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Syrian Refugee Crisis Linked to Rampant Torture, Disappearances & Arrests of Civilian Population

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Amnesty International’s report on prison hangings at Saydnaya prison was published less than two weeks after President Trump signed an executive order banning refugees indefinitely and temporarily barring entry to all citizens from Syria and six other Muslim-majority nations. We speak to Nicolette Waldman about the root causes of the Syrian refugee crisis.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicolette Waldman, I want to end by asking you about what, well, the president himself here in the United States, President Trump, has called the Muslim ban. Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy tweeted, “We bomb your country, creating a humanitarian nightmare, then lock you inside. That’s a horror movie, not a foreign policy.” He was talking about Syria. You’re American. We’re speaking to you in London. Can you talk about the ban on Muslims, on all Syrians, right now—at least, if Trump had his way? Judges are interfering with that plan.

NICOLETTE WALDMAN: This ban against Syrian refugees, I think, has to be understood in the context of what Syrians are going through. They are going through systematic starvation sieges. They are being bombed in their homes, in their schools, in illegal attacks on civilians and civilian targets, such as hospitals, which are rampant. And in the jails in Syria, civilians are being systematically targeted, civilians who just show any sign of dissent. And this is a systematic policy that has happened since 2011. This is widespread, and this is a calculated policy by the Syrian authorities.

And I want to be very clear that while we at Amnesty have documented abuses on every side—and, actually, it also helps create the picture of how much civilians are suffering in Syria. But in the context of detention in particular, the Syrian authorities are carrying out the vast majority of violations. So, if you think about a population that has been terrorized—they have been arrested, disappeared, tortured and killed, on the scale of tens of thousands of people, and all of those people have family members—it does make sense to me that you might want to flee your country in that kind of circumstance. And many people don’t want to go. They end up going because they feel they have to. They’re running for their lives. And then to have that answered with a strict ban, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. And at Amnesty, we are very concerned about this ban for people who are refugees deserving of protection, not of being blocked and sent back into circumstances where they and their families can be treated in this just monstrous way.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicolette Waldman, we want to thank you for being with us, Amnesty International researcher specializing in detention issues. She’s co-author of the new Amnesty report, “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison, Syria.” We’ll link to that report at

When we come back, we’ll speak with an ACLU lawyer and talk with her about what it meant to come into this country, as she’s done so many times, traveling back and forth, speaking to people around the world, and being stopped—she didn’t have a U.S. passport—and asked how she worked for an organization, the ACLU, that has the word “American” in it. Stay with us.

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