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4.1.3. Political activists, opposition party members and protesters

Last update: February 2023

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 2020, 1.2.2, p. 20]. Opposition activists shied away from forming parties out of fear that the GoS might use party lists to pursue opposition members [Targeting 2022, 1.2, p. 23].

Government forces harshly repressed the anti-government protests that erupted in 2011 and the ensuing military uprising [Targeting 2020, 1, p. 13]. GoS continued to view as political dissent the activities of wide categories of individuals, including peaceful protesters, political activists and opposition party members. [Targeting 2022, 1.1, p. 17].

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 were often met with gunfire, mass arrests, and torture and killing of those detained. The GoS forces conducted regular raids to detain political and civil activists [Targeting 2020, 1.2.2, p. 20]. There were also reports that persons believed to have been involved in opposition-related activities, including protesters, were on the ‘wanted lists’ [Targeting 2020, 1.1.3, p. 17, 1.3.6, p. 28]. Persons who took part in previous activities, for instance by joining a protest during the early stages of the uprising, were targeted by GoS with arbitrary arrests ‘individually in a slow systematic manner’ in more recent years, including in 2021 [Targeting 2022, 1.2.2, p. 24].

In April 2022 GoS issued a new law on cybercrime with imprisonment period up to 15 years and harsher penalties for online criticism against the constitution, the president, or the state. [Security 2022, 1.4.1, p. 29]

Risk analysis      

Acts reported to be committed against individuals under this profile are of such severe nature that they amount to persecution (e.g. detention, torture, killing).

For individuals considered by the government as opposing it, such as political activists, opposition party members, persons who took part in protests, and persons who expressed criticism towards the regime, well-founded fear of persecution would in general be substantiated.

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.

See other topics concerning persons perceived to be opposing the government: