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WikiLeaks: 2008-01-28: 08DAMASCUS59: Syrian Government Prevents U.S. Citizen from leaving country

by WikiLeaks. 08DAMASCUS59: January 28, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 11:21 AM UT


Viewing cable 08DAMASCUS59, SYRIAN GOVERNMENT PREVENTS U.S. CITIZEN FROM

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08DAMASCUS59 2008-01-28 15:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Damascus
VZCZCXYZ0004
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0059 0281509
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281509Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4570
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0753
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0341
C O N F I D E N T I A L DAMASCUS 000059 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
PARIS FOR JORDAN; LONDON FOR TSOU 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2018 
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PHUM PREL SY
SUBJECT: SYRIAN GOVERNMENT PREVENTS U.S. CITIZEN FROM 
LEAVING COUNTRY 
 
Classified By: CDA Todd C. Holmstrom for reasons 1.4 b and d 
 
1. (C) Summary.  The SARG has placed a travel ban on 
naturalized U.S. citizen and political reformer Bassam Ishak. 
 Ishak, a long-time Embassy contact, is currently weighing 
his options but may ask the Embassy to intervene on his 
behalf with the MFA.  End Summary. 
 
2. (C) The Syrian government has prevented Naturalized 
American citizen and former candidate for Syrian Parliament 
Bassam Ishak from leaving Syria for the U.S. on January 6 to 
start a Masters degree course at George Mason University. 
Ishak said he first became aware of the travel ban in May 
2007.  Before that Ishak asserted he was able to make several 
previous trips to the U.S. and Canada without any harassment 
from the security services since his return to Syria in 1995. 
 This time Ishak checked with the General Intelligence 
Directorate (GID) several days before his trip and was told 
&no.8  To date Ishak has received no word on the reason 
behind his travel ban or what he can do to resolve the 
situation.  Each time Ishak has inquired about his case, the 
security services told him to check back after a few days. 
 
3. (C) Ishak believes that Ali Mamluk, head of the GID, 
ordered the travel ban after sectarian comments during an 
interfaith conference in 2005 were erroneously attributed to 
Ishak.  Ishak, currently weighing his options, told us that 
he will continue to work his contacts with the Syrian 
government as well as consult with his family and other 
contacts in the U.S., which include members of Congress. 
Ishak conceded that direct diplomatic pressure from the 
Embassy could backfire and lead to an indefinite extension of 
the travel ban.  For the time being, Ishak has asked the 
Embassy to hold off on any official action.  In the meantime, 
he has asked his Amcit brother, a professor at American 
University, to raise his case with State officers and members 
of Congress. 
 
4. (C) Comment:  Ishak's case is, to our knowledge, the first 
time in recent memory that the SARG has sought to restrict an 
Amcit from leaving Syria for the political work he has done 
in Syria.  Thus far, Ishak,s case has received some local 
press coverage from pro-reform websites.  We have advised 
Ishak of our readiness to raise his case with the MFA as well 
as the potential risk that doing so may harden the SARG's 
position. 
 
5. (C) Bio Note: Ishak has been a long-time Embassy contact 
and supporter of political reform in Syria.  Ishak received 
U.S. citizenship in 1985 while he was studying at American 
University. His father, Saeed Ishak, was a Syrian 
parliamentarian for 23 years.  Despite his reformist 
credentials, Ishak, an Assyrian Christian, has conspicuously 
remained outside the Damascus Declaration and other organized 
political opposition groups believing that independence would 
allow him more opportunity to change the existing political 
system from within.  In fact, Ishak ran for Parliament in 
Hassakeh province in April 2007 elections.  Ishak says that 
he received the most votes but the Ba,ath party manipulated 
the results to ensure the regime-sponsored "independent" won. 
CORBIN

 



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