A girl was abducted today on her way to school. On my street. The police came around rewinding the cameras, seeing how far she had gotten.

It was a short walk from past the apartment to the school. A shopkeeper with a glass façade says the children walk together. He has little faith in the police finding her.

A Syrian business owner was hearing the story with me — “It is everyday in my city.” There are secret police picking people up for ransom all the time –“1 million, 2 million, 5 million Syrian pounds. They are the same as the police.”

Sometimes the detained is charged with a crime, but if you go to the station to ask what the crime is, the authorities don’t tell you. Then the detained will be released after a few months, not knowing what their crime was, sometimes never having been asked or told.

He said plainclothes officers roll by in groups of six, stopping people on the street with rifles and ushering them into vans — that’s the method of collection. They took a friend of his who is in his sixties. Constant tracking down and negotiating is being done by those in the diaspora from afar for the freedom of those they left behind.

At the dinner table today it was just me and a mother, soon to return to her country. Al Jazeera came on with photos of emaciated naked male bodies and a piece on the Saydnaya report put out by Amnesty International UK. We wept quickly and I scuttled some dishes away.


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