According to PEN's information, Qashoush was kidnapped on 5 July 2011 from his home in Hama city, north of the capital city of Damascus, by the security forces after he had performed anti-government songs at a Friday demonstration in the city. His body was found in the Al-Assi river on 6 July 2011 with his throat cut. Qashoush was known for his political songs that were critical of the Syrian authorities, and which he had performed regularly to protestors throughout the uprising. One of Qashoush's songs, "Leave us, Bashar", directly addresses the President and ridicules his talk of reform. Another song is entitled "Syria is longing for freedom" (see below).
Anti-government protests were sparked in mid- March 2011 and have since spread across the country. Mass arrests have been taking place and security officers have responded to the continuing protests with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and many more wounded.
With the internet and media already severely curtailed in recent years, the Syrian authorities have imposed even greater restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in reaction to recent events. Foreign reporters and correspondents have been asked to leave the country and access to any independent media is denied.
PEN is alarmed about the reported mass arrests and disappearances of civilians including journalists, bloggers, writers and activists in the crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests, and continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Syria in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Syria is a signatory.
An excerpt of Ibrahim Qashoush's poem follows, translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi:
Syria is longing for freedom
Syria is demanding freedom
We will oust Bashar
With our strong will alone
We are Muslims and Christians
Greetings to Daraa city
Who started this peaceful uprising
When we demanded freedom
They called us terrorists
When we demanded our rights back
They called us fundamentalists
It is written on our national flag that
Bashar has betrayed the nation
It is written on our flag that
Our aim is bring the regime down
It is written on our flag
That Syrian state-owned media is damned
Death rather than humiliation
Syria is looking for freedom
- International Freedom of Expression Exchange: The global network for free expression http://www.ifex.org/syria/2011/07/13/assad_propaganda_war/
- International Freedom of Expression Exchange: The global network for free expression (IFEX (12 July 2011): http://www.ifex.org/syria/2011/07/12/khashoch_killed/
- Translation of Qashoush's songs, YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCS8SsFOBAI