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 In Europe, the hand of the Syrian secret services Mukhabarat

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In Europe, the hand of the Syrian secret services Mukhabarat  2.3.2012  
By Eric Bruneau 

Mr Ferhad Ahma, a Syrian Kurd born in 1974 in al-Qamishli, accepts to talk about his personal experience of the repression president al-Assad dictatorship's carries out of the country’s borders.  Photo: DPA
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March 2, 2012

On February 8th, 2012, a group of about 50 demonstrators stand in front of Berlin's Russian embassy, waving Syrian uprising and Kurdish flags, to protest against Russia's foreign minister's trip to Syria. The same day, Mr Ferhad Ahma, a Syrian Kurd born in 1974 in al-Qamishli, accepts to talk about his personal experience of the repression president al-Assad dictatorship's carries out of the country’s borders.

"It was the night of the 25 to the 26/12/2011", says Mr Ahma. It was 02:00. Some people knocked at his flat's door. "Polizei", they said. "They said they needed to check something". Unsuspecting, Mr Ahma unlocked the door. Germany is not Syria, people don't have to fear the police.

But he didn't have time to open. As soon as it was unlocked, the door was violently pushed, and two men started to beat him with bludgeons, making him falling. But even when he was on the ground, the attack continued. "They said nothing, asked nothing. They immediately attacked me" When they were at his door, asking him to open, did he notice any accent? "No. They just said two very short sentences in German, not enough to identify any accent. But they were not Germans. They were from Middle-East." "They were from the mukhabarat" he adds, very matter-of-factly.

For Mr Ahma as already been subjected to pressure from the Syrian Internal Security directorate. Since he left Syria as a political refugee more than 15 years ago, his family at home has been harassed by the all-powerful agency.

"It is their regular procedure", confirms Mr Hozan Ibrahim, a member of the opposition SNC general committee. "The regime is putting pressure on the exiled dissidents by threatening their families in Syria. It didn't start with the uprising, it has been ongoing for years."

And in the war the dictatorship's agents are waging against opponents abroad, Mr Ahma is a target.

"I was, originally, a member of the PYKS (Partiya Yekiti ya Kurd li Suriye). But I left in 1998, two years after arriving in Germany: the possibilities of action inside the Syrian Kurd political parties are too limited. I could be more active and more efficient as a human rights activist." He became, too, a member of the German "Green" party, and more recently coordinator for the Syrian Kurdish Youth Abroad association, an organisation providing support to activist groups inside Syria. "Additionally, I work with the SNC.". As many reasons, in the eyes of the mukhabarat, to switch from pressure to direct attack.

"it is difficult to estimate how long it has been. Maybe five, maybe seven minutes", says Mr Ahma. Then he adds, tellingly, "It's very long."

The attack was so brutal one of the aggressors' cudgel broke. But Mr Ahma was able to alert one of his neighbours. "I shouted, banged against the wall of the flat next to mine, I made the more noise I could. A neighbour came to investigate, it made the aggressors run away."

Mr Ahma’s case is not isolated. A report from Amnesty International, made public the 03/10/2011, registers aggressions directed at anti al-Assad protesters all over the world.

“Those attacks are organised and perpetrated by the Syrian embassies. Or, more exactly, by mukhabarat personnel placed in the embassies.”, says Mr Hozan Ibrahim. “Two intelligence agencies have people among embassies staff: the counter intelligence, and the external branch of the state security directorate, the one in charge with surveillance - and action - against Syrian dissidents in exile.”

These claims are confirmed by other sources. The 12/10/2011, the British newspaper The Guardian edited an article about a Syrian-born US citizen, Mohamed Amas Haitham Soueid, accused of spying on opponents of the al-Ba’as regime living in USA. Mr Soueid, said the article, was recruiting informers in their ranks, and sending video and audio recordings of protesters, details such as phone numbers or email addresses, to a contact at Washington’s Syrian embassy.

“Past week”, adds Mr Hozan, “anti al-Assad protesters stormed the Syrian embassy in Cairo city. They seized there documents, lists of mukhabarat agents, with their targets, their contacts, this kind of things.” These documents have not been made public, he says, because the militants don’t want to ignite retaliation attacks.

And, for sure, spying for the Syrian secret services doesn’t look to be a quiet occupation. According to The Guardian article, among the offences reproached to Mr Soueid, there is a false statement he made to buy a handgun. A sign, maybe, that he was becoming increasingly nervous.

Asked about the aftermath of his attack, Mr Ahma says he sustained, fortunately, only minor wounds: no broken bone or anything like this, “only” a cut above the eye and bruises on his limbs - defensive wounds - he get while defending himself. But he is aware is fate could have been different if his neighbour had not come to see what was happening. “When they heard him they ran away. He did not see them, just their back. I am the only one to have seen them.”

Did he change anything in his habits? Mr Ahma shrugs. “Not really. I am living in the same place. I lock the front door very carefully, this is obvious, and the police forces have been around. Their investigation established clearly that the attack wasn’t a criminal or a personal one, but was politically motivated. They kept the part of the broken cosh used by the thugs as an evidence. And, as you can see, I recovered from the wounds: I keep no sequels.”

His immediate reaction, he says, has been to talk about what happened. “I saw an opportunity: I could, through my personal case, expose the methods of the Syrian regime, the repression it directs at its critics living abroad. It is very important that the Western governments know that on their own territory, Syrian exiles who speak against the regime are in danger, that they are victims of aggressions aiming at silencing them.”

Unknown to Mr Ahma and to Mr Hozan, the same day, 08/02/2012, Berlin’s criminal police arrested a Lebanese holding German citizenship, Mahmoud el-A., and the Syrian Akram O., accused by the authorities to have, during several years, spied on members of the Syrian opposition in exile in Germany. Accordingly to the last news, the two secret agents will not be expelled, and will have to face the German justice. Asked if they were the two men who assaulted him, Mr Ahma answered by phone, the day after, that he hadn’t been contacted by the police yet. “But”, he added, “it is good to hear this great news.”


Eric Bruneau has worked as an analyst for a TV station in Iraqi Kurdistan. He lives in Europe and visits different parts of Kurdistan (Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq) for research on Kurdish issues. Report by Eric Bruneau for

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