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Human Rights Federation Raises Pliight of Syrian Jews at U.N. Meeting

August 17, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The plight of Syrian Jewry has become the subject of a United Nations committee meeting here.

The International Federation of Human Rights, which is based in Paris, on Tuesday submitted a dossier on the Syrian Jewish problem to the United Nations subcommission on human rights.

An estimated 4,000 Jews remain in Syria today, down from 30,000 in 1948.

The Jews there live in three cities — Damascus, with over 3,000; Aleppo, with 800; and less than 200 in Qamishli.

The report says the Jews are under constant police surveillance, and that their religion is written in big letters on their identity cards.

A book on religion, published in Syria in 1963 by the Ministry of Education, calls the Jews “the enemies of humanity.” Their schools are under the direction of a Moslem.

They are forbidden to emigrate, says the report, in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by Syria at the United Nations in 1948. The report listed nine Syrian Jews imprisoned for having tried to leave the country.

The Paris-based human rights federation requested that the subcommission launch an appeal to the Syrian government to liberate the Jews in prison, authorize the emigration of those Jews who so choose, and respect the clauses of the human rights declaration.

Dr. George Gruen, director of Middle East Affairs of the American Jewish Committee in New York and a specialist on the subject of Syrian Jews, said several prisoners have been released since the report came to the West.

Remaining in prison are:

Ibrahim Laham, 43, and his son, Yeheya Ibrahim Laham, 16, who were arrested three months ago with the rest of their family while trying to leave the country. The father’s parents are permitted to visit once a month.

Zaki Mamrud, arrested five months ago.

Ely Sued, 31, was arrested at Damascus airport upon returning to Syria, after visiting his family in Turkey. No one is authorized to visit him, and nothing has been heard from him in the last four months, according to the report.

Ely’s brother, Selim Sued, 45, father of six, was arrested in his pharmacy one month prior to his brother’s arrest.

In addition, said Gruen, another Syrian Jew was arrested since: Jacques Lallo, 50, a Damascus clothing store owner who was picked up in early July on suspicion of planning to leave illegally.


There are other Jews in jail on economic crimes, said Gruen, but it is not known whether they have been singled out as Jews.

Gruen said leaving Syria “would not be a crime if the Syrians adhered to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the International Covenant on Civil Rights, to which they had committed themselves.”

The Paris dossier also listed two women, one a minor, who were reportedly “married by force” to non-Jews: Tune Mayor, 24, “married by force to the son of an officer in the Syrian army without her parent’s consent,” and Latifa Dankoury, 17, “married by force to a Palestinian neighbor, without her parent’s consent.”

Gruen said, however, that “this is not so,” and that in fact the young women wanted to marry these men. The “force,” he said, was “force of circumstance” because of no suitable Jewish marriage partners in Syria.

He added that since the marriage of Tune Mayor, the chief rabbi of Damascus, Ibrahim Hamra, and the Moslem qadi were able to convince Mayor and her husband to have the marriage annulled. The couple had been married in civil ceremony.

Dankoury, however, married “the boy next door,” according to Gruen, and “that marriage continues.” Her husband is Christian, Gruen said.

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