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Syria Today – U.S. Formally Recognizes Death of Psychologist in Syria; 16 Soldiers Killed

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – U.S. Formally Recognizes Death of Psychologist in Syria; 16 Soldiers Killed

The United States on Tuesday formally recognized the death of Majd Kamalmaz, an American psychologist who disappeared in Syria in 2017, UPI reported.

Kamalmaz was a Syrian-American who took his services to the Middle Eastern country to treat traumatized refugees of the civil war. According to the FBI, he was last seen in February 2017, when he was stopped at a Syrian government checkpoint in the Damascus suburb of Mezzeh.

He had travelled to the city a day prior to visit an elderly relative. He was also looking to establish a clinic in the Syrian capital, the FBI said.

Since his disappearance, his family and the U.S. government have tried to secure his release, but the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad has never acknowledged its detention of Kamalmaz.

“Today, we honour Majd Kamalmaz, an American who died while being held in Syria,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday in a statement.

Kamalmaz family seeks justice 

Meanwhile, the family of Majd Kamalmaz is pursuing a civil lawsuit against the Syrian government after U.S. officials presented them with classified information early last month saying they believe he died in Syria’s notorious prison system.

The lawsuit will be filed in the coming weeks at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The Syrian government faces allegations of murder, torture, inhumane conditions and false imprisonment, among other counts.

“That is just way too short for my father to pass away from any form of natural reasons. He must have definitely passed away under torture and some form of them killing him,” she said. “There’s no way he would pass from natural reasons. He was healthy.”

Human Rights Watch released an 86-page report in 2015 documenting the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians in government detention facilities. 

The report came after the release of more than 28,000 photos – from a Syrian military defector code-named “Caesar” – that showed people who had died in government custody. Many had signs of torture, suffocation, starvation and blunt-force trauma.

16 Syrian Soldiers Killed By IS Jihadists: Monitor

AFP reports that sixteen Syrian soldiers, including an officer, have been killed in a minefield laid by the Islamic State group and an attack by the jihadists in the desert, a monitor said Wednesday.

The soldiers were “killed after they found themselves in a minefield and an attack by members of the IS group,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The troops, with Russian air support, had been carrying out a days-long anti-IS operation in the Sukhna desert area of Homs province, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

IS overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a so-called caliphate and launching a reign of terror.

It was defeated territorially in Syria in 2019, but its remnants still carry out deadly attacks, particularly in the vast Badia desert which runs from the outskirts of Damascus to the Iraqi border and mainly targeting government loyalists and Kurdish-led fighters.

The Observatory says at least 348 Syrian government loyalists have been killed this year in IS ambushes and attacks in the desert.

Returned ISIS wife Mariam Raad sentenced over charges of entering terrorist-controlled region

A woman charged with willingly entering Syria to be with her Islamic State fighter husband has avoided jail time, ABC reported.

So-called ISIS bride Mariam Raad, 32, was arrested in January 2023, and charged with entering a region controlled by a terrorist organization. 

Last month, she pleaded guilty to the charge and on Wednesday was discharged conditionally at Goulburn Local Court.

Raad received no conviction and was discharged conditionally, meaning she needs to display good behaviour for the next 25 months.

She also has to continue seeing a psychologist and engage in reintegration support programs.

Raad travelled to Islamic State-controlled Syria in 2014 to be with her husband, Muhammad Zahab, who is believed to have been a high-ranking member of the terrorist organization.

It is believed Zahab was killed in 2018.

Raad is one of four women and 13 children who arrived in Sydney from the Syrian Roj camp in October 2022.

The women were all married to ISIS fighters who are now dead or in jail.

Speaking to the ABC from a Syrian camp in 2021, Raad said she was forced to travel to Syria and denied she knew of her husband’s activities.

“I didn’t know my husband was a senior in the Islamic State, and I didn’t even know anything about my husband’s work,” she said.

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