' “It was days before we found out,” said Mrs Alabbasi. “Now I do barely sleep at night. We don’t know where they are or how they are, we don’t even know if they are alive.” A dentist by trade, Rania had also been Syria’s national chess champion several times over. When military intelligence officers arrested her, they stole her awards, along with money, jewellery, the family cars, according to her sister. They also took her six children. “What chance is there for a child when adults barely survive those prisons? Her youngest is just two years old,” said Mrs Alabbasi. “We think of them every day.”
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), a monitoring group, has collected the names of 58,148 who are believed to have been forcibly disappeared since March 2011, the first month of Syria’s revolution, and who remain missing.
Raneem Ma’touq, a 24-year-old fine arts student from Homs, was forcibly disappeared for two months in 2014. Taken from her house at gunpoint in the night, she spent months inside a 3m cell shared with 10 other women. During one brutal interrogation, she said she became hysterical, singing at the top of her lungs. “I was punished for that,” she said. “The director... hung me almost by the throat and kept hitting me. But others had it worse.”Ms Ma’touq’s ordeal is not over. Her father Khalil, a renowned human rights lawyer who defended hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, is also missing, arrested from his car in Damascus during October 2013.
Amnesty International said on Monday that it believed the regime’s disappearances had been carried out as part of “an organised attack against the civilian population that has been widespread, as well as systematic, and therefore amount to crimes against humanity".
Waiting for news of Rania, Mrs Alabbasi said she had given up asking why the family’s ordeal had begun. “In Syria you cannot ask the regime why it does this,” she said. “They do not need an excuse to do what they want.” '