Forced Disappearances in Idlib

Forced Disappearances in Idlib
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A Means to Take Revenge on the People and to Raise Funds


Arabic version


The conflict in Syria has led to many tragedies and hardships that the Syrian people experience on a daily basis at the hands of their authoritarian regime, such as killings, destruction, and homelessness. However, the most difficult of all is the deprivation of freedom, which is considered humankind’s most precious asset. Members of the regime and its loyalists implement the practice of forced disappearance, which is one of the most severe forms of human rights violations, and the most inhuman. They hide their victims’ fates and whereabouts and refuse to acknowledge this as a deprivation of freedom, thus depriving their victims of protection of the law. Amnesty International accused the Syrian regime of reaping the benefits of the forced disappearances that are prevalent in Syria.



In the province of Idlib and other areas controlled by the opposition, the regime exercises kidnapping as a means to crush the opposition and as a kind of revenge on the people, in addition to making money by exploiting residents’ occasional need to travel and pass through its checkpoints. Some of them disappear while they are fleeing from one province to another and their families and relatives stop hearing from them until a middleman intervenes to pay money to recover the disappeared relative. The regime exploits families’ overwhelming desire to know the fate of their missing children, to rescue them and to save them, forcing some poor families to borrow large amounts of money or to sell possessions in order to do so.


Forty-five year old Abu Mohammed from the countryside of Idlib is the father of university student, Mohammed, who was kidnapped from the university’s residence halls under mysterious circumstances. He said, “I tried a lot to know the whereabouts of my son and I have spent a lot of money to find any information about whether he was alive or not, but to no avail. I received many promises to get him out of jail or even to hear his voice, but I later discovered that this is a type of deception to blackmail me financially. I have been swallowing the bitterness of despair waiting to get even a single piece of information to ease my innermost feelings and to relieve my tormented self.”


In addition to their families being blackmailed and intimidated, victims of forced disappearance endure deep trouble that sometimes results in death because they live in cruel and inhumane conditions. They are placed in small, cramped rooms where diseases spread among the victims, and they are denied medical treatment and are subjected to all kinds of torture. The lucky ones who come out of prison are cursed by mental illnesses for the rest of their lives.



Ahmed Shnerah, 37 and from the town of Maaret al-Numan, was a victim of forced disappearance, but he survived and immediately left the country for Turkey for fear of being arrested again. He spoke sadly about the horrors of what he went through and what he saw inside the prison; “I was arrested on charges of terrorism during my trip to the city of Idlib before it was liberated. I was placed in a tiny cell accompanied by fifty others. We were beaten with sticks and metal bars, hung in the air, and punished with electric shocks. A lot of my fellow inmates died during torture or as a result of the miserable conditions. Some of the inmates developed hysteria after being beaten on the head with sticks.” Ahmed asserts that continuously depriving people of daylight and the sun for many years is the most difficult form of human punishment and that he and his colleagues had hoped for death in many situations.



The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimated the number of people who disappeared in the Syrian regime's prisons was 65 thousand people, 3,050 of whom disappeared from the province of Idlib and most of whom were peaceful members of the opposition, human rights activists, doctors, or people involved in humanitarian assistance. Cases of kidnapping have increased for people who are relatives of someone who is wanted by the regime, which is what happened with Officer Amer from the village of Jarzanaz in Maart Al-Numan when he defected from the regime's army. His brother was arrested on the Syrian-Lebanese border. Amer said, “I declared my defection from the regime on 5/3/2012 when I saw its brutal practices towards its people. After about a year, my brother was arrested as he was returning from Lebanon to Syria. I feel tormented because I do not know his fate. Here I am blessed with the freedom that he had to pay for. I wish I could surrender myself to the regime in order to liberate him from being punished for a crime he did not perpetrate, but I do not know if he is alive or dead and I am not sure that they would release him if I did. How I wish to ask him to forgive me.” Amer denounces all those who support the Syrian regime in its practices against innocent civilians and calls upon all members of the army to defect.


Arresting women has painful repercussions on Syrian families, who consider it a great plight and a scandal worse than death. Everyone knows about the sexual exploitation that women face at the hands of awful jailers who were stripped of their humanity and turned into ruthless monsters. The mother of one of the detainees, a university student who was arrested at a regime checkpoint, said, “I love my daughter very much, but I wish her death because I know that she will go to the mercy of her Lord, and we can be free from the permanent and continuous bleak thoughts that haunt us after she fell into the hands of cruel transgressors who disregard people’s honour and sanctities.”


Additionally, forced disappearances lead to the disintegration of society and the spread of poverty. When a wife loses the father of her children and man of her family, she does not know his fate or his prison term and she lives alone in the hope of good news that her absent husband will return someday to his home and family. Despite all the difficulties the Syrian people experience, and despite the harshness and bitterness of reality, detainees behind iron bars are still the most aggrieved victims because their fates are shrouded in mystery and their families live between fear and hope. Therefore, the detainees and those who are disappeared suffer the most and are the primary victims of the current Syrian war. 




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