News / Middle East

    Syrian Conflict Gives Hope for Families of Missing Lebanese

    Paige Kollock
    The recent release of a Lebanese man detained in Syria for 27 years has highlighted the issue of what the Lebanese call "The Missing" -- hundreds of Lebanese who disappeared during their country's 15-year civil war.  Now, with Syria torn by civil unrest, Lebanese families are hoping their loved ones may soon reappear. Paige Kollock reports from Beirut.

    Ali Abou Dehn has wounds he says were inflicted by the Syrian army before his release in 2000 as part of a Syrian diplomatic gesture.  Dehn says he was imprisoned in Syria for 13 years.  

    "I was hanged by this one, until this one was separated," pointing to one of his wrists.
     
    According to Dehn and his organization, Lebanese Political Detainees in Syria, there are approximately 615 Lebanese being illegally detained in Syrian prisons. Most were taken when Syrian forces occupied Lebanon during its civil war.

    Recently, Yaccoub Chamoun returned to Lebanon after 27 years in Syrian jails.  He is too scared to give an interview. But his release was seen as a sign of hope for families of the so-called "missing."

    Ghazi Aad runs an organization called SOLIDE, which works on behalf of the families of the missing.

    The group organizes protests, connects families, and maintains a vigil in front of a United Nations building in Beirut. He says Lebanese politicians have done little to pressure the Syrian government and consider the missing people as deceased.

    "Chamoun came after 27 years to tell us, and to tell those officials, that no, what you're saying is not right, it's wrong.  I'm still alive, after 27 years and yes, there are Lebanese people who are still in Syrian prisons and they are still alive," Aad said.

    Families of the missing keep a constant vigil at the UN building.  Magida Bashasha's brother Ahmed was taken at age 17 while passing through a Syrian checkpoint.  He would be 53 now.  Bashasha's mother went to Syria three times to inquire about him.

    "They told her we will not allow you to see him before you pay us money, so they used to take money from her and lie to her.  They never showed him to her. She was sick and tired a lot.  She went many times, not one time, and she never saw him," Bashasha said.

    Bashasha stays in the tent every weekend, speaking on behalf of the families.
     
    Dehn says he and 480 ex-prisoners that make up his group believe the conflict inside Syria offers the greatest chance yet for their comrades to be released.

    "We get a great hope that people will get out of the prison, OK.  Assad is going, no more space for him," Dehn said.
     
    A law creating a "National Commission for the Victims of Enforced Disappearance" is being drafted by Lebanon's Ministry of Justice. Activists says its establishment would be a quantum leap for the missing.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora