Stichting Geuzenverzet 1940-1945
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2006 Haitham Maleh

 

The Board of The Geuzen Resistance 1940-1945 Foundation (Stichting Geuzenverzet 1940-1945) has awarded the 2006 Geuzen Medal to Haitham Maleh from Syria for his courageous fight for human rights. By awarding the Geuzen Medal, the Foundation wishes to support human rights activists in Syria and ask acknowledgement of their struggle. The Geuzen Medal will be presented in the Grote Kerk in Vlaardingen on 13 March 2006.

Haitham Maleh (1931) forms part of a small group of human rights activists who have the courage to defy the intimidations of the Syrian regime. Mr Maleh himself spent seven years in prison because of his beliefs (1980-1987). He is a lawyer and member of the board and former chairman of the unrecognised but tolerated Human Rights Association in Syria (HRAS). Mr Maleh, who is now 74 years old, is an example to others in Syria. He is respected, even by his opponents (the secret services).

During a tour of Western-Europe in 2003, Maleh gave a speech before the German parliament that addressed the importance of abolishing the state of emergency in Syria. He fights for independent and impartial courts, against the death penalty for members of the Muslim Brotherhood and for the release of political prisoners. The small group of activists to which Maleh belongs is mostly deprived of international attention as a result of the effective repression under the Syrian regime.
Situation in Syria

Syria’s population consists mostly of Arabs as well as Kurds and Armenians. Most people are Muslims, but there is a Christian minority. After being under French mandate for decades Syria became an independent state in 1946. A coup in 1963 brought the Ba’ath party to power in Syria. They declared the state of emergency and annulled the safeguards, rights and freedoms laid down in the constitution. At present this is still the case. Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1970. He established a dictatorship, which he headed until his death in 2000. He was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad, who, unfortunately, mostly followed in the steps of his father.

People who wish to exercise their right to freedom of expression in Syria are persecuted. Curds cannot freely practise their cultural habits. Trials at special courts established under the state of emergency are most unfair. People are frequently ill-treated in detention and political prisoners are likely to be tortured. There are reports of prisoners who died under suspicious circumstances.



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