Khalil Ma’touq, a human rights lawyer, went missing on the morning of 2 October 2012, as he was driving to work from his home in Sahnaya, in the suburbs of Damascus.
Khalil Ma’touq, a human rights lawyer, went missing on the morning of 2 October 2012, as he was driving to work from his home in Sahnaya, in the suburbs of Damascus.Given Khalil’s work as a human rights lawyer and the fact that there are several government-controlled checkpoints on his usual route to his office in the city, his family was immediately concerned that he had been arrested by the security forces.
Since then, Khalil has been sighted by unofficial sources in several different security branches, including State Security Branch 285 in Kafr Soussa, Damascus and a branch of Air Force Intelligence in Damascus. He was last seen in September 2013 at the notorious Palestine Branch 235 of Military Intelligence in Damascus. Since then, Khalil’s family has received no updates on his whereabouts.
The Syrian authorities have not responded to the family’s repeated requests for information on Khalil and, in February 2013, they denied they were holding him after an official inquiry by a group of fellow lawyers. Khalil’s family is particularly concerned about his health, as he suffers from advanced lung disease.
A close relative described how she was affected by her father’s enforced disappearance: “He left a huge hole in our life… It is like hell living without him. He always defended my freedoms and raised me to be a strong, independent woman, but suddenly, without his protection, I was facing a hostile community.”
One of Khalil’s close friends was also strongly affected by his enforced disappearance. “It left me terrified for my family’s safety and my own safety,” he explained. “I became very careful about my movements, the people I spoke to, and what I spoke about. All of his friends were impacted by this… For us, watching our friends disappear, it feels like a grand strategy by the government to terrorize the people of Syria.”