“They Are Not Hostages”… a campaign between duty and hope for release of detainees

A Syrian Civil Defence volunteer  participating in the "They Are not hostages" campaign to show solidarity with the detainees in the regime's prisons (Syrian Civil Defence)

A Syrian Civil Defence volunteer  participating in the "They Are not hostages" campaign to show solidarity with the detainees in the regime's prisons (Syrian Civil Defence)


It seems that Mustafa’s misfortune was what brought him to the bridge of al-Assad suburb in Rif Dimashq on 2 April 2013, when he left his home to bring some products to the food store he was working at, then to be surprised by a “flash checkpoint.”  Mustafa was arrested under the pretext that he was shipping sugar to the rebel-held town of Douma, eastern Ghouta, which was besieged by the Syrian regime.

It has been more than seven years and three months since his arrest, and his family is still looking for him or any information leading to his safe return, moving from one investigation branch to another and from a prison to a new detention center with the help of lawyers, yet, all these efforts went unsuccessful, Mustafa’s son, Ali said.

For Mustafa and about 130,000 detainees held in the prisons of the Syrian regime, on 6 July, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defence (SCD) volunteers launched a campaign titled “ They Are Not Hostages” to demand the release of detainees. 

The campaign included holding sit-ins, and sharing stories of detainees and forcibly disappeared persons in several areas in north-western Syria, and not to mention the public information activity of the SCD on its official page. 

The campaign coincided with the introduction of economic sanctions against the Syrian regime under the Caesar Act—which bore the name of the defected Syrian officer, who smuggled 55 thousand photos documenting the killing of 11 thousand detainees under torture in the prisons of the Syrian regime—and with the activities of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, and campaigns launched by international envoys on the sidelines of the “Brussels” conference for donor countries, last June.

Ali does not believe that the media campaigns have any benefit at all in releasing the detainees. On the other hand, Raed al-Saleh, the director of the SCD, disagreed with Ali, referring to the significance of campaigns to demand the release of detainees for the continuity of their cause. Plus, these campaigns draw public attention to the issue of detainees and mobilize the international community to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime. 

Al-Saleh added that the pressure exerted by the Syrian civil society in all its activities “has a permanent role,” considering that conducting these campaigns is a responsibility and a duty regardless of the international desire or the real response from the Syrian regime.

According to a report released by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), last March, nearly 129,989 detainees or enforced disappeared persons have been held in the prisons of the Syrian regime while 16,836 detainees and enforced disappeared persons have been captured at the hands of the main actors in the conflict in Syria, except the Syrian regime, since March 2011.

SNHR also documented the deaths of approximately 14,221 people as a result of torture and diseases resulting from poor conditions of detention or bleeding due to beating.

Besides, SNHR has documented 72 methods of torture practiced by the Syrian regime against detainees in its detention centers and military hospitals.

Youssef Ghribi, Enab Baladi’s correspondent, contributed to preparing this article.


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