The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Syria

By Vexen Crabtree 2019

#china #human_rights #international_law #iran #politics #russia #syria #syria_human_rights

Syrian Arab Republic

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index170th best
LocationAsia, The Mediterranean, The Middle East
Life Expectancy72.06yrs (2017)2

Syria is amongst the worst places in the world at ensuring human rights and freedom, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Syria does better than average for speed of uptake of HR treaties3. But that's it. Syria has problems. It does worse than average in its nominal commitment to Human Rights4 (still good for Asia), opposing gender inequality5 (amongst the highest in Asia) and in freethought6. It falls into the worst-performing 20 in terms of commentary in Human Rights Watch reports7, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms8 (one of the worst in Asia) and in supporting press freedom9 (amongst the worst in Asia). And finally, it is the worst in LGBT equality10. The Syrian government has "conducted deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians", including "numerous chemical weapons attacks", with support of Russia and Iran11. Together they have "withheld humanitarian aid, employed starvation as war tactic" and used torture on perceived enemies11. Russia and China have been blocking and vetoing the United Nation's efforts to stem mass atrocities, and have prevented the International Criminal Court from starting direct investigations. Many non-state armed groups are also committing atrocities11.

1. Syria's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to Asia (2020)12
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank12
1Hong Kong24.3
43Myanmar (Burma)128.5
46Saudi Arabia134.5
Asia Avg99.9
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)12
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank12
177Marshall Islands134.2
179Saudi Arabia134.5
World Avg87.9

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark13. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu13.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe13, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia13.

For more, see:

Amnesty International's 2023-23 summary on human rights in Syria stated:

The conflict in Syria continued although hostilities decreased, while economic and social conditions deteriorated. Parties to the conflict continued to commit with impunity gross human rights abuses, serious violations of international humanitarian law and crimes under international law, including war crimes. Government forces and armed opposition groups and their allies carried out unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including water stations and displacement camps, through aerial bombing and artillery shelling in northern Syria. Government authorities, the Syrian National Army (SNA) and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (Autonomous Administration) subjected civilians to arbitrary detention, abduction and enforced disappearance. President al-Assad enacted Syria‚€ôs first anti-torture law, which failed to address impunity or provide redress to victims and families, and ratified a new cybercrime law that criminalizes online criticism of the authorities or constitution. The armed opposition group Hay‚€ôat Tahrir al-Sham and the Autonomous Administration continued to restrict freedom of expression and assembly. The government continued to prevent residents and internally displaced people in north west Syria from enjoying their economic and social rights, including by obstructing aid to displaced people in al-Rukban near the border with Jordan.

"The State of the World's Human Rights 2022/23" by Amnesty International (2023)14

The ongoing fight against ISIS / ISIL / Islamic State exists amidst multiple warring factions in Syria, and more than 400,000 have died since 2011. Although the Syrian government with the help of Russia, Iran and China are responsible for the worst of it, ISIS themselves are even worse, and multiple factions conduct war with no regard for civilians' safety.

Civilian casualties from airstrikes by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS increased. [...] A number of these strikes raise concerns that the coalition failed to take necessary precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties. [...]

The Russian-Syrian military coalition conducted indiscriminate air attacks, including strikes on several medical facilities, and used incendiary weapons and cluster munitions. [...]

The Syrian government´s forces continued to use chemical weapons repeatedly, with nerve agents being deployed on at least four occasions since late 2016–in eastern Hama on December 11 and 12, 2016, northern Hama, on March 30, and Khan Sheikhoun on April 4

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)11

[Syria has been using] banned nerve agents such as sarin despite having supposedly relinquished all chemical weapons after its notorious August 2013 use of sarin in Eastern Ghouta. Russia offered a cover story for an April 2017 episode in the northwestern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun–that a Syrian conventional bomb supposedly hit a rebel cache of sarin–but that theory was conclusively disproved, so Russia responded by vetoing continuation of a UN investigation.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)15

2. Human Rights & Tolerance

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments
Higher is better7
117=N. Korea-10
117=Congo, DR-10
117=Saudi Arabia-10
Asia Avg-5.0
World Avg-1.9
In terms of commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, Syria comes worst in the world.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR
Higher is better4
2=Costa Rica23
Asia Avg12.7
World Avg15.1
(still high for Asia)In terms of its nominal commitment to Human Rights, Syria comes 112nd in the world.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag
Lower is better3
Avg Yrs/Treaty3
42El Salvador6.80
44Sri Lanka6.91
Asia Avg10.97
World Avg10.02
Syria ranks 45th in the world when it comes to speed of uptake of HR treaties.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom
Lower is better8
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
153Myanmar (Burma)153
155Central African Rep.155
Asia Avg94.6
World Avg79.7
Syria is positioned 4th-worst in the world when it comes to supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms.

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)16

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #Freedom_of_Speech #Good_Governance #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom
Lower is better9
177N. Korea8390
Asia Avg4378
World Avg3249
Syria is positioned 4th-worst in the world when it comes to supporting press freedom.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index17

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Lower is better
% Victims18
Asia Avg0.79
World Avg0.65
Syria is 130th in the world in terms of eliminating modern slavery.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory19. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends20. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life21. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves22.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery23. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity24. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.25. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi26, Eritrea26, Indonesia27) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery28.

For more, see:

3. Gender Equality

The 1950s saw a late rush of 43 countries, including Syria and many developing nations, move to cease preventing women from voting. Syria is an unequal country, with male rights dominating those of women. Traditional Islamic beliefs are squarely to blame for this.


3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality
Lower is better
Asia Avg0.36
World Avg0.36
(one of the highest in Asia)Syria comes 133rd in the world with regard to opposing gender inequality.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchalism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

For more, see:

3.2. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
Asia Avg1907
World Avg1930
Syria ranks 95th in the world when it comes to the year from which women could participate in democracy.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice

4.1. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #ICCPR #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality
Higher is better
191Solomon Islands-44
194Saudi Arabia-72
Asia Avg-02.1
World Avg12.6
Syria is last in the world in terms of LGBT equality.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence29. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws30. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries29. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.2. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

Freedom of Thought
Lower is better
Asia Avg3.7
World Avg3.0
Syria comes 21st-worst in the world regarding freethought.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights31. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish32. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era33 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted34. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief35. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands6,36 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia6,37.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed38. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief32, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion39 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"40 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see: