Syrian diplomats have been harassing and threatening activists to stop their activities, including peaceful demonstrations outside the Syrian embassies, in eight countries, according to Amnesty International.
In a new report, “The Long Reach of the Mukhabaraat”, the rights organization documented more than 30 cases of activists in Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States who had faced some form of direct intimidation.
The report says activists have been systematically monitored and harassed by embassy officials and others believed to be acting on behalf of the Syrian regime. Several of the activists cited in the report said they have faced intimidation from embassy officials and others and that their relatives in Syria have as a result, in some cases, been exposed to harassment, detention and even torture.
A Syrian activist in London told Global Post that government officials had approached her mother in Syria after she had taken part in a peaceful demonstration outside the Syrian embassy in London. “They told my mum to ask me to behave and stop demonstrating in front of the embassy, so I had to stop.”
The activist who is from opposition group the Local Coordination Committee (LCC) asked to be known only as Zain fearing reprisals against her family in Syria.
“I would love to show who I am, but I know they are capable of harming my family,” she said. “My mum was very scared and expected them to raid our house and even prepared for that by hiding all our valuables,” she said.
"Expatriate Syrians have been trying, through peaceful protest, to highlight abuses that we consider amount to crimes against humanity - and that presents a threat to the Syrian regime," said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International's Syria researcher.
"In response the regime appears to have waged a systematic - sometimes violent - campaign to intimidate Syrians overseas into silence. This is yet more evidence that the Syrian government will not tolerate legitimate dissent and is prepared to go to great lengths to muzzle those who challenge it publicly."
The French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero, warned Syria saying: "We would not tolerate a foreign state organizing acts of violence or intimidation on our territory, and we have made this known in the clearest possible terms to Syria's ambassador in Paris.
"The right to protest freely and peacefully in safety is fully guaranteed by the French constitution, and it is also obvious that France supports the Syrian people's hopes for freedom," Valero said.
In Britain the Foreign Office said they have encouraged demonstrators to report any evidence of harassment and other crimes by Syrian embassy staff to the police, and that they have raised their concerns with the Syrian embassy including the Syrian ambassador himself.
"He (the Syrian ambassador) gave assurances that embassy staff were not involved and that he would take action if there was evidence to suggest they were. We continue to liaise with the Metropolitan Police and where appropriate, we will take action," the Foreign Office spokesperson said.
“It's very depressing, but it's true,” said Zain, “I felt more free when I was in Syria. There they would arrest me if I got captured. But now I’m here [in London] they will harm my family back in Syria.”