No to Torture

29 July 2014

As the number of deaths under torture continues to rise at an exponential rate, so does the apathy of mainstream media towards the issue. To counter this trend, the “Biratî Center for Democracy and Civil Society” launched the “No to Torture” Campaign, on June 26: the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

The campaign was active in the eastern cities of Hasaka, Qamishlo and Ra’s al-‘Ayn (Serêkanîye in Kurdish), which are administered by the Kurdish security forces (Asayish).

Anas Hasan, founder of the initiative and head of the human rights education program, defines the initiative as more than a solidarity campaign. “No to Torture aims to stand in solidarity with victims of torture, and remind the world of their suffering. But this is not all; we are working to spread human rights awareness within the Asayish forces, and hold them accountable for any violations committed in their prisons,” said Hasan in an interview with SyriaUntold.

To this end, activists have managed to visit Asayish’s security headquarters, where they discussed their demands and handed out the campaign’s pamphlets. Consequently, the leader of Asayish in Serêkanîye “Haj Hassan Abdel Khalil”, agreed to reveal the organization’s investigation mechanisms and allow any neutral party to take a look inside their prisons.

The Kurdish Security Forces (Asayish) have been subjected to heavy criticism for poor administration and human rights violations. The campaign’s organizers however, attribute this to their lack of expertise, considering the fact that the Asayish organization was only formed recently.

The campaign also included pamphlets, posters and awareness brochures that condemn torture. The posters were either handed out to people or posted in public squares, and read: “No to torture, wherever it may be”.

The activists also translated the “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” into Kurdish, as part of a bigger project to translate international human rights instruments into local languages like Kurdish and Syriac. Furthermore, the Biratî center’s official Facebook page published statistic on the number of victims under torture in Syria.

Although the campaign as a whole was a success, the poor security situation and continuous car bombings in the area have forced the activists to cancel a convention in Serêkanîye.

The campaign was funded by international organizations only, say the activists. As the Biratî Center is determined to preserve its independence by publishing semi-annual reports revealing its sources of funding.


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