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2.1.2. Political activists, opposition party members and protesters seen as opposing the government

Last update: September 2020

This sub-profile refers to individuals who would be seen by the government as opposing it, in particular to (perceived) political activists, protesters and opposition party members.

COI summary

Political activism in Syria had been kept in check by the government for decades. Although a 2011 decree allowed for the registration of independent political parties, in practice the government enforced it selectively, permitting only pro-government groups to form official parties. Members of political parties, which are known to support the calls for overthrowing the Assad government, are considered enemies of the state. Most of the members of the political opposition to the Assad government have either fled Syria, were killed or are in prison. [Targeting, 1.2.2]

GoS is reported to view as political dissent the activities of wide categories of individuals, including peaceful protesters, activists and critics of the government, professionals such as humanitarian workers, doctors, lawyers, journalists, bloggers and online activists, as well as draft evaders and defected soldiers. Government forces harshly repressed the anti-government protests that erupted in 2011 and the ensuing military uprising [Targeting, 1].

Since the beginning of the conflict, the targeting of political activists and protesters who sided with the opposition has been a key element in the GoS’s counterinsurgency strategy. Opposition protests in government-held areas are often met with gunfire, mass arrests, and torture and killing of those detained. The GoS forces conduct regular raids to detain political and civil activists [Targeting, 1.2.2]. There are also reports that persons believed to have been involved in opposition-related activities, including protesters, are on the ‘wanted lists’ [Targeting, 1.1.3, 1.3.6].

Targeting of political activists opposing GoS can also occur through other parties than the government forces or its allied militias [Targeting, 1.2.2].

Risk analysis

The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. detention, torture, killing).

For individuals considered by the government as opposing it, such as political activists and opposition party members, well-founded fear of persecution would in general be substantiated.

In the case of past participation in a protest, if the individual stayed in areas under the control of the government for a certain period of time and did not face any repercussions, an individual assessment of whether or not they may be likely to be seen as opposing the government should take place. The individual assessment should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: regional aspects (who is in control in the home area of the applicant), the nature of their activities and degree of involvement, leadership role, etc. The sole fact of participating in a protest in the past may not be sufficient to establish a well-founded fear of persecution.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is highly likely to be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion.