SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: August 26, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Qalamoun University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Syria

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 26, 2019, authorities reportedly detained Dr. Rakan Al-Safadi, a Syrian scholar of literature at Qalamoun University, and transferred him to an undisclosed location.

In addition to his work as a scholar, Al-Safadi is a prominent poet and writer who has published articles in Arabic newspapers and magazines.

While traveling to the university with his son, state authorities stopped Al-Safadi at Qasr al Mu’tamarat checkpoint in Damascus. They reportedly informed him that he was being taken into custody by military intelligence. Al-Safadi’s son was permitted to pass through the checkpoint, while Al-Safadi was reportedly transferred to an undisclosed location.

On August 31, after he had been detained for five days, authorities reportedly released Al-Safadi. They have not disclosed the reason for his arrest, although his family suspects that it stems from Al-Safadi’s status as a public figure and an academic, and his well-publicized expressions of political views.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of a scholar in apparent connection with their academic work and expression — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting, retaliating against, or otherwise interfering with the nonviolent exercise of academic freedom and freedom of expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.