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Residents of Syria’ Duma disappointed after Assad’s failure to release detainees

DAMASCUS, Syria (North Press) – After hours of waiting in the square of Duma city in Rif Dimashq governorate, Huda al-Mabyad, who is from the city was disappointed when she could not find her husband among the detainees who have been released. She is still waiting for him to see his child for the first time.

Al-Mabyad’s husband was arrested while he was heading from Duma to Damascus after the national reconciliation agreement in 2018, as he was going to secure a bag of blood for his wife while she was sick in Hamdan Hospital in Duma, according to al-Mabyad.

She added that her husband was among those who refused to be deported to Idlib and signed the reconciliation agreement with the government, “but they arrested him at a checkpoint in Damascus.”

On June 6, the Damascus government released a number of detainees according to a presidential pardon that was issued early on May, without mentioning the number of those released.

Rif Dimashq governorate announced that this step included ” those whose hands were not stained with blood,” and that it came as the implementation of “the promise of truth and the loyalty initiative launched by President Bashar Assad during his election and Asma Assad in the city of Duma.”

Activists circulated pictures of hundreds of residents gathering in Duma Square waiting for their released relatives in the presence of the head of the Military Intelligence Branch in the Syrian government, the Governor of Rif Dimashq, Ba’ath Party officials and members of Parliament.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) described the release operation as “a real farce” amid Duma residents’ discontent and disappointment of the lack of the number of the released detainees after the promises they received during the presidential elections which was held on May 26.

Steps to enter Duma

Earlier, a resident of Duma told North Press, “the regime, through a sheikh in Duma, has promised to release a big number of detainees during the Assad electoral campaign.”

He mentioned that no more than 20 people were released; most of them have been recently detained and were not of the Duma detainees during the military conflict period.

However, the SOHR quoted sources saying that the number of detainees has reached 25.

“The pre-presidential election.period in Duma has witnessed a major role of sheikhs in Duma in promoting for the release of a big number of detainees,” a civil activist from Duma told North Press.

Over a week, most of the Duma sheikhs in mosques were “promoting Assad and for the necessity of his election as a new step to return the country’s foundation and improve all services in the city,” he added.

Then, Duma was full of the posters of Assad and members of the Ba’ath Party were active holding festivals, delivering speeches and sometimes distributing aid to the residents to urge them to elect Assad.

On election day, Assad and his wife cast their votes in the Municipal Council of Duma.

Other activists say the release of detainees “will mark the first step towards the entry of the Syrian forces to Duma, which is considered a reconciliation zone where government security forces are not allowed to be.”

“No prisoners of conscience”

On May 24, Assad said that “there are no prisoners of conscience in Syria, and detainees have criminal charges that they was arrested on the basis of.”

Assad’s speech came during a meeting with the administrative reform teams in the government, according to a source who was present during the meeting.

“968,651 people have been arrested since the beginning of the Syrian war by the regime’s security apparatus, of whom more than 105,902 died under torture,” according to the SOHR’s statistics.

More than 83% of the detainees were killed inside the detention centers in the period between May and October 2013.

“If Assad does not recognize the existence of prisoners of conscience in Syria, then it is a major disaster, indicating an unproductive mentality,” a lawyer specializing in terrorism cases told North Press.

The lawyer added that his observations in the anti-terrorism court confirm and document many detainees “who have no crime other than opposing the regime.”

Reporting by Aram Abdullah

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