It was only a few months ago, in November 2011, when 35-year-old journalist und human rights activist Mazen Darwish received the Roland Berger Human Dignity Award. The award was made in recognition of his tireless advocacy of free speech and press freedom in Syria. Mazen Darwish was unfortunately prevented from appearing in person at the award ceremony in Berlin because the Syrian authorities had confiscated his passport. But he did appear live on screen via Skype from Damascus. Standing in for him that evening were his mother, Mrs. Alsawasi, and his fellow activist, Yara Badre, who were handed the prize by then German Federal President, Christian Wulff.
“The Roland Berger Foundation calls for the immediate release of Mazen Darwish and his eleven colleagues,” said the foundation’s founder and chair of its Board of Trustees, Prof. Dr. h.c. Roland Berger in a statement issued today from Munich. “We will do everything in our power to support Mr. Darwish in his struggle to defend human rights and uphold human dignity in Syria.”
Mazen Darwish has courageously stood up for human rights in his country for many years. His work has focused on advocacy of free speech and press freedom. He founded the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in 2000. In fact, this was the first ever NGO in Syria. His active commitment to human rights has repeatedly made him a victim of state repression. He was arrested several times, most recently in spring 2011 when he took part in a sit-in protest in front of the Interior Ministry and was battered by truncheon-wielding police. One of the charges leveled against him was that he had spoken with Arab news broadcasters about the protests in Syria.
Mazen Darwish was banned from international travel in 2007 when the authorities confiscated his passport. He has not been able to leave Syria since then. Syrian security officials did formally lift the travel ban in July 2011, but to this day he has still not secured the return of his passport.