Wed 14 Nov 2018

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How Did Syrian Regime Exploit Adra’s Abductees’ File?

Bashar al-Assad, the president of the Syrian regime, receiving a number of the abductees’ relatives in Damascus – April 10. 2018 (SANA)

Bashar al-Assad, the president of the Syrian regime, receiving a number of the abductees’ relatives in Damascus – April 10. 2018 (SANA)

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Throughout the last week, the Syrian regime has been receiving a number of Adra’s city people who “Jaysh al-Islam” has been keeping as hostages, according to an agreement which the faction signed with Russia.

The official Syrian news agency (SANA), has reported that releasing the abductees will be conducted in sync with the departure of the faction’s members and their families towards the city of Jarabulus in the northern countryside of Aleppo.

In rural Damascus, the opposition has been keeping dozens of Adra city’s people, after it controlled it through a battle in December 2013.

However, the actual number of the abductees was never known, and none of the official entities, opposition or regime- based, have issued any statement concern them.

The abductees were divided among three major active factions in Ghouta, in the east of the capital Damascus ـــــ “Jaysh al-Islam,” “Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya” and “Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union”, which dissolved itself and joined “al-Rahman Legion”.

Adra Abductees and Intermediary Bargains

The captives’ exchange agreements between the Syrian regime and the factions were successive, but those who the regime demanded releasing were “people with connections”, according to what a security source, informed of the bargains, has told Enab Baladi.

“Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya” has published the details of the captivs’ bargain under which the leader Hassan Sofan was released from the Sednaya military prison, in December 2016, in exchange for the leader of the Ratyan campaign in rural Aleppo, Rami Hmaidoush, born in Qardaha in rural Lattakia.

Many citizens were appalled by the bargain since dozens of Adra’s people were still held as hostages.

The greatest of the captives’ exchange bargains between “Jaysh al-Islam” and Assad’s forces included 50 hostages from both sides, two of them belong to the “Unitarian Druze” denomination, who were released by the faction from captivity under “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham,” in April 2016.

“Asharq Al-Awsat” newspaper has quoted Majdi Mustafa Ne’meh the former spokesperson of “Jaysh al-Islam” and the bargain’s coordinator, that he was one of the people who coordinated the communication between the faction and the Syrian media personality Faisal Al-Qassim to release these two people.

In a statement, on 26 last August, “Jaysh al-Islam” said that “it managed to release 36 detainees from the regime’s prisons, including children and women, in a captives’ exchange operation, through which 11 captives of the regime were released.”

The Red Crescent have got 29 humanitarian cases out from Eastern Ghouta, in last December, after an agreement between “Jaysh al-Islam” and the Syrian regime, according to what Enab Baladi’s reporter has informed back then.

The agreement provided for getting humanitarian cases out of the besieged area in return for releasing captives held by the faction.

Waiel Olwan, the spokesperson of “al-Rahman Legion,” and the former spokes person of the “Islamic Union,” in a former statement said that “the regime resorted to prevarication and procrastination in relation to the Adra’s captives’ file, justifying that with [lacking] security permissions and the approval of the National Security, in addition to other forms of false routine, which Assad and his regime are known for,” adding that, “besides releasing the forcedly disappeared civilians in the Assad’s forces security branches, especially women and children,  the area’s factions have no conditions or reservations in return for opening safe crossings for the civilians and their return to their parents.

Pages that Adopted the “Hostages’ Cause”

Even though the official Syrian media outlets have prioritized the Adra’s abductees’ file throughout the media campaign that accompanied Assad’s forces ground attack against the city of Duma, anti-regime activist accused the Syrian regime of investing in the file to gain the popular incubator and to entice the public opinion to win its support for continuing the attack.

What gives this hypothesis a solid ground is that pro-regime pages have adopted the “hostages’ cause” in the previous years without an actual presence on the part of the official media. The most effective of these pages was “Adra al-Amalia- Messages from the Inside” on “Facebook,” for it played a role in the negotiations between the opposition and Assad’s forces; the page’s supervisors were directly in contact with the factions’ leaders.

Through the page, the factions published videos showing the hostages imploring their families and the Syrian regime to accept the negotiations seeking to release them. This communication led to the release of an elderly woman, who was kept by “Jaysh al-Islam,” in 2014.

In one of the videos, published on “Facebook,” Arij Mohammad, one of the Adra abductees, askes her female relative about their release negotiations; the answer was as thus: “there is nothing that we can do, the government is lying to us.”

In an interview with Enab Baladi, Waiel Olwan, the spokesperson of “al-Rahaman Legion,” said that the regime was careless about Adra al-Amalia’s detained people, adding that the regime’s inquiries were limited to officers lost in the battles, aiming to control Ghouat, without any further negotiations about them, Colonel Maan Diop, for example.

Asking him about the number of the abductees, Alowan answered that he does not have actual information, denying what is being promoted by the official Syrian media outlets that  the number of the abductees is more than eight thousand people, saying that “this is the number of the missing people (missing and killed, not abducted) at all the Ghouta fronts, since the beginning of the Syrian revolution to the day.”

Bring Down Ali Hiddar

All the people, who were held as hostages by the opposition factions in the city of Duma, were released under the agreement which the Syrian regime and Russia have signed with “Jaysh al-Islam,” according to what the official news agency “SANA” has mentioned.

The agency quoted a source, it described as official, as saying that “all the hostages will be liberated”, pointing out that what social media platforms are circulating about the presence of thousands of hostages with “Jaysh al-Islam” faction in Duma is incorrect. The faction has corrected the number as to improve the negotiations’ conditions.

Al-Fehaa Hall in the capital Damascus, however, witnessed an immediate fury among the abductees relatives, for pro-regime news networks have circulated videos showing the abductees’ relatives waiting for their children in the hall, dominated by a state of chaos and screaming.

As a response to the tears of one of the abductees’ mothers, who did not find her son among the returnees, although his name was mentioned on the list, some of the relatives cried out demanding the necessity for holding the Minister of the National Reconciliation of the Syrian regime, Ali Hiddar, accountable, accusing him of “selling their children.”

For his part, Hiddar responded to the abductees’ relatives’ accusations, saying that the Ministry has documented more than five thousand abductees, and that the ultimate number relates to the departure of another portion of those he described as “gunmen” and that the exchange operations are yet going on, despite the departure of the majority of the fighters to Northern Syria.

“To the moment, we do not have complete lists that indicate the fate of the abductees; the affair is still being processed,” he added.

Other accusations were directed against the brother of the Reconciliation Minister Ali Hiddar, for local media outlets, including “Hashtagsyria,” have talked about leaks that they received, concerning massive complaints  offered to the Ministry of the National Reconciliation about a number of people who are exploiting their positions at the Ministry, for they are receiving money from the missing people’s relatives, both abductees and detainees, while trying to know the fate of their children.

Despite the fact that the pro-regime media outlets have published news about all the Adra abductees being released, the fate of the disappeared abductees, as well as the Assad’s forces’ members who have been taken captives by the opposition factions during the Ghouta battles is connected to the departure of the last bus from the city of Duma towards Northern Syria, for their ultimate destiny is directly related to this journey of departure.

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