Free Mazen Darwish
Over a period of 40 years, the Syrian regime created a network of police informers and intelligence agencies that suffocated the country with fear. Many of those brave enough to speak up were caught in this web of state surveillance and silenced by Assad’s infrastructure of detention and torture.
That is the context in which a young lawyer and journalist called Mazen Darwish set up the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression in 2004. He did this not from the safety of exile or the anonymity of the internet, but under his own name from an office in the heart of Damascus.
Darwish courageously fought for free expression and human rights in one of the most dangerous places in the world. On 16 February 2012, he was arrested by officers from the notorious Air Force Intelligence unit together with his colleagues Hussein Gharir and Hani al-Zitani. Gharir and al-Zitani were released in July 2015. Darwish remains in jail.
In 2014, I shared the PEN Pinter award with Mazen in an effort to shine a light on his continued detention. At a time when people across Syria and the region are caught between state violence and Islamist savagery, it is crucial that we know about and stand in solidarity with Syrian democrats and human rights defenders. There is none braver than Mazen Darwish.