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These Are the Syrian NGOs Working to Defend Human Rights

On the occasion of World Human Rights Day, Enab Baladi lists 12 Syrian organizations working to document and protect against violations
These Are the Syrian NGOs Working to Defend Human Rights

Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression

Syrian activist Mazen Darwish, who founded the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression in 2004, closed his organization’s general offices in 2005 and 2009 after facing harassment by the Syrian intelligence agencies. Following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, the center increased its activities in support of the peaceful protests against the Assad regime and issued an important collection of reports documenting violations of freedom of expression in Syria. Since then, the center has obtained advisory member status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. In November 2011, Darwish was presented with the Roland Berger Human Dignity Award.

Syrians for Truth and Justice

The Syrians for Truth and Justice organization was founded in 2015 in the United States, and began its idea as an individual initiative around publishing books of stories about arbitrary arrest, torture and forced disappearances in Syria. The initial concept expanded to comprise a specialized institute founded by a group of Syrian activists, including Bassam al-Ahmed, Hani Zitani, Sima Nassar and others. Syrians from Truth and Justice calls itself an “independent Syrian non-governmental, non-profit institution working for a Syria in which all citizens enjoy dignity, justice, and equal human rights.” Since 2015, the group has launched a number of campaigns inside and outside Syria documenting violations against civilians, as well as raising advocacy issues to international forums. Its work also attempts to shine light on the issue of prisoners, which has been neglected by the international community in the political negotiations with the Assad regime.

The Syrian Institute for Justice

The Syrian Institute for Justice was founded inside Syria with the start of the peaceful movement in 2011 by a group of Kurdish lawyers and academics concerned with defending human rights. The Institute issues period reports monitoring and documenting human rights violations by any of the active parties to the conflict in Syria. Its work focuses on supporting a rapprochement between Arabs and Kurds, especially in Aleppo city, which contains both communities. The Syrian Institute for Justice devotes a portion of its work to documenting gender-based violence, including rape. The institute organizes training sessions online around preparing safe, ethical and effective interviews with survivors of sexual violence. This is in participation with the Witness organization.

Syrian Center for Studies and Human Rights

The Syrian Center for Studies and Human Rights was founded in 2013 by a group of Syrian lawyers, including Diab al-Barhou, Yousef Houran and Mathani Nasser. The Center is based in Aleppo city and it is trying to open another center in other Syrian provinces. The Center focuses issues reports and periodic research on “civil peace and transitional justice” and, like other groups, documents violations of the rights inside Syria. They also work to prepare Syria for the period after the fall of the “illegitimate” ruling regime in Syria.

Violation Documentation Center in Syria

The Violation Documentation Center in Syria was founded in June 2011 to document violence against civilians and their arrest and torture during the peaceful demonstrations which accompanied the start of the Syrian revolution. Its work expanded after the peaceful Syrian revolution turned into an armed conflict to monitor all crimes and massacres committed against Syrians, alongside calling on the international community to protect these rights and strengthen them in Syrians’ culture. The center takes on the responsibility of documenting the names of the conflict’s victims in terms of dead, arrested, missing, kidnapped or forcibly disappeared in the prisons.

Human Rights Organization in Syria (Maf)

The Maf Syrian Kurdish group was active before the outbreak of the Syrian revolution and has worked since its establishment in 2004 to raise awareness of human rights through awareness forums and workshops concerned with teaching about international conventions and treaties. With the increased pace of violations against Syrians after 2011, the group participated with six Syrian human rights groups to document these abuses, while working at the end of 2013 to establish the “Syrian Federation for Human Rights Organizations and Agencies” in Syria, in participation with more than 40 rights groups and bodies headed by the activist Mohamad Khalil Ayoub.

The Al-Takhi Organization for Human Rights

The work of the Al-Takhi organization started at the beginning of 2013 with support from the Danish Foreign Ministry and sponsored by the International Federation for Human Rights. It is considered among the first civil society organizations to officially open in the city of Hassakeh and then in Qamishli and Ras al-Ain. The organization is specialized in working on spreading a culture of human rights and monitoring violations and revealing war crimes carried out in conflict areas in the Middle East in general and inside Syrian in particular. It rejects the militarization of the Syrian struggle. The institution, which is led by the activist Madaya Duheir, works to empower women in terms of rights, professionally and politically, and strengthen children’s rights, while also working to encourage the integration of refugees in host communities.

Hurras Network

The Hurras Network was formed as a group concerned with psychological social support and protection of children and started its activities in January 2012 in the city of Daraya, close to the Syrian capital Damascus, with the aim of raising the level of consciousness of children’s rights and watch over their interests in society. The Network has participated in a number of campaigns which condemned violations of Syrians’ rights, and has made a mark on fights against forcible displacement of Syrians from their cities and towns by the Syrian regime. The Network is active in all opposition-controlled areas and has a branch in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, administered by activists and specialists in psychological support for children, including Ahmed Arafat and Riad Najim.

Syrian Center for Statistics and Research

The Syrian Center for Statistics and Research began its statistics and data work in August 2011, licensed by the German judiciary in the province of North Rhine-Westphalia and concerned with monitoring changes which impact Syrian society with the aim of sending a clear image to the outside world. The center includes more than 120 members in its staff, including researchers and civilian data-collectors working to document the numbers and names of war victims in Syria in participation with the Syrian Rights Group and the Free Syrian Lawyers Federation.

Syrian Network for Human Rights

The Syrian Network for Human Rights has issued monthly reports documenting violations against the Syrian people since its foundation in June 2011. The Network is considered one of the most credible organizations to obtain data about the number of killed, imprisoned and forcibly disappeared in Syria, and is viewed by the international community as neutral. It is a member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, and a member of the EuroMed Rights Network and works with the High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the international commission of inquiry in Syria and other rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was founded in 2006 by the activist Rami Abdel Rahman and works to document violations against human rights in Syria through periodic reports issued and circulated on a broad rights and media level.
The Britain-based Observatory criticizes all parties to the conflict in Syria who cause civilian deaths and has become a source of statistics for many media agencies and news sites which cover the Syrian issue.

The Syria Justice and Accountability Center

The idea of establishing the Syrian Justice and Accountability Center was proposed for the first time in the second meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People meeting held in Istanbul in April 2012, after recognition of the need for an “independent multi-party supported” institution to respond to reports of human rights violations and war crimes in Syria. The Istanbul-based center works on guaranteeing the documentation of human rights in Syria and preserving these documents to use them in a political transition stage to hold war criminals to account.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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