Fleeing Syria: Entire Towns Empty As Refugee Crisis Grows

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Syrian refugee map

The UN is expecting up to one million Syrian refugees by mid 2013. Click to explore full map.

Faced with shelling and shortages of food, water and fuel, civilians have fled their homes, becoming refugees in neighboring countries or finding themselves internally displaced. Towns and villages across Latakia, Idlib, Hama and Dara’a governorates have been effectively emptied of their populations. Entire neighbourhoods in southern and eastern Damascus, Deir al-Zour and Aleppo have been razed. The downtown of Homs city has been devastated.
—Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. December 20, 2012.

The impact of Syria’s spiraling conflict can be increasingly seen in neighboring countries, as indiscriminate attacks are sending hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing from their homes across borders in search of safety and shelter. According to the latest update from the Independent International inquiry on Syria—released just hours ago—entire towns and villages have been emptied of their populations. The intensified fighting around Damascus and the mounting atrocities across the country are accompanied by increasing reports of sectarian violence. While we can’t predict the outcome of the conflict, one thing seems certain: the cycle of violence and displacement of civilians will go on for months. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Senseless Violence from Beirut to Ohio

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Witness room facing the execution chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville,Ohio

Ohio execution chamber, 2009 CAROLINE GROUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

The life of Abdul Hamin Awkal has been punctuated by violence. And on June 6, unless the Governor of Ohio steps in, his life will end in the violence of execution.

Born in Beirut in 1959, he grew up in a family with an abusive father and a history of mental illness. In 1975, when he was a teenager, the Lebanese civil war broke out, unleashing waves of violence. There followed 8 years of witnessing dismembered bodies, bombings and kidnappings. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Saudi Arabia Set to Execute Soothsayer for Sorcery

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UPDATE (4/2/10):  ‘Ali Hussain Sibat has been granted a stay of execution.  But there was no indication that Sibat’s death sentence would be commuted or that he would be released.

Having worked on death penalty cases both internationally and the United States for more than two decades, I’ve gotten used to some strange and unnerving stories.  But today comes one from Saudi Arabia that has to rank toward the top of my outrage scale.

A Lebanese national, possibly ‘Ali Hussain Sibat, is reported to be at imminent risk of execution and could be executed as early as tomorrow in Saudi Arabia, according to information received today by Amnesty International.

‘Ali Hussain Sibat, who is 46 and has five children, was a presenter on a TV show on the Lebanese satellite TV station Sheherazade, where he gave advice and predictions about the future. He was arrested by the Mutawa’een (religious police) on charges of “sorcery” in May 2008 while he was in Saudi Arabia to perform a form of Muslim pilgrimage, the ‘umra.

‘Ali Hussain Sibat was sentenced to death by a court in Madina in November 2009 after secret court hearings where he had no legal representation or assistance. Amnesty International is concerned that the charge of “sorcery” and others arose solely from the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

This has to stop.  The death penalty is wrong is all cases, but in this particular one, the range of outrages from the unfair trial to the nature of the charges requires special action.  CNN has picked up on the story.

Time is short.  Please fax the king of Saudi Arabia and have him stop this travesty.  The address is below:

King and Prime Minister

His Majesty King ‘Abdullah Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud

The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques

Office of His Majesty the King

Royal Court, Riyadh

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior)

+966 1 403 1185 (please keep trying)

Lebanon Election to be held on June 7th

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Electoral Map of Lebanon

Electoral Map of Lebanon

Lebanon is due to hold its national elections in about two weeks on June 7th. This is a unique opportunity for the country’s political leaders to commit themselves and their parties to introducing long-needed human rights reforms.

There are five key areas that the new government elected on June 7th should focus on for reform: creation of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon within the justice system, an end to arbitrary detention and torture, addressing the impunity of past human rights abuses, ending discrimination and violence against women and other marginalized groups, and abolition of the death penalty. You can find out more details on these key reform issues here.

To date, there have been several positive human rights advances in Lebanon, including the Parliament’s drafting of a Human Rights Action Plan. Candidates should embrace these developments and take advantage of this opportunity to implement a clear, comprehensive human rights agenda should they be elected into office.

To learn more about the candidates and the election, click here.

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post