,” Maleh said of his father, who has spent years in Syrian prisons for his political activism.

“They might actually try to get rid of him.”

Maleh said neighbours had told the family that security agents seen near his father’s home have been saying “they have orders to shoot and not to arrest anymore,” and that one young neighbour had been offered money to assault his father.

Maleh said that when the neighbour reported the offer to him, his father joked that he should have demanded more, and split the money with him.

Amnesty International has included al-Maleh among at least a dozen prominent rights and political activists in Syria it believes have been forced into hiding after receiving threats of violence and arrests.

Al-Maleh was arrested in 2009 for “spreading false information” after giving a television interview that criticized Assad’s government.

He was held pending trial on that charge until his release in March following an amnesty issued by Assad. Al-Maleh also was imprisoned from 1980 to 1986 after demanding constitutional reforms.

While Assad’s regime has used force against peaceful protests, it also has called for dialogue.
Maleh said his father would boycott talks Assad has scheduled for Sunday.

“He believes that the opportunity for dialogue has passed,” Maleh said. “With the use of violence against protesters, there is no legitimacy to this dialogue call.”

Maleh, who lives in Belgium, is in South Africa this week with four other exiled Syrian activists who are calling on South Africa to support a UN Security Council resolution condemning the violence in their homeland.

The activists charge that South Africa, which holds a rotating seat on the council, has been reluctant to even allow debate on the resolution because it believes a resolution it voted for on Libya has been misused.

Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for the foreign affairs department, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the delegation’s charges, or say whether government officials would meet the Syrians.

South African officials have been outspoken critics of Nato airstrikes on Libya, saying the West has overstepped a UN Security Council resolution calling for a no-fly zone and the protection of civilians in Libya.

Maleh and the other members of his delegation stressed they were not calling for international military intervention in Syria.

They say a resolution condemning the violence would encourage Syrians determined to secure democracy peacefully.

They say it would also isolate Assad’s regime, and perhaps persuade some within it to change sides.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.