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Syria: Women held in underground cells
Heba al-Khaled, aged 17, and her sister Rola al-Khaled, 20, both of whom are pregnant, along with Nadia al-Satour and her young baby, are being held by the Syrian authorities in tiny underground cells in the Military Intelligence Palestine Branch, in Damascus.

The cells, known as “tombs”, are infested with cockroaches and other insects as well as rats, which sometimes bite prisoners. The three young women are being held incommunicado in solitary confinement in order to put pressure on their husbands, alleged members of the Islamic armed group Jund al-Sham.

The case

The three women were arrested on 3 September. Shortly before, according to the Syrian state media, a gun battle had taken place in Hama province, in the West of the country, between the Anti-Terror Squad and militants of the Jund al-Sham (“Soldiers of the Levant”) armed group.

Five militants were reportedly killed in the battle. After the authorities were unable to find Heba al-Khaled’s, Rola al-Khaled’s and Nadia al-Satour’s husbands the three women were arrested instead.

Some prisoners have been held incommunicado without charge in the Palestine Branch “tombs” for years. Amnesty International has reports of other pregnant women and young children being detained there, including an alleged miscarriage reportedly taking place as a result of torture.

Background information

It’s as yet unclear what organisation the name Jund al-Sham refers to; It could be the same as the Tanzim Jund al-Sham ("Organization of the Soldiers of the Levant"), a group said to have a base in the ‘Ain al-Helwa Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon; Or the Tanzim Jund al-Sham lil-Jihad wal-Tawhid ("Organization of the Soldiers of the Levant for Jihad and Monotheism") that is said to have been established recently in Damascus.

It is suspected that the Syrian secret services may be active within Islamist groups, or may be allowing them to operate unhindered, so as to allow the authorities to portray Syria as a "victim" of terrorism.

Take action
Please send a letter to the Syrian authorities:

Expressing grave alarm at reports that Heba al-Khaled, Rola al-Khaled and Nadia al-Satour have been detained, apparently as hostages in place of their husbands, and pointing out that the first two are pregnant and the third has her young baby with her;

Demanding that they be released immediately, as they have been detained without even the suspicion that they have committed a crime;

Expressing alarm that they are detained in the tiny, filthy, underground tomb" cells at the Military Intelligence Palestine Branch in Damascus, where torture and ill-treatment is routine;

Calling up on the authorities to implement the UN Convention against Torture which Syria acceded to in 2004.

Please send your appeals by post, fax or e-mail to:

    His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad
    President of the Republic
    Presidential Palace
    Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street
    Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
    Fax: 00963 11 332 3410
    Salutation: Your Excellency

    His Excellency General Ghazi Kan'an
    Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior
    Merjeh Circle
    Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
    Fax: 00963 11 222 3428
    Email: admin@civilaffair-moi.gov.sy
    Salutation: Your Excellency

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All information is © Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff