On October 18, 2017, Alkarama and Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights sent an urgent appeal to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID ) regarding the case of Ruba Bakkar and her two young children, all of whom remain missing following their arrests by Syrian government forces in 2013.

Thirty-year-old Ruba Bakkar and her children – Ahmad, aged 11, and Maram, aged 9 – were living with Ruba’s family in a camp for internally displaced persons in Homs while her husband was living in the Jairoud area of Syria.

As Jairoud was under the control of opposition armed groups at the time, Mrs Bakkar’s husband could not travel to Homs to visit his wife and children for fear of arrest. Hoping that the journey in the opposite direction would be less risky, he asked Ruba to travel to Jairoud with the children for the month of Ramadan.

On July 3, 2013, a driver collected Ruba and the children from Homs to drive them to Jairoud. As Mrs Bakkar was running late, her husband called her, and before she hung up he became aware that they were being stopped at a checkpoint.

After some time had passed, the driver called her husband, informing him that his wife and children had arrived. Fearing this was a trap, he requested to speak to his wife directly, but when the driver handed the phone over to Mrs Bakkar, she refused to talk to him in order to protect him, confirming Mr Bakkar’s fear that she and the children had been arrested by government forces. The driver also disappeared that day.

Since then, Mrs Bakkar’s husband has not been able to communicate with his wife and children. In October 2013, following the intervention of a clan leader, he was informed by the state-controlled Reconciliation Commission that his wife was detained at the Investigation branch of the Military Intelligence. This branch – along with the Palestine branch – is one of the most feared divisions of the Syrian Military Intelligence detention facilities.

Mrs Bakkar’s mother lodged a complaint with the military police in Qaboun on June 22, 2014. The officers told her to come back every month, which she continued to do until her health no longer allowed her to make the journey. In spite of these repeated attempts, she was never provided with any information regarding the fate and whereabouts of either her daughter or her grandchildren.

Concerned over the fate and physical integrity of the Bakkars, Alkarama and Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights sought the intervention of the WGEID in order to shed light on the circumstances surrounding their disappearances. Considering that Ahmad and Maram are minors, as well as the scale of gender-based violence in Syrian detention facilities, Alkarama firmly believes that all three members of the Bakkar family should be released immediately.