As the conflict in Syria exacerbates, so does the phenomenon of kidnapping that propagates not only across its territory but also outside its borders. The number of current abductees in Syria is anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 since the start of the protest movement and the uprising in mid-March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The motives behind each incident vary, from political, sectarian, or revenge reasons, to the extraction of ransoms to fund the different groups’ or merely as a source of money for opportunistic criminals in a struggling economy. The idea of using kidnapping as a weapon isn't entirely new. The rebel forces and the government have exchanged “prisoners” for weapons since the beginning of the revolution. Truth is that kidnappings in Syria are no longer only politically motivated; they have become a way to make money. People abducted for strictly political or sectarian reasons are normally executed. Forced disappearances are also becoming common. Pro-regime forces, including members of the intelligence service, the armed forces and a special group known as the Shabiha (mercenaries and criminals paid by the government) are known to use tactics such as kidnapping, against alleged enemies of the Assad regime. The Shahiba militias have also been accused of kidnapping for money purposes, and it has been alleged that the pro-regime forces have also been involved in sectarian motivated abductions; mainly against Sunnis. Human rights groups have accused the Syrian government of being responsible for about 80,000 cases of missing people. The Rebels, by not being a unified entity, possess different sets of objectives. However, they seem to have a tendency to target Christians not only for religious reasons but also given their wealthier background. The Christians, who account for 10 per cent of the Syrian population, fear a bleak future as Syria seems to be becoming more Islamic and more sectarian by means of the Syrian National Coalition gaining more power alongside its most effective fighting force in hands of the Jadhat al-Nusra, whose ideology is similar to al-Qaeda. But the targets today are not only the wealthy Christians, but generally any person who can pay money in return for their lives. All across Syria, but mainly in its largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, many incidents of kidnapping have been recorded, with ransoms ranging from only $200 usd to more than 20 millions of Syrian pounds. The main rebel groups to be known for their large use of kidnapping are the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Jabhat al-Nusra. The FSA is known to target rich families mainly in Aleppo to “fund the revolution". In the case of the FSA, it is difficult to estimate the real number of abductions. It has been reported that opportunistic criminal gangs as well as other fighting groups have committed kidnappings for ransom in the name of the FSA. For this reason, the FSA has not only denied its engagement in such activities, but has also set a helpline to track and execute individuals guilty of sullying the FSA’s name and that of the “revolution”. In Syria, no one is immune to abduction. The examples are countless. From political figures and their families, to media and NGOs’ staff, from business people to even the ordinary citizen, all are at risk. Moreover, a hot target for both sides of the conflict is the members of the media for economic, political and publicity reasons. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 15 journalists have been abducted in 2012. Only eight have been released. Of the rest, one is believed to be in government custody, one to be held by the rebels, two are believed dead, and the whereabouts of other three are unknown. Amid the unfolding anarchy, Syrian rebels have been known to even kidnap other rebels by accident. Cross-border escalation of the problem: Lebanon
There is yet another kind of kidnappings taking place in Syria these days, where people trying to...
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