The Syrian regime has released members of the Murjan family from Gouta in Damascus countryside, under an exchange deal conducted by the security services.
Hiba Saryol, 22, her husband Mohammad Murjan, (a.k.a. Fulful), as well as another unrelated person called Belal Oyoun were released after being kidnapped by the Syrian security services for more than a year.
Days before the release, regime forces released the couple's two children; one-year-old Hassan Murjan, and two-year-old Aysha Murjan.
Murjan and his family were traveling back home by car from Jordan to Damascus when they passed through one of the regime checkpoints in the city of al-Kesweh, in the Damascus countryside. The popular committees arrested them all and took them to the Region Branch 722.
The exchange deal, under which the two children were set free some days before releasing the adults, was conducted as a gesture of “goodwill” to complete a complicated swap deal that had failed many times.
The last phase of the deal was conducted two days ago and resulted of release of six militant Alawite officers, including a man named Gadeer Al Yousef, the son of the General Tayseer Yousef who serves in the presidential palace.
In spite of many claims made by many human rights organizations and independent people familiar with the release, the kidnapped family including the children, had been held for more than a year. In the meantime, the Syrian security services refused to set the detainees free despite their implied suggestion that it would be possibile to swap them with militants arrested by the Free Syrian Army in Eastern Gouta.
The circumstances and reasons of kidnapping the family are mysterious. Some said they were kidnapped simply because they are from Eastern Gouta, a rebellious area from which civilians have been prevented from entering the city of Damascus. Others said it was a preconceived ambush because of a report by someone against them.
The accusation against them was that there was a close family relationship between Hiba and Zahran Alloush – the General of the Army of Islam – falsely claiming that she was his niece, while she really hadn’t any relation of to him of any kind.
It happened when they were on their way home from Jordan after a trip to seek treatment for Mohammad, when they were detained all together, including baby Hassan, who Hiba was holding in her arms. They were taken to an unknown location and no one had any information about their whereabouts.
Eight month ago, the regime sent a verbal proposal through intermediaries to those who were concerned about the family to exchange the abducted children with suspected militants arrested by the Free Syrian Army.
One of those concerned with the case told us that they learned, through someone who works in the Ministry of Reconciliation, that the two children were taken from the cellars of the regime to the al-Bustan Association, owned by Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of President Bashar Assad.
It is known that the association is located in the Mazzeh 86 neighborhood of Damascus, and recruits people to work as Shabbiha in the so – called "Popular Committees" militias which are spread throughout areas controlled by the regime to kidnap and threaten civilians.
A death sentence handed to Murjan, who received brutal punishment while in detention and spent more than nine months in isolation, also witnessesing the deaths of other prisoners by starvation. One person close to him said that his wife’s situation in the prison was less dramatic, but that Mohammad’s health was very poor.
The exchange operation succeeded after negotiations that lasted more than seven months in very complex circumstances and with many overlaps. The father of the kidnapped woman established communications with all the parties, including the regime and the opposition, until he managed to free the children and took them from the Association.
According to a relative, the physical and psychological state of the children was very bad and they were suffering severe malnutrition. The little girl was suffering a clear case of psychiatric disorder, crying and frightened and talking about being beaten while she was detained.
The kidnapped family returned with another detained person, released under the same deal. Sickness, exhaustiion, along with clear signs of torture and poor treatment were so clear on their faces and bodies that Muhammad Murjan, when he arrived, was unable to stand on his feet or speak. This drew the attention of one of the FSA field commanders who was observing the exchange process. He began to compare the health status of the detainees from the Assad army and the detainees in the regime prisons. While the army soldiers seemed to be healthy, in the videos that circulated around the exchange process , there were signs of torture and disorder among the prisoners in the regime prisons.
This story is considered exceptional only because this family was saved and released under an exchange deal. While many Syrian families, including children and women, especially from the areas outside of regime control are still detained by Syrian security forces, only in the best cases are theyheld as hostages with the intention of holding negotiations for exchange.
This is how Assad and his regime push the Syrian people to behave in the same way saying to people that it is alright to kidnap and exchange to release a detainee, without heeding the criticism that he still faces, especially from the Alawites, whoaccusing him of being indifferent to their own captives, whether militants or civilians. By contrast, he has shown a keen willingness to liberate the Iranian and Lebanese Shiite and the Christian nuns.
According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, more than 200,000 Syrian detainees, including hundreds of children under the age of 18, and more than 4,500 women, are still in regime prisons or the dungeons of its security forces. They are waiting for the kidnap of the same number of regime soldiers or of the Lebanese or Iranian mercenary forces that are fighting with him in order to be swapped