(New York) - The Syrian government should immediately release Tal al-Mallohi, a 19-year-old high school student and blogger held incommunicado without charge for nine months, Human Rights Watch said today. She has been held by Syria's security services since being detained on December 27, 2009.
State Security (Branch 279), one of Syria's multiple state security agencies, summoned al-Mallohi to Damascus for interrogation in December and immediately detained her. Two days later, members of State Security went to al-Mallohi's house and confiscated her computer, some CDs, books, and other personal belongings. Since the arrest, the security services have not allowed her family to communicate with her and have not offered any explanation for the arrest.
"Detaining a high school student for nine months without charge is typical of the cruel, arbitrary behavior of Syria's security services," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "A government that thinks it can get away with trampling the rights of its citizens has lost all connection to its people."
It is unclear why the authorities have detained al-Mallohi. According to her family, al-Mallohi, who is in her last year of high school, does not belong to any political group. Some Syrian activists have expressed concerns that security services may have detained her over a poem she wrote criticizing certain restrictions on freedom of expression in Syria. Her blog, which contains poetry and social commentary, focuses mostly on the plight of Palestinians and does not address Syrian political issues. Her homepage shows a picture of Gandhi with the quote, "you will remain an example."
On September 1, al-Malouhi's mother issued a public appeal to President Bashar al-Asad urging him to provide her with information about her daughter.