October 5th, 2010
12:26 PM ET

Syria charges teen blogger with espionage

Tal al-Mallouhi's supporters have created Facebook pages demanding her release.

A teen blogger who had been held for nine months in Syria’s Duma women’s prison has been charged with espionage, according to several media outlets.

Syrian Intelligence Services summoned Tal al-Mallouhi, 19, in December to interrogate her about her blog, which contains poetry and social commentary on local and Arab affairs, the Syrian Human Rights Committee reported.

“Thereafter she was arrested and has not returned to her family since, nor do they know her place of detention. Shortly afterwards, intelligence apparatus went to her home and seized her personal computer,” the committee reported in August.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said CDs, books and other personal belongings were confiscated from her parents’ house in Homs as well, and until this week, her parents were given no explanation for her 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, the group’s Middle East director. “A government that thinks it can get away with trampling the rights of its citizens has lost all connection to its people.”

Her family told Human Rights Watch that al-Mallouhi is in her last year of high school and belongs to no political groups. Syrian activists surmise she may have been detained over a poem criticizing Syria’s restrictions on freedom of expression.

A photo of Gandhi greets visitors to her blog, to which she last posted on September 6, 2009. Several sources say her Arabic-language commentary addressed the plight of Palestinians.

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting said it “featured pieces about the duty of oppressed citizens to reject the life of subjugation and fight for their rights or about the Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland.”

Numerous organizations have called for al-Mallouhi’s release, and her supporters have created Facebook pages in Arabic and English demanding she be freed.

Amnesty International has joined the chorus of activists and watchdogs calling for Syria to release al-Mallouhi and says it worries the young woman is at risk of being tortured.

“I'm going crazy. I have had chronic insomnia since my daughter's arrest. I survive on sleeping pills,” her mother told Amnesty last month.

Amnesty fears al-Mallouhi is not only being denied treatment for her tachycardia, or accelerated heart rate, but that she may be subjected to any of the 38 types of torture and ill treatment Amnesty claims Syria has meted out to detainees.

Amnesty cited eight instances of men being arrested for online activity, all of whom were tortured into “confessions.”

According to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, the Syrian stranglehold over mainstream media has prompted young people, both inside and outside the country, to take to the blogosphere over sensitive social and political issues. Syrian authorities have recently cracked down on this brand of commentariat.

Many bloggers use pseudonyms for fear of being jailed, and readership remains low because, according to a 2008 U.N. report, Internet penetration in Syria is about 17 percent.

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Filed under: Facebook • Human rights • Justice • Palestinians • Syria • Technology • Uncategorized
soundoff (173 Responses)
  1. linnie

    Syria is a secular state. It's not a fascist dictatorship, and has nothing to do with Nazism. Its citizens enjoy many liberties that are not enjoyed in other countries –considered "moderate"– this despite the authoritarian nature of its regime. And since political science is not a matter of opinion, I suggest you read a few books about Syria. Anything of R.A. Hinnebusch would work. I suggest his Syria: Revolution from Above (2001).
    I really think that instead of blogging about things that you don't know much about, maybe reading can be a better idea? or just write about things you've read more than a couple of media articles on.

    October 7, 2010 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. shame on you CNN, you must say the truth

    CNN Why you hide the truth ,where is the next half of truth, (((Tal al-Mallouhi is working with CIA, working with Amirican embassy, working with AMY SIA CATHERINE DISTEFANO diplomatic employee in American embassy with diplomatic passport No. 6010440 in Cairo-Egypt, working with STACY ROSS STARBUCK diplomatic employee in American embassy Cairo-Egyp with diplomatic passport No. 6010067, plotting to assassination SAMER RABBOA the Syrian diplomatic in Cairo-Egypt)))
    she must hanged not just imprison
    the all story, the truth story with photo of diplomatic employee in American embassy in this site
    shame on you CNN to don't tel the truth in your News

    February 20, 2011 at 4:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dawn

    Thank you for defining 'irony' for everyone. People tend to misuse that word a lot, and I think you are a great example of the correct meaning.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. the educated

    ** Educated

    October 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. whatnext


    October 5, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John T

    We in the USA live in a milieu of human centered civil rights because we share a common set of positive values. In the Middle East, the values that people share are the opposite, and that most definitely includes the Palestinians. A call in a poem by an "innocent high school student" is a call to war, it is not what it appears on the surface. Note that the Palestinians have been expelled from Kuwait and other places, and that Egypt maintains a "Berlin Wall" between Gaza and its Palestinians and Egypt. The reason is that the Palestinians have become the human plague of the Middle East. They are thieves, killers and work for the overthrow of the nations they reside in. It was Palestinians who were the 5th column inside Kuwait that helped Saddam Hussein for instance.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Guy Montag

    This is a perfect example of an idiot reading the headline, and skipping down to post a response with reading any of the article.

    Unless you're actually saying that you are in favor of fascist extremists. In which case, you make me sad.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wzrd1

    John T, I've known a number of Palestinians, most are very nice people and want nothing more than to live a normal life like the rest of us. You DO know what a normal life is? You know, go to work, come home, eat, play with the kids, go to bed, sleep, rinse and repeat.
    A number are also NOT very nice, they took to the militant causes and cause trouble. That isn't the majority, but a substantial minority. That is an interesting thing, as MOST minorities that cause trouble are typically around 0.5% of a population, to get around 5% indicates other problems that push people to a cause that normally wouldn't be an option.
    I'll not go into the West Bank thing or other gordian knot problems there, but to characterize an entire ethnic group as gangsters is dangerously close to the behavior in Nazi Germany regarding Jews and Gypsies, both groups of which I've also have had as friends over the years.
    So, I'll continue judging people by their behavior in my observation and their overall actions, NOT as a racial, ethnic or religious group. Hence, I'll always have more loyal friends than you will.
    And I *DO* have personal experience in the region, I was deployed for nearly 5 years in the Persian Gulf region and dealt DAILY with Arabs, Iranians, Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians to mention only a FEW ethnic/national groups.
    I only had minor problems twice and nothing that escalated, as the locals that got to know me stood up for me and the "troublemaker" quietly observed and accepted my presence where I was doing business and never caused a problem or spoke a harsh word again.
    And ALL knew I worked for the US Government, but in those instances was doing my personal daily business.
    And as a footnote, I normally got "best prices" from those I dealt with.
    My secret was the PLATINUM rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. Always.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ikantraed

    Well, leave it to the islamomanics, and anything is possible.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Marv Rippe

    Ahhhhh, how the ignorance runs deep.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Robert

    Who Cares?

    October 5, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. map

    What decision?!!? YOU mean the decision to be another terrorist? YOU are the one that is uneducated and worthless. YOU are a danger to any society you live in. YOU generalize everyone in your narrow minded brain the size of a rat. YOU are the criminal WE whom live a strong and valuable life must protect our families and children from. YOU are the drain, not only to one country but a drain emotionally and financially to the world. Let God be your final Judge, for I only share my opinion about you directly and any that think or destroy as you seem intended to do. BTW fool, drugs are everywhere and not everyone uses them. Every nation has its bad apples, just as you are. We actually fight against our bad seeds, we make an attempt to weed them out.....what do YOU do? Does your decision you speak of mean you destroy innocent lovely people and families?

    October 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. k

    These are serious charges, Americans. Why doesn't anyone respond? How can we defend ourselves intelligently against what this person says? Can we even do it without resorting to bigotry, prejudice, insults, and assumptions based on ignorance? I think our country would be a better place if more of us, if all of us, had the courage to face criticism of ourselves and try to right our wrongs. No one is perfect, no country is perfect, no people is perfect, but as long as we continue to ignore our faults, misdeeds, and others' criticism of us, we will never be able to become better. Can anyone respond to this without insults and hatred? These are serious accusations! How can we defend ourselves rationally?

    (Telling the sender that "he sucks/belongs to a group that sucks isn't a rational defense. It's called an ad hominem attack. Sure, when you don't like what someone says you can say that the person is an idiot, but that's not really addressing the issue at all, it's merely avoiding it. Are we capable of addressing these issues?)

    October 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. k

    Good example of ad hominem attacks map's post. Maybe map has some other valid points, but if you want to see how to make an invalid argument, read the first few lines.

    *An invalid argument is one that neither addresses the original premise nor derives conclusions from a logical sequence of reasoning. Instead, an invalid argument tries to "win" by diverting attention, manipulating word meaning, or confusing the audience.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kraznodar

    The middle eastern countries have a large number of legitimate complaints against the UK, France and the USA. That does not justify tyranny or oppression.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
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