On a cold spring morning Rania Alabbasi walked down the stairs of her apartment building in Damascus, Syria, carrying her baby daughter Layan. Her five other children followed behind. The family got into a car and were driven away. It was March 2013. And that was the last anyone heard of them.
Her sister, Naila, tells their story.
I first realized that something was wrong when I couldn’t get hold of Rania. I had been calling my sister’s house phone and mobile for several days with no answer.
I later discovered that a group of armed men from the Military Intelligence had come to my sister’s house on 9 March and arrested her husband, Abdulrahman, without giving any reason.
They arrested [my sister] and her six children, and on their way out, took all the CCTV cameras, so there would be no evidence.Naila Alabbasi
They returned the following day and this time looted the house, taking family jewelry, mobile phones and the children’s tablet computers as well as confiscating the family’s passports and documents.
Then, they arrested Rania and her six children, and on their way out, took all the building’s CCTV cameras, so there would be no evidence.
“She thought she would be safe”
When the conflict began in 2011, Rania refused to leave. The rest of our family was working in Saudi Arabia and we told her to join us but told me, ‘Society needs me, and I want to raise my children in Syria; they will complete their studies here.’
It never occurred to Rania that she could be detained: the family did not go to demonstrations or participate in political activities.
My clever, caring older sister; Rania was an example to me. She was kind and popular with her neighbours and patients, many of whom she used to treat for free when they couldn’t afford care. She helped raise me, and always encouraged me in my studies. Now, the same thoughts keep me awake at night: is she okay – or not?
Are her children hungry – or not? Are they calm or they are screaming? Are they alive? Or – they dead?Naila Alabbasi
In two and a half years I have heard nothing, only some unofficial information that Rania was seen in security force detention around Damascus. But no official information, nothing I can trust. I suffer from anxiety and cannot sleep at night – I keep wondering: Are her children hungry – or not? Are they calm or they are screaming and crying? Are they alive? Or – they dead?
My mother, who helped to raise the children – at once their grandmother and ‘mother’ – cries all night long.
In two and a half years I have heard nothing.Naila Alabbasi
Those six children have done nothing wrong. They should be in school. Rania and her husband adored them: shy and bookish 16-year-old Dima; energetic and bold 15-year-old Entisar; kind and studious 13-year-old Najah; 10-year-old Alaa; eight-year-old Ahmed; and four-year-old baby Layan.
Their parents made sure they were well-educated; they were taught English, as well as other languages, and like any other children they enjoyed reading, playing on the computer, singing and acting, drawing, visiting parks.
They had no reason for their lives to be destroyed.
Help us support Naila by calling on the Syrian authorities to release Rania Alabassi and her six children or to give her a fair trial immediately.