Conflict & Justice

Nearly 3,000 Syrians "forcefully disappeared"


A man shouts slogans during a demonstration against the Syrian government in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 23, 2011.



Syrian security forces have forcefully disappeared 2,918 Syrians whose whereabouts are now unknown, according to the global campaigning organization, Avaaz which has calculated that it is the same as a person going missing every hour in Syria.

Enforced disappearance is a crime against international law, according to Amnesty International, the London-based human rights watchdog.

In the past week alone there have been more than 1,000 arrests and the number of enforced disappearances has been rising rapidly as the regime steps up its efforts to repress dissent in the build-up to Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, which is expected to fuel further opposition protests as large groups of people gather together at home and in mosques.

Under the terms of an international treaty, enforced disappearance is defined as the arrest, detention or abduction of a person by the state or agents of the state followed by the refusal of authorities to acknowledge the whereabouts of the missing person, thus placing them outside the protection of the law.

Avaaz says it have received reports that many of the disappeared were peaceful protesters while others were simply swept up by security forces for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The organization reports that citizens from Daraa have been a particular target for regime forces, who blame the city’s people for igniting the popular uprising.

Meticulously investigating each disappearance Avaaz has been working in collaboration with two respected Syrian human rights organizations to collect the names and photos of each disappeared case.

The organization said that it had taken over a month of speaking to families and close friends of the disappeared, to gather their photos and information and to ensure the list of names is wholly verified in order to maintain an accurate and credible record.

Avaaz launched a campaign Thursday to call for the disappeared Syrians, publishing an online interactive site with profiles and photos of those forcibly disappeared by the regime.

“Hour by hour, peaceful protesters are plucked from crowds by Syria's infamously brutal security forces, never to be seen again,” said Ricken Patel, Executive Director at Avaaz.

“President Assad's attempt to terrorize Syrians into submission isn't working, but they urgently need the international community to demand the release of the disappeared and a transition to democracy."

The campaign highlights the case of a sixteen year old student known as Yazan who was last seen two months ago.

Yazan was last spotted being beaten and dragged by Syrian security forces from a peaceful pro-democracy protest into an unmarked white van. Since then Yazan's widowed mother, Muntaha, has been searching for him.

Security forces warned her to stop, threatening to take her older son, aged 19, if she continues to demand Yazan’s return.

But Muntaha won't give up on her child: "If my son is dead, I want to bury his body. And if he is alive I want to see him and smell him again," she told Avaaz.

According to Avaaz 1,634 have been killed, 26,000 have been arrested, many of whom were beaten and tortured, while 12,617 are still in detention, and over 2,918 people have been forcefully disappeared.