Campaign and petition for freedom and justice for Syrias detainees.

Today we’re sharing a request for help to publicise a campaign on behalf of Syria’s detainees.

Dear Ray,

My name is Hala. I am a medical doctor and a co-founder of the Families for Freedom movement which campaigns for freedom and justice for Syria’s detainees.

While my colleagues around the world battle the worst pandemic in living memory, I am terrified of coronavirus spreading into Assad’s underground detention dungeons. Across Syria, tens of thousands of detainees are crowded into squalid, unventilated cells. Their immune systems are exhausted by the regime’s systemic torture and mistreatment. A coronavirus outbreak in these conditions is unimaginable horror.

On top of this, for many years the regime and Russia have attacked Syria’s medical community directly, exactly the people and systems that are most needed to stop the outbreak. My husband was detained and tortured for months just for being a doctor.

The Syrian regime who took our loved ones from us has no interest in protecting detainees — but in these days when the rest of the world is united against a common enemy, I pray that the UN and international health authorities can be pushed into using their powers to stop a coronavirus outbreak in Syria’s detention centers.

Please join Families for Freedom and sign the petition to demand urgent action to release all Syrian detainees — amid the rapid global spread of COVID-19.

I have seen the effects of detention on many former detainees who I treated as a doctor. I will never forget the time a young woman was brought to me after she was released. She was suffering from multiple diseases and her body was covered in scars from the constant torture she had endured. She told me about her friend who passed away from sickness and the inhumane treatment.

I have had to step out of my interviews with detainees like her to cry on many occasions.

Under these conditions, and now amid the rapid global spread of Coronavirus, we ask the UN Special Envoy for Syria and all UN agencies to demand the immediate release of all detainees held in these wretched prisons and unofficial detention centers. At the very least, international health organizations like the Red Cross and the World Health Organization must have regular access to detention facilities in order to provide critical sanitary measures and medical treatment to detainees.

Additionally, the UN must insist that the pardon decree issued by Bashar al-Assad on Sunday, and all future decrees, do not exclude political prisoners and human rights defenders.

The world realizes that COVID-19 can be deadly for those with compromised immune systems and the elderly — but what about those who are broken down by starvation, torture, and who are left to face this virus alone? An outbreak of coronavirus amongst detainees could cause a vast number of deaths and the world must take responsibility to prevent this.

Please sign this urgent petition, coronavirus is spreading rapidly and we don’t have a day to lose.

My brother and my father-in-law were both arbitrarily detained in 2013, and since then I have campaigned tirelessly alongside others in the Families for Freedom movement for their freedom, and justice for all of our loved ones who have been detained and forcibly disappeared in Syria.

For years Syrians have experienced every kind of death: by barrel bombs, chemical weapons, starvation, drowning, and torture. Unless the UN grows a backbone and acts now, countless detainees will experience death by coronavirus in underground dungeons.

Dr Hala al-Ghawi