by Gideon Spitzer
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2009, p. 96
On June 7, 2007, Syrian military intelligence arrested blogger Tariq Biasi on charges of "undermining national sentiment" and "publishing false information." Biasi, a 23-year-old computer technician from Banyas, Syria, who suffers from liver disease, is just the most recent in a slew of arrests targeting Syrian bloggers.
Over the last several years, the Syrian government has required Internet cafÃ© operators to report on the sites visited by their customers. Furthermore, website owners have been forced under threat of punishment to reveal the names of their written contributors, thus removing the ability of bloggers to anonymously express their opinions.
Another Syrian blogger, Ahed al-Hindi, 23, was imprisoned in December 2006 after the owner of an Internet cafÃ© filmed Hindi posting "illegal" comments about the government. He spent a month in prison for his online comments and subsequently left Syria for Lebanon. Hindi calls blogging in Syria a "dangerous activity" and states that at least eight Syrian dissident bloggers were arrested in Syria in the past year. The Syrian government claims it is acting to protect national security against a spam campaign started by "Israelis who infiltrated the Syrian Internet community."
As a result of Biasi's arrest and sentencing, his freedom has become something of a rallying cry for Syrian dissidents, both in Syria and abroad. Many websites have sprung up on the Internet to support Biasi, including one operated by a group of five Syrian bloggers (freetariq.org). In addition, these bloggers have set up a Facebook group (officially banned in Syria) and a global petition on Biasi's behalf.
 Al-Jazeera.net, Mar. 11, 2008.
 Reporters Without Borders, news release, Feb. 25, 2008.
 Human Rights Watch, news release, Oct. 8, 2007.
 Ahlan Wa Sahlan, Life after Syria Blog, Feb. 5, 2008; "Free Syrian Blogger Tariq Biassi," Gopetition.com, Jan. 20, 2008
 Muslim.net, June 30, 2008.
 MideastYouth.com, May 14, 2008.
 MideastYouth.com, Jan. 9, 2008; National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, news release, Jan. 19, 2008.
 Human Rights Watch, news release, Oct. 8, 2007; Reporters Without Borders, news release, Feb. 25, 2008.
 The Globe and Mail (London), Nov. 23, 2007.
 Arab Press Network, Mar. 12, 2008.
Gideon Spitzer is a former intern at the Middle East Quarterly and a history and political science major at the University of Pennsylvania.
This text may be reposted so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.