Tarek was detained on 7-7-2007 for critiquing security forces in Syria. He has not been taken to court up to this moment.
His name is Tarek Baiasi and he's 23 years old. He lives in Banyas with his mother and two sisters. His father was detained during the 80s by the Syrian security agents, who mistook him for a Muslim Brotherhood member, where he spent 20 years behind bars.
Tarek sells and maintains PCs. He is described by his friends as shy and quiet, spending his time surfing the web and blogging at Ektub here.
On 7-7-2007, Tarek was asked by the security branch in Banyas to answer a few questions concerning a comment he left on one of the “sensitive” websites. That was the last time his family heard from him.
I had previously mentioned Tarek on my blog when I posted about the kidnapping of the Syrian bloggeress Rukana Hammour by Syrian security agents, but had not heard anything new about him until yesterday when Syrian bloggers reported on the day which marked the completion of his six months of detention. The bloggers appealed to Syrian and international human rights agencies to highlight his case and the cases of others as well.
Syrian blogger Ahmad was the first to write about Tarek's case:
اعتقل طارق بياسي بتاريخ 7-7-2007م.
– سبب اعتقاله تعليق له في منتدى أنا مسلم تعرّض فيه لإيجابيات وسلبيات أجهزة الأمن.
– بعد اعتقاله فُتّش منزله ، و صودرت حواسيبه.
– انتهى التحقيق معه لكونه اعترف بتعليقه مباشرة، لكن لحد الآن لم يُحال للمحكمة ، و لا يُعرف مصيره.
– طارق وحيد لأمه ، من مواليد 84 ، من مدينة بانياس الساحلية.
– اعتقل أبوه لمدة 20 عاماً من أيام الأحداث ، كان عُمْرُ طارقٍ حينها بضعة أشهر فقط
-His house was searched and his computers were confiscated after his detention.
-Investigators were through with him ever since he confessed posting the comment, but until now he was not taken to court and no one knows his whereabouts.
-Tarek is his mother's only son, born in 1984 in Banyas.
-His father was sentenced for 20 years during the 80s when Tarek was a few months old at the time.
Ahmad posted several posts earlier on Tarek's detention in which we learn that the detained blogger was later on taken to Palestine Camp's security branch in Damascus:
لتصفحه مواقع انترنت ، طارق مازال في معتقلا في فرع فلسطين بدمشق طارق عمر بياسي ، مواليد 84، يعمل في محله في بيع أجهزة الكمبيوتر و صيانتها الكائن في مدينة بانياس الساحلية. لم يكن الدكتور عمر منظما في جماعة الإخوان و لا أحسبه مقتنعا بأفكارهم حتى يومنا هذا عن تهمة طارق فهي تصفحه و مشاركته في مواقع “مشبوهة” و ينظر لها بعين الريبة من قبل الأمن ، و هذه المواقع على الأغلب هي موقع أنا مسلم و موقع آخر شبيه به
Another Syrian blogger, Jassas, blogs about Tarek's case asking us to write to the Syrian human rights agencies and support Tarek. Marfa’ blog owner, too, adds his voice to Jassas’ appeal and asks us to shed some light on Tarek's case by contacting human rights agencies.
Arwa wishes that all the bloggers would agree on a certain statement to publish on their blogs:
أتمنى من جميع المدونات أن تتفق على “خطاب نصي” يشارك فيه المدونون كخطوة عملية وجماعية من أجل طارق
And finally, the owner of Msabba’ el Karat Syrian blog writes on Tarek's detention wondering why every time a Syrian citizen is detained for merely criticizing his nation's flaws, asserting that it's the people who eventually defend their nation:
هل من المعقول أن يسجن الإنسان كل هذه المدة من أجل كلمة تقال في حق الوطن ؟! عندما أنتقد الوطن والقائمين عليه ، هذا لا يعني أني لا أحبهم و لا أتمنى لهم الخير ، بل أنتقدهم لأني أريد أن يكون وطني مثالا يحتذى به في كل المجالات ، هؤلاء الشباب هم زهرة الأوطان ، هم الذين سيدافعون عن قضايا الأوطان ، و بهمتم العالية تبنى الأوطان ، فلماذا تنزع كرامة الشاب من أجل كلمة تقال ، إن كنا نعرف أن بعض كلمات ستودي بنا إلى السجن ، فسنوقف أقلامنا ، و نغلق أفواهنا ، و نقطع ألسنتنا ، و نجلس عبادا نساكا ننتظر رحمة الله و فرجه القريبIs it possible to detain someone this long for having his say on his nation's affairs? When I criticize my nation and its leaders, it doesn't mean that I dislike them or wish them harm. I just do it to make my country better in all fields. Those youngsters are the nation's blossoms; they'll defend and protect the country, and with them we build it. So why are we stripping a man of his dignity for a word he said? If we knew that a few words would lead us to jail, we would stop writing, shut our mouths, cut our tongues and sit back as slaves waiting for God's mercy.
At the end of his post, the blogger draws our attention to important statistics:
ملاحظة : هناك 40 ألف قضية في قصر العدل لم تتطرق لها المحكمة بعد ، هذا ما أشارت إليه النائب العام غادة مراد في حديثها للجزيرة ضمن برنامج رائدات
Up to this moment, one Syrian human rights agency did report on Tarek's detention at the very day of his detention on 7-7-2007. HRW mentioned his name in its report on Syrian officials’ continuous arrests of people over online comments:
On June 30, 2007, Military Intelligence in the coastal city of Tartous arrested Tarek Biasi, 22, because he “went online and insulted security services,” according to a person familiar with the case. Biasi remains in incommunicado detention, his whereabouts unknown.
The HRW report says Tarek was detained on June 30, but the Syrian human rights agency and his family and friends confirmed that Tarek was detained on the 7th. of July and not on June 30th. I am noting this issue for documentation purposes.
Tarek does not stand alone in these arrests policy over online comments, the HRW report lists seven names among those who've been detained for expressing their views online. This policy started in 2002 but it has been increasing recently and especially after the “Ministry of Telecommunications and Technology” circular; Sami Ben Gharbia wrote about the repression of internet in Syria and here he uncovers the circular's instructions:
Recently, the new-formed “Ministry of Telecommunications and Technology” issued a new circular asking the owners of the Syrian websites “to exercise accuracy and objectivity (…) and to post the name of the writer of an article and the one who comments on it in a clear and detailed manner.” The Ministry added that “the failure to do so would result in warning the website owner and rendering his website temporarily inaccessible. In case the violation is repeated, the website will become permanently inaccessible.
Here's my response to this circular.
It is not a secret that the Syrian tyrant regime is tight on the Syrian people and tighter on those who try to break through, but as I mentioned earlier in my blog there is no space on the ground for the youth to express their views or to embody their interests except on the cyber world. So what made li Zein al-`Abideen Mej`an, Karim ‘Arbaji (29), Tarek Biasi (22) and many others turn to the Internet? Isn't it the very absent tangible Syria? Among all of the people who live in Syria, the Syrian government is detaining those who actually care about the Syrian public affair, those who care about Syria; those who have opinions and express them online simply because they can’t express themselves elsewhere. So by detaining these people, the Syrian government is making one of its exquisite statements: “don’t even bother to think and have a say, we'll just do it for you”.
So there is no tangible Syria, and soon enough there might be no virtual Syria as well, I wonder how can there be Syrians without Syria, or Syria without Syrians who care.
Censorship in Syria is not a joke and it's shouldn’t be viewed as the “norm/typical/predictable policies” of the tyrannical Syrian government. We're not talking about the imprisonment of political activists anymore, not even human rights activists, we're talking about detaining people, just people like you and me, mostly students, whose mere accusation was having opinions, whether I agree with them or not, and mostly I don’t, is never the case, but the fact that someone who still cares and dares to express her/his views in Syria is not the norm, it's a rare case, and the detention of these rare people is very serious.
For those who are interested in helping Tarek and his family please send me and email at: arab.spring[at]gmail[dot]com.