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Tal Al-Mallouhi - by Cho Walpole

  • Page ID
    187949
    • Cho Walpole at Pima Community College

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    In the Arab world, the state or the military controls the traditional media of tv and newspapers. Social networking on the Internet has made it possible for people to express themselves freely, voice their opinions, and communicate with others without restriction. However, people get monitored by what gets posted on the internet and social media. In Syria, there is extensive internet restriction. Syria blocks websites with political content and imprisons people who visited them. All chat forum comments are required to be recorded in Internet cafés (Wikipedia contributors).

    Tal Al-Mallouhi is a Syrian student, poet, and blogger. She was only 19 years old when she was arrested in 2009 by Syrian authorities. It is unclear why the Syrian government has detained Al-Mallouhi. The court did not mention any detail or any supporting evidence in her case. Some Syrian activists are concerned that she might have been detained because of a poem she wrote about political and social topics on her online blog. Her writings also criticized some limitations on freedom of expression in Syria (Zackheim).

    Tal Al-Mallouhi was detained after being called for questioning on December 27, 2009, State Security officials paid a visit two days later and seized her computer, several computer disks, notebooks, and a cell phone. No one from her family has been able to visit her after that date. Her mother issued an open letter to the Syrian president on September 2, 2010, requesting updates on her daughter's welfare and pleading for her quick release. Her mother said in the letter about the great pain her entire family had as a result of her daughter's arrest without a valid reason.

    “I cannot describe to you the disaster that has befallen our family and what we’re suffering. She is young and does not understand anything about politics … One security branch promised me that my daughter would be set free before the advent of the blessed month of Ramadan. But Ramadan is almost over” (qtd. in Oweis).

    Her family was finally permitted to see her for the first time at Doma Prison in Damascus on September 30, 2010; however, they have not been allowed to see her since. On February 12, 2011, the United States called for the immediate release of Tal Al-Mallouhi due to basic human rights of association and expression without worrying about retaliation from their own government.

    “The United States strongly condemns Syria’s secret trial of blogger Tal Al-Mallouhi, calls for her immediate release, and rejects as baseless allegations of American connections that have resulted in a spurious accusation of espionage. We call on the Syrian government to immediately release all its prisoners of conscience; and allow its citizens freedom to exercise their universal rights of expression and association without fear of retribution from their own government” (Crowley).

    According to the Syrian regime's account, which Bushra Kanafani, Director of Foreign Media at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, presented on February 23, 2011, Tal was recruited by an Austrian officer whom she met in Quneitra and got to know when she was 15 years old. She would later engage in espionage activities for the benefit of the United States(SHRC). Kanafani's account alleges that she later engaged in espionage activities for the benefit of the United States.

    The State Security Court's ruling was final, and an appeal was not permitted. She was given a five-year jail term in 2011 for leaking national secrets. She was supposed to be released before the end of 2014, but she was not. Instead, she was found guilty of a fresh narcotics possession charge and given a three-year prison term. According to sources, she was transferred from Doma Prison to Damascus' State Security Division in 2016. As of the end of 2021, she was still being held (Amnesty International).

    On her blog, Al-Mallouhi advocated for Palestinian rights and criticized Israeli government actions. It also covered Arab citizens' discontent with their rulers and what she saw as the Arab world's stagnation. She received a lot of attention from human rights advocates throughout the world as well as from the Arab blogosphere and social media platforms (CPJ). In some of Tal Al-Mallouhi's writing, she wrote poems that emphasized her hope for peace in the Middle East, limitations on free speech, and the suffering of the Palestinian people.

    “You will remain an example [in reference to Gandhi]
    I will walk with all the walking people
    And no, I will not stand still just to watch the passers-by
    This is my Homeland
    I have a palm tree, a drop in a cloud, and a grave to protect me
    This is more beautiful than all cities of fog
    And cities that do not recognize me
    My master, I would like to have the power
    Even for one day, to build the republic of feelings” (Al-Mallouhi).

    Social media has undoubtedly had a significant impact on the development of politics and society. Citizens can now evaluate, balance, and exchange viewpoints. Youth who have been denied opportunities at every step now utilize social media as their main outlet to vent their rage and frustration in creative ways.

    The idea of free speech in Muslim law is not explicitly defined. The opportunity of expressing one's own perspective was permitted but at the same time, a restriction was added, and it was very broadly and subjectively construed, requiring one to engage the conversation "in the best way." This commitment gives contemporary Arab politicians the power to severely restrict the right to free expression, demanding adherence to moral and ethical standards (Shishkina et al). One of the most common ways of governmental control of the media is internet censorship. Cyberspace is filtered for a variety of reasons, including protecting societal religious, and moral ideals, preserving the security of the current regime, and attempting to restrict all forms of opposition movements. A censorial political culture, one that emerges in an environment often dominated by a single political party, continues to pose a danger to press freedom in Arab nations and the effectiveness of Arab journalists (Soengas). In the Arab news media of today and in journalism education programs, overt censorship and self-censorship are common, and the media has really been recruited into a national business for the manufacture of propaganda. As journalists find channels for reporting across transnational media through social media innovation, it will raise the demand for change and make concerns about censorship irrelevant.

    The arrest of Tal Al-Mallouhi sparked a global outcry and condemnation from bloggers and human rights activists. protesters begged for information regarding her whereabouts, but the Syrian government has a policy of keeping silent on political arrests. Amnesty has stated that there are health issues for Al-Mallouhi due to her frailty and tachycardia, which is an unusually rapid heartbeat that can cause a drop in blood pressure and deplete oxygen from tissues and organs. According to reports, she was being held without medical care for her condition. Amnesty discovered 38 different types of torture and mistreatment of detainees in Syria. There are growing concerns that she may be tortured in various ways (Amnesty International). The Syrian government has been urged to release Tal Al-Mallouhi by many organizations such as Reporters without Borders, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, and Human Rights Watch.

    In Syria, freedom of expression is consistently violated by the government. It demonstrates that Syria has no intention of improving its freedoms. Tal al-Mallouhi is believed to be the youngest female prisoner of conscience in the Arab world. Al-Mallouhi's case raises great concern not only in Syria but around the world. This will result in people rising up against their governments and religious authorities to put these nations back on the proper path of Islam and to move them toward the future rather than sticking to a hateful and unfortunate past.

    Works Cited

    Al-Mallohi, Tal. “My Blog.” Blogspot, 2009, talmallohi.blogspot.com

    Amnesty International. “Syria Must Release Blogger at Risk of Torture.” Amnesty International, 17 Aug. 2021, www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2010/09/siria-poner-libertad-bloguera-expuesta-tortura.

    CPJ. “Tal Al-Mallouhi.” Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 Dec. 2021, cpj.org/data/people/tal-al-mallohi.

    Crowley, Philip. “Call for Release of Tal Al-Mallouhi.” U.S. Department of State, 12 Feb. 2011, 2009-2017. state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/02/156511.htm.

    Oweis, Khaled. “Mother of Young Syrian Blogger Appeals for Her Release.” Reuters, 1 Sept. 2010, www.reuters.com/article/us-Syria-internet-blogger-idUSTRE68073J20100901.

    Pen America. “TAL AL-MALLOUHI.” Pen America, 29 July 2020, pen.org/advocacy-case/tal-al-mallouhi.

    Shishkina, Alisa, and Leonid Issaev. “Internet Censorship in Arab Countries: Religious and Moral Aspects.” Religions 9.11 (2018): 358. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/rel9110358.

    SHRC. Tal Al-Mallouhi: 11 Years in Prison. 27 Dec. 2020, www.shrc.org/en/?p=33752.

    Soengas, Xosé. “The Role of the Internet and Social Networks in the Arab Uprisings - An Alternative to Official Press Censorship.” Comunicar, vol. 21, no. 41, Oct. 2013, pp. 147–55. EBSCOhost, https://doi.org/10.3916/C41-2013-14.

    Wikipedia contributors. “Tal al-Mallohi.” Wikipedia, 20 Nov. 2022, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_al-Mallohi.


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