The Assad regime is raising cash through kidnappings, Amnesty International alleges. Syria Deeply reports:
According to Between Prison and the Grave: Enforced Disappearances in Syria [an Amnesty International report], more than 65,000 people – 58,000 of them civilians – have been forcibly disappeared in Syria since 2011.
Those detained by the members of the Syrian state or its conduits are usually held in appalling conditions in overcrowded detention cells, completely cut off from the outside world. Many detainees, Amnesty said, die as a result of torture, rampant disease and extrajudicial execution.
Amnesty’s report says that enforced disappearances in Syria have become so systematically entrenched that they’ve given rise to a black market network in which “middlemen” are paid bribes – sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars – by families attempting to determine where their loved one is, or simply to verify if he or she is still alive.
According to a Damascus-based lawyer who spoke with Amnesty, these bribes have become “a cash cow for the regime … a source of funding they have come to rely on.”
ISIS thrusts its practice of taking hostages into a media spotlight by broadcasting graphic executions. (ISIS hostages were also in the news recently in Iraq, where the first U.S. serviceman to die in the renewed fight against ISIS was killed in action during a rescue operation.) But while ISIS kidnappings and executions are more lurid, this Amnesty report reminds us that the Syrian regime’s can end just as horribly—and be more widespread.
The same can be said of the violence in Syria more generally, where the regime has killed the majority of the civilian casualties of the civil war. Western revulsion against ISIS has prompted some to argue that we should make a deal with the devil and accept Assad. Certainly the Syrian regime would like this, and now that Russia is backing Assad, it will be hard to topple him without risking a wider war. But we should never forget that ISIS’s brutality is matched by the regime’s own. And in a civil war, the brutality of one side often feeds the brutality of the other—which will leave the well poisoned in Syria long after the fighting stops.