Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor


The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Syria to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Syria's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at

Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

To encourage an environment where there is respect for human rights, the development of civil society, freedom of expression and religion, and the rule of law, U.S. officials work to urge the government to end its repression of dissidents and minorities and to support the efforts of the population to broaden real political participation and reassert their right to fundamental freedoms. The U.S. Government draws domestic and international attention to human rights abuses in Syria; supports individuals and NGOs seeking peaceful, democratic change; endeavors to foster a more vibrant media and mass communications environment; funds programs to provide training and resources that encourage the development of civil society; and encourages the professional development of the next generation of leaders.

Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States regularly raises concerns about the government's poor human rights record and urges other democratic actors to do the same. In 2009 the White House issued a statement condemning the government for continued harassment and detention of civil society activist Haitham al-Maleh and other political prisoners and encouraged other like-minded governments to follow suit. At the UN, the United States condemned the government's human rights record and publicly highlighted the abuse of its citizens' fundamental rights and freedoms.

The United States uses public diplomacy and reporting to highlight human rights abuses and urges the government to improve its practices. U.S. officials maintain contact with a variety of NGOs and civil society activists throughout the year, documenting incidents for dissemination to other governments and inclusion in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Trafficking in Persons Report, and Report on International Religious Freedom. Through these contacts and others, the United States monitors the government's repression of organizations and arrest of democratic activists seeking to assemble or associate peacefully. U.S. officials participate in a diplomatic monitoring group that exchanges information on the human rights situation, coordinates representation at the trials of civil society activists, and endeavors to synchronize diplomatic responses and related assistance programs. The United States closely monitors trafficking in persons in the country and cooperates and shares information with international organizations and other governments to increase awareness of and combat the problem. In 2009 U.S. officials met twice with Syrian government officials to discuss strategies for strengthening Syria's efforts to combat trafficking in persons.

The United States supports the development of an independent media and an independent judiciary through various State Department-funded training programs and workshops. The U.S. Embassy in Damascus supports the professionalization of the Syrian media and provides additional training to journalists in areas such as ethics in reporting, investigative journalism, networking, and organizing press events. The United States funds workshops for lawyers on topics such as human rights and trafficking in persons.

The U.S. Government has sponsored professionals and students to participate in development and leadership programs in the United States focused on issues of human rights, civil society, journalism, and good governance. Through these programs the United States endeavors to develop a free and independent Syrian media; raise awareness of issues related to civic responsibility; foster the development of civil society; and provide training in leadership, management, and policy advocacy for promising young leaders.