Two weeks ago, on the eve of Human Rights Day, George spoke with Alex Neve, the Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada on the show. One of the topics discussed was the fate of Razan Ghazzawi, a U.S.-born Syrian blogger who was arrested on December 4 as she tried to cross from Syria into Jordan to attend a conference on media freedom.
The Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, the NGO where the detained activist worked, announced yesterday that Ghazzawi has been released by Syrian authorities on bail. She had been arrested on charges of "fomenting sectarian strife" as a result of her outspoken criticism of the ruling regime in Damascus.
Ghazzawi is a U.S. citizen who was raised in Saudi Arabia and Syria and studied English literature at the University of Damascus. She was an active blogger who campaigned for the release of imprisoned dissidents throughout the Syrian uprisings of the past year, and stood out from among her fellow activists by writing, blogging and Tweeting under her own name. (Most Syrian bloggers use a pseudonym to avoid being targeted by the government.)
After her arrest, a sustained campaign began calling for her release: A Facebook page called "Free Syrian Blogger and Activist Razan Ghazzawi" had more than 5,000 followers, and Amnesty International was among the groups lobbying the Syrian authorities to let her go.
Her mostly English-language blog and Twitter feed (Razaniyyat and @RedRazan) were maintained by her followers during her imprisonment, although Ghazzawi herself resumed Tweeting yesterday.
"I know many of you have many questions, not sure where to begin, I want to write it all but not sure when, but I have few things to say now," she wrote. She also pointed out that many others, including her friend Nawal Shahin, remain incarcerated.
The news of Ghazzawi's release comes amid other developments in Syria this week, including reports that up to 100 army deserters were killed in clashes today, even as the Arab League announced that an advance team of observers would be sent to the country on Thursday to help implement a peace plan agreed to last month.
Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem said that his government will work closely with the observers when they arrive. "Signing the protocol is the start of cooperation with the Arab League and we will welcome the observers' mission from the Arab League," he said.
The United States, among other observers, expressed skepticism that such statements are to be believed.
"A signature on a piece of paper from a regime like this, that has broken promise after promise after promise, means relatively little to us," said Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department.
Here is George's interview with Alex Neve, from December 8, 2011:
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