'Day of the Disappeared': Syrian victims and families need justice, say rights group
The thousands of disappeared in Syria, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries were remembered by NGOs and the UN on Wednesday, with Amnesty warning that the conflict in Syria could not be resolved with so many still missing.
Wednesday marks the seventh annual International Day of the Disappeared, a global day of observance supported by the UN and NGOs which brings attention to the thousands of victims of enforced disappearances across the world.
Enforced disappearance is a common tactic used to “spread terror within the society”, according to the UN and is often used as a “means of political repression of opponents”.
Many of the disappeared are held without trial and are subject to numerous forms of abuse and ill-treatment including torture and the concealment of their fate.
Victims of enforced disappearances in Syria are in their tens of thousands. They have vanished without a trace following arrests by the Syrian government since the 2011 uprisings.
Amnesty launched their "10s of 1000s" exhibition in Beirut on Wednesday, documenting the missing.
“The scale of forced disappearances in Syria means that the victims and their family members likely number in the hundreds of thousands,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division said in a statement on Wednesday.
"For any resolution to the conflict to be sustainable, the issue of the disappeared needs to be addressed in a manner that delivers both news of their fate and justice.”
Egypt experienced an “unprecedented spike in enforced disappearances since early 2015” reported Amnesty.
Hundreds of students, protestors and political activists, some as young as 14 years old, have "vanished without a trace" at the hands of the state.
According to local NGOs, an average of three to four people a day are seized with many held for many months often kept in handcuffs and blindfolded for the whole period.
Abdulrahman Elsayed, a 21-year-old English instructor, was illegally seized by the Egyptian police on the 19 July, with none of his friends or family alerted to his arrest.
“Since Abdulrahman’s arrest, there has been no record of his detention and authorities refuse to publicly acknowledge his existence within their system,” his cousin wrote.
In Lebanon, an estimated 17,000 persons remain missing following their kidnap during the civil war between 1975 and 1990.
Additionally, numerous citizens and Palestinians were "disappeared" after the 90s during Syria’s military presence in the country. Many are suspected to have been transferred to Syria and detained there.
To commemorate the day, social media users shared images of loved ones who have been victims of enforced disappearance in Palestine.
Enforced disappearance refers to people who were “arrested or detained by a state or groups of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state, who deny the person is being held or conceal their whereabouts”, according to Amnesty International.