Astana Open Letter from “Families for Freedom”: We refuse to place the fate of our loved ones in the hands of armed men

To the delegations attending Syrian peace talks in Astana: the Syrian armed opposition groups, the Syrian government and the Russian, Turkish and Iranian governments —

We refuse to place the fate of our loved ones in the hands of armed men.

The fate of our country’s more than 100,000 arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared sons and daughters is not a file for your military talks in Astana. We do not accept prisoner exchanges arranged between military sides as a replacement for a real solution to the horror of mass detention in Syria. We cannot describe the pain we feel at the separation from our peaceful sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and siblings. Every minute of every day we wonder where they are and how they are doing.

It is precisely the peaceful detainees, those who have never picked up a gun, who will suffer from the detainees file being taken up in Astana. Who will be there to advocate for them when the military sides begin conducting prisoner exchanges for their own people? Our civilians will be forgotten.

There is no greater indicator of this than the fact that the visas of the Families for Freedom to travel to Astana for the talks were denied. We wanted to be there because we plan on being everywhere the fate of our loved ones is being discussed. Of course, almost every man in Syria who has fired a weapon has ensured their representation at the Astana talks. Peaceful women advocating for their peaceful family members were forced to stay at home.

We support efforts to stop the bombs and the fighting and pursue a ceasefire in Astana. But please leave our detention file for the Geneva peace process. We do not want the issue of detention to be “resolved” though prisoner exchanges between military sides.

Families for Freedom