Huge win! Yesterday, the UN voted to establish a new international body, the first of its kind, to work exclusively on uncovering the fate and whereabouts of over 100,000 forcibly disappeared and missing persons in Syria. This is the result of years of tireless campaigning by survivors and families of victims, who came up with the concept and advocated for it, knocking on every door to get their voices heard.
Since the Syrian revolution started in 2011, enforced disappearance was increasingly and systematically used as a tool of repression. The few people who managed to survive and escape have recounted torture and horrific conditions, mostly in the Assad regime’s cells. Thousands have died under torture, which continues to this day. While families of the missing have suffered for years with no news at all of their sons, daughters, husbands and fathers.
Yesterday’s victory is proof that grassroots movements can change the world, fuelled by courage, solidarity, and tireless dedication – and backed by thousands of people like you around the world.
Together we have supported the families’ demands over the years. Thousands of us from every country in the world took action, ramping up pressure on all UN member states to vote in favor of creating this institution, and for years we’ve stood beside Syrian families holding pictures of their missing loved ones at demonstrations in New York, Paris, London, Brussels and Berlin.
Fadwa Mahmoud’s son Maher Tahan and her husband Abdulaziz Al Khair have been missing since 2012. She said: “For the past 10 years I have been painfully searching for answers and using every ounce of my strength to speak out loudly and ensure the world does not forget them. I can finally let myself feel a glimmer of hope that we may one day get answers.”
Yesterday’s vote is the first step on the long road towards justice in Syria. And as more states seek to normalize with Assad, it sheds an important light on his brutal regime’s systematic use of enforced disappearance to terrorize Syrian society. But today, let’s celebrate this rare win for the Syrian people.