Palestinian Student Missing Since 2012 Abduction from Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Syria

On October 13, 2017, Alkarama and Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights Foundation sent an urgent appeal to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID ) regarding the case of Salma Abdul Razzaq, a 27-year-old Palestinian student who has been missing since her arrest near Yarmouk refugee camp on December 30, 2012.

Her case demonstrates the precarious position in which the Palestinian community in Syria finds itself, particularly in the camp of Yarmouk. Although most of its residents hoped to remain neutral as the Syrian conflict was unfolding, the Syrian army – assisted by the PFLP-GC – arrested scores of people suspected of taking the side of the rebellion.

After Syrian opposition armed groups gained control of Yarmouk in late 2012, the Syrian regime and its allies retaliated by enforcing a tight blockade of the camp as a form of collective punishment. This resulted in a humanitarian disaster in which 18,000 civilians were trapped inside the camp and denied access to humanitarian aid.

Abdul Razzaq was arrested by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), a Palestinian militia closely allied with the Syrian regime. She was later handed over to the Syrian authorities at the infamous “Palestine branch” of the Military Intelligence in Damascus. Since then, her family has received little to no information regarding her fate and whereabouts.

Abdul Razzaq was living in Yarmouk before clashes erupted between the army and armed rebel groups on December 16, 2012. Along with 140,000 other inhabitants, she had no choice but to find refuge in a neighbouring quarter of Damascus.

At the time of her arrest, Abdul Razzaq was a fourth year student of architecture at the University of Damascus. She was very active in university life, as she presented several poetry evenings, and also volunteered with the medical scouts of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

On December 30, 2012, Salma was at university when she received a call informing her that a sniper had hit her elder brother in the camp. Despite the recent worsening of the security situation, she decided to go to Yarmouk to enquire about his condition.

When she reached the camp’s entrance, she was stopped and searched at a checkpoint controlled by PFLP-GC militants. They arrested her after she was found to be carrying a small quantity of medicine into the camp.

Following the arrest, she was handed over to the Syrian authorities at the so-called “Palestine branch” of the Military Intelligence in Damascus. The “Palestine branch” – where torture is notorious – is one of the most feared of the Syrian Military Intelligence detention facilities.

Between 2013 and 2014, several detainees at the “Palestine branch” informed Abdul Razzaq’s family that she was still detained in this facility. However, her family is unaware if she is still detained there.

Concerned that Salma Abdul Razzaq is at high risk of being tortured in the Military Intelligence facility, Alkarama and Urnammu sent an urgent appeal to the WGEID on October 13, 2017, requesting their intervention with the Syrian authorities to ensure that she be released or, at the very least, put under the protection of the law.