By: Alexandra Kinias
Freedom of speech is a birth right often taken for granted by those who are privileged to be born under clear skies. And while others living with rain clouds above their heads are still taking their first cautious steps toward it, freedom of speech is still considered a hazardous practice to the lives of many millions around the world who are struggling to find their way in the dark. Tal Al Mallohi’s misfortune was that geographically she was born on the dark side of the world where regimes tend to dictate to the people the code of speech they tolerate.
Mallohi vanished after she was detained in December 2009 by the Syrian authorities and her computer confiscated. Even though she was not charged with any crime, yet she was thrown into jail in an undisclosed location inaccessible even to her family. The nineteen years old girl was neither a member of a religious cult nor a revolutionary organization that threatened to tumble the government. The high school student’s crime, however, was that the entries on her blogs didn’t appeal to the regime.
Syria is a country where its population is kept under close surveillance. Over two hundred websites are banned by the authorities for everyone, but a closed tight circle of the ruling elite. In this autocratic regime that has absolute power over all printed media, political opposition was banned and emergency law was implemented in 1963 when the Baath party took power; the young generation’s interaction with the world is through blogging.
Most blogs created by nineteen years old girls reflect their hopes, friendships, dreams, feelings and interests. Tal’s writings, however, revealed the image of a girl way beyond her age; someone who carried the burden of the world and the suffering of her fellow humans on her shoulders. Molouhi’s writings included poems, humanitarian issues and articles supporting the Palestinian cause and criticizing the Partnership for the Mediterranean, a French diplomatic initiative bringing together Arab and European countries, as well as Israel.
The writings in her three blogs raised no red flags to justify her arrest, neither to the readers nor to the Human Rights organizations which are trying to mediate for her release. However, since her last entry was dated September 26, 2009, three months prior to her detention, the question remains unanswered on whether later entries were deleted by the regime after her computer was confiscated.
It is hard to imagine the sorrow and agony, the despair and heartache of the mother of a nineteen years old girl whose dreams of her daughter’s blossoming future became a nightmare overnight. Instead of going to bed hearing wedding bells and grandkid’s giggles echoing around, the wounded woman is most likely up all night thinking of her daughter’s torture and loneliness in a cold prison cell. Political prisoners who have survived such nightmares hardly mentioned that they were pampered by security forces. Her mother has sent a letter to the president Bashar Alassad pleading for her daughter’s release. News has already circulated over the internet that the misfortune girl died as a result of her torture. But even if this was untrue and the girl is alive, isn’t she already dead, and left a wreck of a human being, a wounded spirit with scars on her soul and a disturbed mind. What future would awaits such human being?
A brutal regime that has succeeded to stay in power for forty seven years by crushing its opposition is now targeting the new generation and detaining minors to repress their voices that are popping all over the Internet. Malouhi is not the only one, but there are many like her in the Syrian jails. But she is yet another scapegoat, a symbol of how opposition is not tolerated. Arresting her sent a warning message to others to keep their mouths shut.
A regime intolerant of opposition will not rest until it crushes the e-resistance that is growing in the blogsphere. The efforts to silence these voices by arresting the bloggers, imprisoning and torturing them has only succeeded in silencing the ones kept behind bars. However, there are millions more out there who have risen to speak on their behalf.
To read more about Tal al Mallohi and to view her blogs:
1. Shame on Syria! 19 years old girl detained until now?
6. Tal al Mallohi Blog (2) : Latters
7. Tal al Mallohi Blog (3) : Palestine