Human Rights Activist Abdullah Al-Khateeb Survives an Assassination Attempt in Damascus
Malmo – Sweden and Damascus – Syria
23ed of July 2016
On the evening of Friday July 22, 2016, prominent Syrian-Palestinian human rights activist Abdallah Al-Khateeb, who has long been under threat for his civil society activities, survived an assassination attempt that left him severely injured with at least one critical injury in his chest.
This last threat is one of many attacks against Khateeb, as documented by Front Line Defenders in 2015.
Khateeb has also been on the hit list of the Islamic State since April 2015, when the radical group occupied Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees, 8 kilometres south of Damascus. In recent months the group blatantly and openly called for his death due to his activism.
Since the Islamic State’s takeover of Yarmouk in 2015, Khateeb relocated to the besieged neighborhood of Yalda where, supposedly, neither the Islamic State nor the Syrian regime has any presence. However, in the light of the recent attempt on his life, the Palestinian League for Human Rights – Syria has well-grounded fears that our colleague will not be safe anymore in Syria.
Khateeb, 26, was a co-founder of the Palestinian League for Human Rights in Syria documenting violations of all parties against Palestinian refugees in Syria. Moreover, he was an instrumental member of the Basmeh Social Foundation, which contributed to urban farming projects to counter the siege of the regimein the camp. As a community organiser for farming projects, Khateeb with others supported residents and activists to close the nutritional gap created by the siege. The siege resulted in the tragic deaths of more than 190 people due to starvation until March 2014 according to a report by Amnesty International to which Al-Khateeb’s group, PLHR, contributed. Additionally, Khateeb deliveredinformation to numerous human rights publications about the impact of southern Damascus siege.
Khateeb was also involved in alternative education programs inside Yarmouk, offering children access to knowledge in the light of the absence of any functioning educational institutions. He was also involved in psychosocial support for children affected by the trauma of the prolonged clashes in and bombardment of Yarmouk.
After relocating to Yalda, he continued his engagement for education and human rights.
Human rights defenders in Syria are paying a high price
Human rights activists in Syria are deliberately targeted by regime forces andnon-state actors alike for their civil, non-violent and peaceful work. The number of activists who were targeted since the outbreak of the uprising and its brutal crackdown by the regime is nearly impossible to verify. Nevertheless it is well known that civil activists have been forcibly disappeared in their hundreds. In detention centers, they are often tortured to death. Their destiny is often unknown after being forcibly disappeared, during which access to a fair trial is never possible.
70,000 Syrians have died as a result “of indirect causes such as lack of adequate medical care, lack of access to food and clean water, and spread of communicable disease.” This places further fears vis-à-vis the medical situation of Khateeb, whose injuries require proper medical care. This care is not possible anywhere in Syria as he has been openly threatened by the Islamic State and the Syrian regime alike.
Al Khateeb should urgently be evacuated outside Syria
Targeted by multiple parties to the conflict for his activism, both within and outside besieged areas of southern Damascus, we strongly believe that whoever is behind the attempted assassination will try again until Khateeb’s voice is silenced for good. This is the second attempt on his life.
Khateeb should be immediately and urgently evacuated to outside Syria for medical treatment
His survival, however, strongly indicates that inside Syria, there is no safe space left for a civil activist like Abdallah al-Khateeb, because currently no side can guarantee his safety. According to international law, it is the obligation of the regime, to allow for the evacuation of Khateeb for medical treatment outside Syria instantly.
(Source / 23.07.2016)