Enforced disappearances need to be high on Syrian opposition’s agenda
(Featured image: SNHR)
Enforced disappearance in Syria is an issue not yet given its due in the media. Τhere are no confirmed figures for the number of people missing since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March 2011. The forced disappearances carried out by the Assad family regime did not start with the first days of the Syrian revolution. In fact, this crime was used as a tool by the security agencies since Assad’s father, Hafez, came to power and was adopted as a means to mute any voice protesting against the Assad brutal regime. In 1982, in response to a peaceful movement organized by a number of highly educated Syrians, Assad the father’s "army" laid siege to the city of Hama, bombed and demolished its houses. In this massacre, more than 40,000 civilians were killed, more than 100,000 were wounded and until today more than 18,000 people have been forcibly disappeared.
With the proliferation of military posts in the Syrian territories under the control of the Assad regime since the beginning of the revolution, enforced disappearance became an evil phenomenon, especially when crossing these security checkpoints. The work of these barriers is to check the identity cards of passers in search of opponents of the Assad regime. And it is up to the ones in charge of the military points to arrest anyone without the need for a reason for the arrest. Tens of thousands of civilians have disappeared and hope for the return of these people to their families alive is diminishing.
Because of the high human losses of Assad regime “army”, some people who benefit from it, suggested the creation of special militias fighting on the side of Assad “forces” under the pretext of self-protected areas. However, the role of the militias did not stop at fighting, but rather they turned into gangs responsible for the forced disappearance of thousands of Syrian civilians. These militias kidnap the citizens transiting their areas without any security reason and request a ransom from their families in order to release the abducted person that sometimes reaches the sum of millions of Syrian pounds. Some of these militias are linked to trading with the organs of the abducted persons. The exact figure of enforced disappearance cases by these militias cannot be specified, but the number exceeds thousands.
The lack of human resources in Assad regime “forces” increased the cases of enforced disappearance in Syria. The militia members and security men force young people to join the ranks of the regime troops, by kidnapping and transporting them to the hot points of engagement without any kind of military training and in most cases without their families knowing their whereabouts.
Furthermore, enforced disappearance is used as a technique in the process of demographic change that the Assad regime is following in Sunni areas in Syria. People born in a city or a village that support the revolution are highly likely to be arrested or abducted.
The issue of enforced disappearance should be at the top of the list of the priorities of the Syrian opposition negotiators. Every day that passes without putting an end to this evil file, more and more Syrian civilians lose their lives at the hands of criminal Assad regime and its affiliated militias.
Eva J. Koulouriotis is a Greek political analyst specialized in the Middle East. Twitter: @evacool_f, Facebook: @evakoulouriotis