June 6, 2023

Support families seeking truth and justice for Syria's disappeared

I am Yasmen Almashan, a founding member of the Caesar Families Association, and I reach out to you today for your crucial support in our struggle to uncover the fate of Syria’s disappeared.

Over 100,000 people are estimated to have been forcibly disappeared, the majority by the Assad regime, but other armed and extremist groups, such as ISIS, have also used the practice as a weapon of war, which amounts to a crime against humanity. After years of tirelessly working with other families with a missing loved one and knocking on every door demanding answers to no avail, it became clear that the overwhelming scale of this crime requires a bold solution.

Now we have a unique opportunity ahead – an upcoming vote at the UN General Assembly to establish an international institution dedicated to uncovering the fate and whereabouts of the missing.

Knowing the truth about what happened to our loved ones is a vital step towards justice. If you and thousands of people around the world sign our petition, we will deliver your voices to all 193 voting member states highlighting the number of people in their country calling on them to vote YES. The vote is expected before the end of June, so please sign the petition now and share it widely.

I am the only sister of six brothers. When the Syrian revolution started, we organized peacefully in our province of Deir Ezzor. Tragically, my brother Zouheir was shot dead in a protest in 2012. Soon after, my brother Okba was detained by the Syrian regime. Like all families in our position we were left in anguish, with no knowledge of his whereabouts, when he would return to us, or whether he was alive or dead.

As we waited for Okba’s return, my brothers Obaida and Tishreen were killed by the regime, and in 2014 our youngest, Bashar, was kidnapped by ISIS, and we have not heard any information about him since. It was only after fleeing to Turkey that we found out that Okba was killed shortly after his detention. I often think that if only we’d known earlier about his fate, maybe I wouldn’t have lost three other brothers.

This tragedy has fueled my fight against enforced disappearance. For years, I have campaigned with families like mine and survivors of detention, demanding answers about our loved ones and calling for the creation of this institution. This vote is a significant milestone, and it requires a simple majority at the UN General Assembly to pass. All 193 voting members have an equal say, and no state has veto power.

For tens of thousands of families who are still waiting for any news about their missing loved one, this vote is a glimmer of hope. First we need people like you around the world to urge every UN member state to vote in favor of establishing the institution. It is not too often that we get an opportunity like this and we must seize it. Join our campaign and sign the petition.

On behalf of the 10 families and survivors associations that form the Truth and Justice Charter Group, calling for this new international institution: the Association of Detained and Missing Persons in Sednaya Prison, Caesar Families Association, Coalition of Families of Persons Kidnapped by ISIS (Massar), Families for Freedom, the Ta’afi Initiative, Families for Truth and Justice, Adraa Detainees Association, Hevdestî – Synergy, Release-me, General Union of Detainees.