“Long Yearn for the Missing Father”

Account of Wael Shroff Disappearance by National Defense Militias

Wael Ali Shroff, born in Lattakia in 1977, he used to work in building and had only the preparatory certificate. Wael is married with two children, Hala, 10 years old, and Haneen, 5 years old.

 According to Hayat Shroff, Wael’s sister[1] in her testimony to Syrians for Truth and Justice/STJ, that on September 1, 2013, an armed group affiliated to the Syrian National Defense[2] militias arrested Wael from his house in al-Qneis neighborhood, Lattakia in front of his family. When his parents asked the armed elements about the reason of his arrest, they said that Wael had participated in the demonstrations opposing the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s, and that they would arrest anyone who participated in demonstrations against the regime.

 These armed elements included two elements known for their loyalties to National Defense militias headed by Helal al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad`s cousin.

After Wael disappeared, his family tried to know his place through some “brokers” who told his family that he might be transferred to the Counter Terrorism Court in Damascus. Moreover, the brokers tried to blackmail the family to gain money, one of them identified as A. al-Mesri, who was known for his close relationship with some leaders of the Syrian National Defense militias, he took 300,000 Syrian pounds that equaled $2,500 for any information about Wael. The family could not trust him because these brokers exploited families of the detainees and made use of the arrested and disappeared cases as a livelihood and a profitable trade.

Wael’s family later hired a lawyer, A. Rustom, who informed them on the case and took 100,000 Syrian pounds, which equaled $800. The lawyer also told them that this amount was not enough to plead for such a case, but he was able to know Wael’s fate. He added that he would buy gifts to some regime officials with 100,000 Syrian pounds in order to get information. Later, the lawyer said that Wael was really transferred to Counter Terrorism Court in Damascus

 

  • Wael’s Family Trauma Following his Arrest:

Wael’s wife suffered from neurological breakdown when she heard the news of her husband’s arrest. She could not understand what happened so far, as her husband’s disappearance caused an emotional and social void. She suffered from prolonged isolation as she cut all her social relations. Regarding his daughters, they felt deprivation and lack because of their father’s absence, Hala stepped back in her study, and the baby girl Haneen no longer knows the meaning of the word, Daddy, and she always asks what does it mean and where her father disappeared. Wael’s sister said.

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In addition, Wael family had financial distress given the arrest of their only breadwinner, so they lived on aids provided by their relatives. Whereas Wael’s wife stayed in her husband’s house to bring up her daughters, as she still hopes for his return and looking forward to any news of her detained husband. Whenever she heard about the release of any detainees, her hope renews that her husband may come back one day.

The family also faced some legal problems because of Wael’s arrest, as when his family wanted to register his daughter at school, they asked for a copy for her father’s personal card, but they could not get it, so the parents tried to get Personal Civil Registry Record document, but in vain. The head of the Civil Registry Department in Lattakia told them that there was a security book that contained names of some people involved in cases of terrorism, which imposed not to give any document concerning those persons whose names were included in the book, including Wael, that assured the family that he was facing charges related to terrorism within the regime.

Moreover, the family was subjected to ill-treatment and contempt when they went to any government department. Once, one of the employees of the Directorate of Finance in Lattakia expelled his wife when she tried to get a Patent Annuity Payments document and told that they do not give it to terrorists, as he expressed.

[1] The interview was conducted personally on July 16, 2017, in the Al-Khair camp in the northern countryside of Lattakia .

[2] They are non-regular , semi-governmental, armed militias operating under the command of the General Army and Armed Forces in Syria.

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