In Europe, the brutal hand of the Syrian secret services

Syrian Kurds protest in 2011

By Eric Bruneau:

8th February  2012. A group of about 50 demonstrators stand in front of Berlin’s Russian embassy, waving Syrian uprising and Kurdish flags, in protest against the Russian foreign minister’s trip to Syria. The same day, Mr Ferhad Ahma, a Syrian Kurd born in 1974 in al-Qamishli, agrees to talk about his personal experience of the repression that president al-Assad dictatorship’s carries out beyond the country’s borders.

“It was the night of 25th/26th December 2011″, says Mr Ahma. It was 2 am. Some people knocked at his flat door. “’Polizei’, they said. They said they needed to check something”.

Unsuspecting, Mr Ahma unlocked the door. Germany is not Syria, he thought, people don’t have to fear the police.

But as soon as it was unlocked, the door was violently pushed and two men started to beat him with bludgeons, making him falling. Even when he was on the ground, the attack continued. “They said nothing, asked nothing. They immediately attacked me.”

When they were at his door, asking him to open, did he notice any accent? “No. They just said two very short sentences in German, not enough to identify any accent. But they were not Germans. They were from the Middle-East.”

“They were from the mukhabarat” he adds, very matter-of-factly.

For Mr Ahma has previously been subjected to pressure from the Syrian Internal Security directorate. Ever since he left Syria as a political refugee more than 15 years ago, his family back home has been harassed by the all-powerful agency.

“It is their regular procedure”, confirms Mr Hozan Ibrahim, a member of the opposition SNC general committee. “The regime is putting pressure on the exiled dissidents by threatening their families in Syria. It didn’t start with the uprising. It has been ongoing for years.”

And, in the war the dictatorship’s agents are waging against opponents abroad, Mr Ahma is a target.

“I was, originally, a member of the PYKS (Partiya Yekiti ya Kurd li Suriye). But I left in 1998, two years after arriving in Germany. The possibilities of action inside the Syrian Kurd political parties are too limited. I could be more active and more efficient as a human rights activist.” He also became a member of the German Green party and, more recently, coordinator for the Syrian Kurdish Youth Abroad association, an organisation providing support to activist groups inside Syria.

“Additionally, I work with the SNC.” So many reasons, in the eyes of the mukhabarat, to switch from pressure to direct attack.

“It is difficult to estimate how long it lasted. Maybe five, maybe seven minutes”, says Mr Ahma. Then he adds, tellingly, “It was very long.”

The attack was so brutal that the cudgel wielded by one of the aggressors broke. Fortunately Mr Ahma was able to alert one of his neighbours. “I shouted, banged against the wall of the flat next to mine. I made the most noise I could. A neighbour came to investigate and this made the aggressors run away.”

Mr Ahma’s case is not isolated. A report by Amnesty International, made public on 3rd October 2011, documents aggression directed against anti-al-Assad protesters all over the world.

“Those attacks are organised and perpetrated by the Syrian embassies. Or, more exactly, by mukhabarat personnel placed in the embassies”, says Mr Hozan Ibrahim. “Two intelligence agencies have people among the embassies’ staff: the counter intelligence and the external branch of the state security directorate, the one in charge of surveillance – and action –  against Syrian dissidents in exile.”

These claims are confirmed by other sources. The British ‘Guardian’ newspaper (12th October 2011) published an article about a Syrian-born US citizen, Mohamed Amas Haitham Soueid, accused of spying on opponents of the al-Ba’as regime living in USA. Mr Soueid, said the article, was recruiting informers in their ranks, and sending video and audio recordings of protesters – details such as phone numbers or email addresses – to a contact at Washington’s Syrian embassy.

“Past week”, adds Mr Hozan, “anti al-Assad protesters stormed the Syrian embassy in Cairo city. They seized their documents, lists of mukhabarat agents, with their targets, their contacts, this kind of things.” These documents have not been made public, he says, because the militants don’t want to ignite retaliation attacks.

And, for sure, spying for the Syrian secret services doesn’t look to be a quiet occupation. According to the ‘Guardian’ article, among the offences committed by Mr Soueid is a false statement that he made to buy a handgun. A sign, maybe, that he was becoming increasingly nervous.

Asked about the aftermath of his attack, Mr Ahma says he sustained, fortunately, only minor wounds: no broken bones, “only” a cut above the eye and bruises to his limbs got while trying to defend himself. But he is aware that his fate could have been different if his neighbour had not come to see what was happening.

“When they heard him they ran away. He did not see them, just their back. I am the only one to have seen them.”

Has he since changed anything in his habits? Mr Ahma shrugs. “Not really. I am living in the same place. I lock the front door very carefully, that is obvious, and the police forces have been around. Their investigation established clearly that the attack wasn’t a criminal or a personal one, but was politically motivated. They kept the part of the broken cosh used by the thugs as evidence. And, as you can see, I recovered from the wounds: I keep no momentos.”

His immediate reaction, he says, has been to talk about what happened. “I saw an opportunity. I could, through my personal case, expose the methods of the Syrian regime, the repression it directs at its critics living abroad. It is very important that Western governments know that, on their own territory, Syrian exiles who speak against the regime are in danger, that they are victims of aggressions aimed at silencing them.”

Unknown to Mr Ahma and to Mr Hozan, on the same day, 8th February 2012, Berlin’s criminal police arrested a Lebanese man holding German citizenship, Mahmoud el-A., and a Syrian, Akram O., accused by the authorities of having spied for several years on members of the Syrian opposition in exile in Germany. According to the latest news, the two secret agents will not be expelled and will have to face the German justice. Asked if they were the two men who assaulted him, Mr Ahma said the next day that he hadn’t been contacted by the police yet. “But”, he added, “it is good to hear this great news.”

Copyright © 2012

One Response to In Europe, the brutal hand of the Syrian secret services
  1. haval
    March 2, 2012 | 23:17

    THis incident will shows the brutality of the Syrian regim and the consequence of the mass people waiting for .

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL