Engineer Alaa Marie was arrested by Syrian state security from his home in Aleppo on April 15, 2014. Salma Abdelrazzaq, an architecture student from Yarmouk, was arrested by Syrian security forces on December 30, 2012. Hussam Burhan, an aspiring actor from Zabadani, was arrested by regime forces on August 30, 2012. Samira Abazeid, a forty-year-old nurse from Daraa, was arrested at a regime checkpoint in March 2014. As of this writing, the fate of all four of these individuals remains unknown.
Enforced disappearances have been a feature of the Syrian conflict since its inception and a hallmark of the Assad regime for decades. As of March 2011, tens of thousands of Syrians — like the four men and women mentioned above — have effectively vanished at the hands of both the regime and various Islamist rebel forces. Because it is so hard to gather information on the disappeared, their stories and their families’ distressed quest to find them have largely fallen by the wayside.
Budour Hassan, a Palestinian blogger, journalist, and law graduate, is determined to keep their memories alive. In recent weeks, her Twitter account has been almost entirely dedicated to informing the international community of the names of the disappeared and the dates on which they lost their freedom.
One year, two months, and 22 days since the arrest of Palestinian photographer Niraz Saied by Syrian security forces pic.twitter.com/6hXA6FjOki
— Budour Hassan (@Budour48) December 24, 2016
In a piece for the New Inquiry entitled “Syria’s Desaparecidos” focusing on the case of disappeared Palestinian-Syrian, open-source developer Bassel Khartabil, Hassan wrote:
Of all the blood spilled in Syria’s war, forced disappearance has received comparably little attention; articles about Syria’s disappeared can be found in various news outlets, and Amnesty International hosts a petition on its website addressed to al-Assad demanding he reveals their whereabouts. But most reporting on Syria’s unremitting bloodbath tends to emphasize barrel bombs, sieges, and airstrikes by foreign powers despite the lasting and profound effects of forced disappearance. By disemboweling Syria’s civil society of its dissidents, the regime long ago deflated the democratic essence of the uprising. The factions that have arisen to oppose the regime, including the Islamic State and Islamist rebel forces, have kidnapped their perceived enemies in return, creating an environment of extreme terror where loved ones can vanish instantly and without a trace.
The legacy of forced disappearance will haunt Syrians for generations to come. The failure to attain closure from the suffering, to reach truth, to make up for all those lost years of chasing a mirage to achieve a semblance of justice, will make it extremely hard for Syrians to heal. This is why drawing on the experiences of other countries where people have grappled with the transgenerational trauma of forced disappearance, and building solidarity will be crucial moving forward.”
In her piece, Hassan goes on to offer examples of solidarity movements in Latin America, where enforced disappearances associated with the dirty wars of the 1970s and 80s continue to haunt the region today. Read the full article here.