Avaaz: Nearly 3,000 Syrians "Disappeared"

**New Data Shows One Person Every Hour Going Missing;

Campaign Launches Calling for Release

On Thursday July 28, 2011 Avaaz revealed the identities of 2,918 Syrians who have been arrested by Syrian security forces and whose whereabouts are now unknown. The global campaign group, which has been supporting the Arab uprising with citizen journalism projects across the Middle East, is launching a new campaign today (Thursday, 28th) to call for the return of the nearly 3,000 Syrians who have been forcibly "disappeared" since the peaceful uprising began on March 15th of this year.

The in-depth survey conducted by Avaaz estimates that one person is disappearing every hour. Over the past week alone there have been more than 1,000 arrests and the number of enforced disappearances has been rapidly rising on a daily basis, as the regime looks to repress dissent in the build-up to Ramadan.

Ricken Patel, Executive Director at Avaaz, said: “Hour by hour, peaceful protesters are plucked from crowds by Syria's infamously brutal security forces, never to be seen again. President Assad's attempt to terrorize Syrians into submission isn't working, but they urgently need the international community to demand the release of the disappeared and a transition to democracy."

Avaaz's 10 million members were asked to call on key governments with influence in Syria -- South Africa, India, Brazil, Kuwait and Qatar -- to send human rights delegations to pressure the Syrian government to release the disappeared.

This call coincided with a new interactive web tool with profiles and photos of those forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime. Information and images including the person’s name, age, job, where they lived and details of their disappearance which was launched in conjunction with the campaign on news sites around the world, including El Pais, The Guardian and Barada TV. The information on this tool will be continuously updated for as long as enforced disappearances continue in Syria.

Since March 15, 2011:
• 1,634 have already died in the crackdown and over 2,918 people have disappeared
• 26,000 have been arrested, many of whom were beaten and tortured.
• 12,617 are still in detention.

The campaign is highlighting the case of a sixteen year old student, Yazan* who was last seen in May of this year. He was spotted being beaten and dragged by Syrian security forces from a peaceful pro-democracy protest into an unmarked white van. Yazan's widowed mother, Muntaha, has been searching for him for two months. Security forces warned Muntaha to stop looking for her son and have threatened to take her older son, age 19, if she continues to demand that Yazan be returned to her. But Muntaha won't give up on her child: "If my son is dead, I want to bury his body. And if he is alive I want to see him and smell him again," she told Avaaz.

Avaaz partners on the ground report that many of the disappeared were peaceful protesters, others were simply swept up by security forces for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Citizens from Dara’a have been a particular target for regime forces, who blame the city’s people for igniting the popular uprising.

Avaaz has been working in collaboration with two respected Syrian human rights organisations to collect the names and photos of each disappeared case. It has taken over a month of speaking to families and close friends of the disappeared, to gather their photos and information and to ensure the list of names is wholly verified. Through this process we have regularly removed individuals from the list who are released by the regime, and will continue to both add and remove names in order to maintain an accurate and credible record of this gross human rights violation.

Avaaz has been supporting more than 50 citizen journalists across Syria, Libya and Yemen with cameras and equipment so that they can report on human rights abuses across the country. Avaaz has been sharing this material with the media on a daily basis. Journalists at the BBC, Channel 4 News, Al Jazeera and CNN estimate that around 20% of the footage shown has come from Avaaz’s network on the ground. Between 30 to 80 per cent of eyewitness information provided by Avaaz citizen journalists is regularly reported by a host of major international news outlets.

In international human rights law, a forced disappearance occurs when a person is abducted or detained followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person's fate and whereabouts, placing the victim outside the protection of the law. Enforced disappearances in Syria started when Hafez al-Assad enacted a bloody clampdown between 1979 and 1982 and today some 17,000 are still be missing. During the Dirty War in Argentina from 1977-1983, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 people disappeared under the ruling military junta. Throughout the Algerian civil war from 1992 to 1997, it is claimed as many as 17,000 people disappeared.

 

ENDS

Notes to editors

* Yazan is a pseudonym, his real identity cannot be shared due to the implications for his family.

Avaaz is a global campaigning organisation which has nearly 10 million members all over the world. It is 100% member-funded, and further information about its work can be found at www.avaaz.org. A link to the live site will be distributed to media later today (Wednesday), ahead of tomorrow’s launch. Interviews will be available with Ricken Patel, based in New York.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Will Davies on + 44 7855 419901 or will@avaaz.org.

In international human rights law, a forced disappearance occurs when a person is abducted or detained followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person's fate and whereabouts, placing the victim outside the protection of the law. Enforced disappearances in Syria started when Hafez al-Assad enacted a bloody clampdown between 1979 and 1982 and today some 7,000 are still be missing. During the Dirty War in Argentina from 1977-1983, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 people disappeared under the ruling military junta. Throughout the Algerian civil war from 1992 to 1997, it is claimed as many as 17,000 people disappeared.