CAIRO - Thousands of Syrian civilians have disappeared after being taken away by security forces and militias loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad over sympathizing with opposition forces, a practice that aims at quelling the months-long uprising against the Syrian regime.
Syrians are being plucked off the street by Syrian security forces and paramilitaries and being 'disappeared' into torture cells, Alice Jay, director of the global campaign network Avaaz, was quoted as saying by The Guardian on Thursday, October 18.
Whether it is women buying groceries or farmers going for fuel, nobody is safe.
Islamists Unite Against Assad's Regime
How to Help Oppressed Syrians
Take Action for Syria (Active Tips)
Estimates by the group show that up to 28,000 Syrian civilians suspected of sympathizing with opposition forces have disappeared after being taken away by Syrian security forces.
Other estimates put the number of civilians who have not been heard after being taken by security forces at about 80,000.
"While there is no precise figure, thousands of people have disappeared since March last year, said Muhammad Khalil, a human rights lawyer from the city of Hasaka in north-eastern Syria.
The regime is doing this for two reasons: to directly get rid of the rebels and activists, and to intimidate the society so that it won't oppose the regime."
Some civilians were also taken away from their homes after midnight, while others were seized at military checkpoints. None were seen again.
In one incident, two women dressed in black abayas disappeared after being taken by three soldiers while walking down a street.
Soldiers also abducted a Syrian man and yanked him by the hair past a tank.
This is a deliberate strategy to terrorize families and communities, Jay said.
The panic of not knowing whether your husband or child is alive breeds such fear that it silences dissent.
The fate of each and every one of these people must be investigated and the perpetrators punished."
More than 30,000 people have been killed in Syria's 19-month-old uprising against Assad's 11-year rule.
The revolt against Assad began as peaceful protests calling for democracy and greater rights, but gradually turned to an armed struggle, pitting the Sunni majority against the president and his minority Alawite sect.
Mais's husband disappeared after being taken by security forces in Talkalakh in February.
"The children need a father in their lives. It has been difficult to adapt, the Syrian woman told The Guardian.
I have had a very hard time explaining his absence. They always ask me: 'Where is Dad? Who took him?' And I don't know how to respond. I have to lie to them. I tell them he is at work, that he is OK."
Ahmed Ghassan Ibrahim, 26, also vanished in February in the village of Qala'at al-Hosn, near Homs.
"My son drove his car from Qala'at al-Hosn to the city of Talkalakh. It was then when we lost contact with him, his bereaved mother Fayzeh al-Masri said.
He called his aunt at 10.30pm from a number other than his â¦We later found out that the number Ahmad called us from belongs to the military security branch in Homs.
We asked almost every security branch about him, to no avail, the weeping mother said.
The bereaved mother recalled that the family called Ahmed's cellphone a month and a half ago.
Someone answered, saying that Ahmad was killed by a regime sniper and buried in Rastan, she said.
But we were not able to confirm this information. We have been seriously concerned for six months.
We are certain that he would not have left us or his wife, who is expecting twins. We only want to know his fate."
Forced disappearances are not new in Syria.Up to 7,000 Syrians are still missing after Assad's father, Hafez, sent troops into Hama to crush an Islamist-led uprising in 1982, razing whole neighborhoods and killing up to 30,000 people in the bloodiest episode of Syria's modern history.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net