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Syria Jails 19-Year-Old Blogger

A Syrian security court has sentenced a 19-year-old blogger to five years in jail on charges of revealing information to a foreign country, Reuters reported Monday.

The blogger, Tala Mallouhi, was arrested in 2009 and detained for more than 13 months without charge. Her blog mostly consists of poetry and social commentary.

According to Human Rights Watch, Syrian security services may have arrested Mallouhi for a poem she wrote criticizing restrictions on freedom of expression in Syria. According to Reuters, she had also posted a request for U.S. President Barack Obama to support the Palestinian cause. The U.S. State Department said last week that Mallouhi should be released because the allegations against her were baseless.

After grassroots movements successfully ousted repressive leaders in Tunisia and Egypt recently, many have speculated that Syria, which has been under the control of the Baath Party for 50 years, is where the next revolution will take place (other analysts say a Syrian revolution is unlikely). On February 4, a planned protest against President Assad gained 17,000 Facebook likes but failed to materialize.

Last week, the Syrian government removed a four-year-old ban on social sites like Facebook and YouTube. The move was seen by many as an attempt to preemptively quell future uprisings.

The decision to jail a high school student for her blog activities, however, seems to be a move very much in the opposite direction.

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