Disapearances and the Syrian Civil War


An American journalist, Austin Tice, is thirty one years old and has been overseas doing freelance journalism and photography. In August of 2012 he was traveling from Syria to Lebanon, and since his parents have lost contact with him. The more frightening aspect of the missing journalist is a video that was released via youtube in September. The video shows a clip of a blindfolded and distressed man being held at gunpoint by a group of possibly Syrian ‘jhiadis.’

Missing US Journalist

A representative of the US State Department claimed that they have no legitimacy that this man is Austin Tice, and to their knowledge he is still being held by Syrian Authorities. In contrast, the video shows a man being forcedly lead by a group of men who are not the Syrian Authorities. Tice worked for the Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers, both organizations have identified the man in the video as Austin Tice.

His family is traveling to Beirut in hopes to bring Austin home by the Thanksgiving holiday. His mother has expressed her longing for her son to return home and asking that those who are holding him captive keep him safe. She emphasizes how important the people of the region are to her son and that it was his greatest hope was for these families to live in peace. His mother pleads,

“Each November, our family gathers to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, a time of shukr, when we feast and give thanks for all our blessings. Right now, there is an aching hole in our family, a beloved son who is missing from our table.”

The Syrian civil war is affecting bordering countries and unfortunately disappearances are happening frequently. It is estimated that 28,000 Syrians have disappeared in the past 19 months, some higher estimates have been predicted at as much as 80,000 civilians and protestors have simply disappeared. The global campaign network Avaaz has stated reasons for the ongoing disappearances,

“This is a deliberate strategy to terrorize families and communities – 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.”

The estimated numbers are alarmingly high and a peaceful resolution does not seem to be in the near future. The global campaign network Avaaz and other human rights organizations are working to promote awareness and methods to bring an end to the genocide that is being carried out in Syria. What steps can be taken to reduce the number of disappearances and eventually put an end to the violence? How much intervention from foreign countries or organizations do you think is appropriate or would be effective?

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4 thoughts on “Disapearances and the Syrian Civil War

  1. Are groups speculating that the Syrian government or the Syrian opposition is responsible for the disappearance of Austin Tice?

    I read today in the New York Times that the Syrian opposition just created an umbrella organization to aggregate their communication and interests. The new coalition, Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, now represents about roughly ninety percent of the opposition. Hopefully with the creation of a unified body, the Syrian opposition will be able to use diplomatic channels more to resolve their disputes with the Syrian government and both sides can move away from kidnappings such as these.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/world/middleeast/syrian-opposition-groups-sign-unity-deal.html?hp&gwh=180921F58FACC80AA6DAC72B6AD84504

  2. I do not think there is any way of knowing if there is a solution to stop the disappearances in Syria, however there are many groups that are trying. Take for example the Friends of Syria, the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces that Jackson mentioned and AVAAZ. All of these groups have support from countries all over the world who are trying to change the future of Syria. The fact that these organizations are making the world aware of the turmoil that is happening in Syria is very important. In my opinion, the more foreign recognition that Syria receives, the better. I am interested to know if the Syrian government was behind the kidnapping of Austin Tice.

  3. I also agree with Carley, I think that there is no real solution to stopping the disappearances in Syria because they do not fully understand the situation. These groups attempting to stop this, I feel do not fully comprehend all of the details in the situation so this becomes very hard for them to stop what is going on. I really feel that it is difficult for the government and countries to deal with this problem. But I am also very curious to know if the Syrian government was behind the kidnapping of Austin Tice.

  4. With the amount of violence going on in the Middle East, almost everyone knows how risky it is to travel to these places, especially as a journalist. Terrorists do not want American journalists in their countries reporting the wrongs they are committing. The terrorists’ way of eliminating this annoyance is to abduct these journalists and prevent them from doing their job. Once people are abducted in a foreign country, it is really difficult to get information and gain their freedom back. Since many of these terrorist organizations aren’t affiliated with governments, I think that it is difficult and risky for the US government to fully intervene. Also, I think that these disappearances will continue to happen as long as their is violence in the region. This is partly because of what I said earlier about terrorism organizations wanting to eliminate the reporting of their actions from outside sources.

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