10 April 2015

Syria: Qalamoun, Where the Refusal to Serve in the Army Leads to Enforced Disappearance

A picture of Ward Raad A picture of Ward Raad

On 8 April 2015, Alkarama sent a communication to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (WGEID) concerning the disappearance of Ward Raad, a 21-year-old student from Qalamoun, a province in the countryside of Damascus.

In November 2013, Raad was called to military service but decided not to serve in the army. Five months later, his brother was contacted by a soldier of the National Defence Forces (NDF), an umbrella organisation formed in early 2013 under which several pro-government militias ("shabiba") operate. Aware of Ward's refusal to serve in the army, he offered to arrange a settlement for him to avoid his military service.

As agreed, on 14 March 1014, Ward met with the soldier, bringing the papers he demanded. They then went together to the Military Intelligence Division – or "Military Security", affiliated to the Ministry of Defence – Branch in Al Nabk, a city 80km north of Damascus, administratively belonging to Rif Dimashq and the capital of the Qalamoun. There, however, Ward was immediately arrested upon his arrival.

Although his parents has been assured that their son would "be back soon", Raad never came back. For his relatives, the reason behind his arrest is clear: Raad was abducted because of his refusal to serve in the army. Enforced disappearance is, in fact, used as a tool of retaliation against those who refuse allegiance to the Syrian armed forces. As such, it also targets defecting soldiers, such as Ahmed Saleh, a deserter from the Security Forces who disappeared in Latakia in 2012.

A former detainee reported having seen Ward for the last time in December 2014 in the military police department of the municipality of Al-Qabun, northeast of Damascus, where they had been held together for three days. According to him, Ward was in very poor health condition, probably as a consequence of torture, a very common practice in Syrian detention centres. In early February, a witness reported that he was being held at the Military Intelligence Branch 215 in Damascus – called the "Raid Brigade" a detention centre particularly notorious for its practice of torture.

Worried about his fate, Ward's family appointed a lawyer and addressed the military tribunal. The tribunal redirected them to the Tishreen military hospital morgue in Damascus, but his name was not on their records. To this day, the authorities have always denied having any information on the fate and whereabouts of their relatives, which remain unknown to date.

In light of this information, Alkarama sent a communication to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) to call upon the Syrian authorities to investigate Ward's case of Ward and disclose his whereabouts, to allow his family to visit him without restriction and release him immediately. The Syrian authorities must take all appropriate measures to abolish the systematic practice of enforced disappearance.

For more information or an interview, please contact the media team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Dir: +41 22 734 1007 Ext: 810)

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