240 Syrian prisoners were reportedly released from the Syrian regime’s notorious prisons in a mass amnesty declared on April 30, but tens of thousands of families are still hoping their loved ones were among the released prisoners.
For the seventh day, crowds of hundreds have been waiting in the centre of the capital Damascus, with dozens camping out overnight holding a vigil that their missing family might be among those to be safely returned.
“I’ve been expecting my son since 2014,” said a prisoner’s father, who refused to give his name for security reasons.
He was among hundreds of families waiting near the capital’s Jisr al-Rais bridge, the main arrival point for buses entering the city.
They (the Syrian regime forces) asked us to leave the Jisr al-Rais bridge, he said.
Heavily armed forces, he continued, ordered us not to remain in the area otherwise we will be detained.
He pointed out that his son was arrested in 2014 at a military checkpoint. No information was released about his whereabouts since then.
He showed his son’s photo to some newly released prisoners in hope to learn his fate. But it was in vain.
Photos of some who were released were published on social media sites such as Twitter, with many users commenting on the frailness of the former detainees and their traumatised gaze, likely caused by years of torture and trauma under detention. Many of them also reportedly suffer from memory loss, mental illness and loss of physical abilities.
131,469 people are still detained in regime prisons since the start of the war, including 3,621 children and 8,037 women.
Activists also accuse the regime of torturing detainees to death, of rape, sexual assaults and extrajudicial executions.
As the world leaders are occupied with the Russian-Ukrainian war, we call on the international community not to turn a blind eye to the ongoing suffering of the Syrian people and to pressure for bringing those responsible for war crimes and human rights violations in Syria to justice.