October 15, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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Family members of Syria detainees hope for information amid US sanctions

Laure Ghosn, whose husband Charbel Zogheib has been missing for the past 37 years, speaks as she holds their wedding portrait during an interview at her home in Sarba, north of Beirut, Lebanon. Ghosn said her husband is held in Syria and hopes that a new wave of sanctions imposed by the U.S. against the Syrian government will force Damascus to reveal the fate of hundreds of Lebanese citizens held in Syria, including that of her husband. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT (AP) — Alaa Arnous and his family identified the picture of his father Mohammed on-line final week, the to start with proof of his fate because he was seized by Syrian govt forces 7 a long time back. The graphic confirmed his corpse, his experience battered and bruised, his mouth hanging open up.

The elder Arnous was amongst thousands of Syrians who, considering the fact that their country’s civil war commenced in 2011, went missing into Syrian federal government prisons. Survivors and legal rights teams say 1000’s extra are recognised to have died below torture.

Anguished family are poring more than photos of torture victims from Syrian prisons, posted on-line by activists right after the United States imposed large new sanctions on the federal government of Syrian President Bashar Assad past thirty day period.

“We were living on hope that he was however alive,” Alaa Arnous instructed The Connected Push from the opposition-held town of al-Tah in northwest Syria as he appeared at his father’s picture on his smart phone.

“It is awful when you see the photograph of your father and visualize what the torturers did to him,” he reported.

The photo is among the tens of countless numbers of illustrations or photos of torture victims smuggled out of Syria in 2013 by a forensic photographer-turned-whistleblower who applied the code title Caesar. The shots became public at the time, but most had been photos of piles of bodies, tough to identify.

But activists have begun circulating extra comprehensive images once again online just after the U.S. imposed its new sanctions, named the Caesar Syria Civilian Safety Act, soon after the photographer. The sanctions bar any person all over the entire world from accomplishing enterprise with Assad’s federal government or officials, and between its provisions it calls for Syria launch detainees and permit inspections of its prisons.

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For Mohammed Arnous’ spouse, Nadima Hamdan, the effect of the photographs was unbearable. She searched for hours by means of the photographs. She not only observed her dead spouse — who was arrested in 2013 as he traveled to Lebanon for do the job — she also discovered images of her brother and nephew.

“May God burn up the hearts of these who burned our coronary heart and turned our small children to orphans,” she explained.

Former detainees in Syrian authorities prisons discuss of horrific ordeals — staying packed for months or even several years in small cells, getting little food stuff and undergoing continual, significant torture.

“There have been a lot of men and women who died underneath torture. I used to be blindfolded but could hear a individual tortured subsequent to me using his last breaths in advance of he dies,” claimed Omar Alshogre, a previous Syrian detainee speaking from Sweden, exactly where he now life.

Alshogre was detained at the age of 17 together with three of his cousins, two of whom died. He paid his way out of jail soon after three a long time in prison. Among 30 to 50 prisoners died every day at the facility in which he was held, recognised as Department 15, he stated.

Alshogre, who testified about his ordeal at the Senate International Relations Committee’s hearings on the sanctions in March, reported Lebanese and other foreigners — which includes Iraqis, Palestinians and Tunisians — were also held at Department 15.

The sanctions have also lifted hope in neighboring Lebanon that Damascus will be pressured to expose the destiny of hundreds of Lebanese thought kidnapped by Syria in the course of the decades it dominated Lebanon — from the Lebanese 1975-90 civil war up to 2005. Alshogre’s testimony about Lebanese prisoners even now alive even further fueled their families’ demands for info.

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In Beirut, Laure Ghosn has attempted for 37 decades to master the fate of her husband who was kidnapped by a Syrian-backed team for the duration of the civil war and then handed in excess of to Syrian authorities.

When Syria introduced a team of Lebanese prisoners in 2000, the identify of her partner, Charbel Zogheib, was on a checklist of people expected to freed in a subsequent spherical, she stated. But it by no means occurred. Extra than 10 several years in the past, a Lebanese male launched from Syria termed her and instructed her he experienced been Zogheib’s cellmate in Syria’s infamous Tadmor prison, the 64-12 months-old Ghosn claimed.

“We want to know if they are alive,” Ghosn explained, weeping, at her Beirut dwelling. “If they will need procedure, we can treat them. If they are useless and they have killed them, then we can pray for them.” Her daughter, Ruba, who was 6 when her father disappeared, sat following to her.

Ali Aboudehn, who invested decades imprisoned in Syria and now heads the Affiliation of Lebanese Prisoners in Syrian Jails, claimed his team and other activists have documented 622 Lebanese prisoners held in Syria. He mentioned Lebanese authorities asked for facts about them from the Syrians, who acknowledged a handful of of them staying held on felony fees and denied any expertise about other people.

“I have hope,” explained Aboudehn. “We are not able to establish that another person is dead until we see that person’s entire body.” He said one particular of his cellmates, a Syrian-Lebanese, was alive up until eventually 2018, when Aboudehn obtained phrase he died, 30 many years soon after his arrest.

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“They must possibly give us bodies or people who are alive. This is what will fulfill us,” he claimed.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Legal rights, Syrian authorities detained some 1.2 million folks since the country’s conflict started in March 2011. As of the commencing of June, 12,325 have been documented as owning died beneath torture in Syrian govt prisons, the legal rights group reported in a report produced late past thirty day period.

At least 12,989 are nevertheless detained or lacking, their fates mysterious, according to the report. One more 16,000 are missing in detention by other factions in Syria’s war.

Alshogre suggests the amount of those who died in Syrian government jails is considerably increased than 15,000.

In mid-June, two Lebanese politicians filed a authorized complaint in Beirut towards Assad about their lacking compatriots. The transfer is largely symbolic.

“This is a wound that remains open up for the families, and for that reason this kind of a wound does not heal,” claimed legislator Eddy Abilama of the Christian Lebanese Forces social gathering.

“It is our duty to look into this situation as a great deal as we can.”