By Asharq Al-Awsat
London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Political activists in Homs have accused Syrian military forces and pro-regime Shabiha militia of kidnapping women with the objective of extorting large sums of money in ransom. Six kidnappings were reported over the past two months, whilst 3 of these kidnapping have taken place within the past week. Syrian political activists stressed that the real figures are significantly larger than this; however the families of kidnap victims fail to report such crimes due to social considerations.
Local sources in Homs informed Asharq Al-Awsat that approximately 26 young women in total have been kidnapped by the pro-regime Shabiha militia, a number of whom have been held for several months. These young women are reportedly being ransomed for large sums of money. Senior local figures are exerting efforts to resolve this troubling phenomenon, away from the security apparatus or Syrian government.
Opposition activists revealed that these kidnapping all took place in quiet neighborhoods, whilst alleging that these kidnap victims are held in neighborhoods loyal to the al-Assad regime. The activists reveal that the families of these kidnap victims either bargain for their release, or the young women are killed and buried in unmarked graves. The kidnappers are said to use automobiles which do not bear license plates to carry out their crimes, whilst the Syrian security apparatus and army are believed to be complicit with this. The source added that three kidnappings took place over the last week in the Al-Ghouta district of Homs, close to the Syrian Red Cross headquarters.
The Shabiha are not just targeting young women for abduction, and reports indicate that this phenomenon is present in other areas of Syria, also in order to extort large ransoms. Sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that there is a lot of confusion on the scene with regards to kidnappings being carried out by pro-regime Shabiha militia and mass arrests and disappearances carried out by the al-Assad regime security apparatus. Three kidnappings reportedly took place at a security roadblock in the city of al-Qasir more than 10 days, whilst the bodies of these three kidnapping victims were later discovered in the city, and it was clear that the victims had been subjected to torture.
For his part, Lieutenant Ibrahim Ferzat announced his defection from the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate and his joining the Free Syrian Army [FSA] in protest to al-Assad regime forces committing “crimes against humanity, including acts of violence and rape in Homs and Rastan.” Ferzat accused three Air Force Intelligence Directorate officers of committing crimes against humanity, including rape, naming Brigadier General Jawdat al-Ahmed, Lieutenant Abdul-Karim al-Tarsha, and Lieutenant Hassan al-Ali.
In his announcement of his defection, which was broadcast by opposition activists online, Ferzat claimed that “there are other figures [who committed such crimes] whose names I have not mentioned”. The Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate is considered to be the most brutal of the al-Assad regime security apparatus, particularly in terms of arresting and torturing opposition activists.
According to figures issued by Local Coordination Committees, 148 Syrian citizens – including women and children – have been arrested and tortured by the Syrian apparatus since the UN observer mission entered Syria earlier this year. 57 of these cases were carried out by pro-regime Shabiha militia, whilst the rest by the official regime security apparatus.
Figures indicate that some 792 Syrian detainees – including 39 children – have been killed by Syrian regime forces whilst in custody, with their bodies then being returned to their families.