Tuesday 27th February 2012

Avaaz: Syria activist network frees Paul Conroy, three remain

Today, a network of Syrian activists coordinated by the global campaign organisation Avaaz helped the international journalist Paul Conroy escape into Lebanon. He had been injured and trapped in Baba Amr, Homs for six days under continuous Syrian government shelling. The three other journalists Javier Espinosa, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels remain unaccounted for.

Avaaz responded to requests from the journalists, their families and colleagues to attempt to evacuate them and worked with over 35 heroic Syrian activists each night who volunteered to help in the rescue.  

The activists have offered to support in the evacuation every night since Remi Ochlik and Marie Colvin were killed by Syrian government shellfire last Wednesday, during which time they rescued 40 seriously wounded people from the same place and brought in medical supplies. Tragically this operation led to a number of fatalities as the Syrian Army targeted those escaping, during their bombardment of the city on Sunday evening. 13 activists were killed in the operation. Three activists were killed by Syrian targeted shelling as they tried to assist the journalists through Baba Amr.  

While Paul Conroy successfully escaped the city, ten activists died bringing relief supplies into Baba Amr. On the day of their evacuation, over 7,000 people had been forced to flee their neighbourhoods in south Homs in fear of massacres. This operation was carried by Syrians with the help of Avaaz. No other agency was involved.  

Ricken Patel. Executive Director of Avaaz said: “Paul Conroy’s rescue today is a huge relief but this must be tempered with the news that three remain unaccounted for and with our respects for the incredibly courageous activists who died during the evacuation attempts.  The rescue is ongoing and we are deeply disappointed that sections of the media broke this story before all the journalists are safe.  The world must now listen carefully to the human horror stories that Paul will tell and act to end this bloodbath and deliver the urgent relief and protection to the people of Syria.”

The latest reports from Avaaz citizen journalists still able to operate in country indicate that the Syrian government has moved in on the ground to neighbourhoods all over Homs, in the most savage and sustained assault since continuous shelling of the city began 23 days ago. Tens of thousands of people are now at risk, and families last night were taken hostage by pro-government militias. 62 people including women and children were confirmed dead just from yesterday’s violence. 

ENDS

For further information, please contact Beirut: Alex Renton on [email protected] or +447957371902 or +961 71565495. London: Will Davies on [email protected] or +447855 419901

Notes to editors: Avaaz is a global campaigning organisation with over 13 million members which campaigns to change the world from the one we have, to the one most people want. Avaaz has been working with activists on the Syrian Spring since it started, setting up a network of over 400 Citizen Journalists across the country, smuggling in medicines and international journalists to report on the unfolding story and campaigning to ensure that sanctions and political pressure are applied on the Assad regime. The organisation is entirely funded by small donations from its members.