Syrian freelance journalist Jihad As’ad Mohamed was arrested by Syrian security forces in Damascus in August 2013. Seven years after his arrest, the journalist’s wife and the human rights organization, Violations Documentation Center in Syria, have been unable to confirm if the journalist is still alive or where he is being held.
Prior to his arrest, the freelance writer contributed several critical articles to local news websites, including the pro-reform Alef Today. In his articles, he criticized the government’s crackdown on peaceful protests and called for reforms.
Mohamed was the editor-in-chief of the weekly Kassioun before leaving the paper in the summer of 2012, citing a disagreement with the paper’s editorial position, according to a staff member at Kassioun who spoke to CPJ. The paper is affiliated with the socialist Popular Will party, which unlike other opposition groups showed a willingness to engage with the Syrian government.
Syrian state security forces had previously held Mohamed for questioning in connection with his journalistic activities after leaving Kassioun, according to news reports that did not specify the exact date of the earlier detention. The journalist had joined Kassioun in 2006, the reports said.
Mohamed’s wife told CPJ that, despite her efforts to gather information about the whereabouts of her husband and rumors that Mohamed had been either killed in detention or seen at a Syrian military intelligence detention facility known as Section 215 and in Damascus’ Sednaya Prison, there is no evidence of his whereabouts.
When CPJ spoke with Mohamed’s wife in mid-September 2019, she said she did not have any new information on Mohamed’s whereabouts, or whether he was alive.
Mohamed’s name does not appear on the Syrian human rights organization Violations Documentation Center’s list of 8,000 detainees who were killed under torture in prisons run by the Syrian government.
As of late September 2019, neither the Syrian mission to the United Nations nor the Syrian Interior Ministry had responded to CPJ’s emailed request for information on Mohamed’s status, whereabouts, and health.
CPJ emailed associations representing Syrian detainees, including Families for Freedom, the Association of Detainees and Missing in Sednaya Prison, and the Syrian Association for Missing and Conscience Detainees for further information about the status of Mohamed, but as of late 2019 none of them had replied.
Thousands of Syrians have disappeared into custody since the start of the uprising in 2011. A 2019 report by the London-based Syrian Network for Human Rights found that at least 98,000 people were forcibly disappeared—detained and not heard of again—in Syria between March 2011 and August 2019, with pro-Assad forces believed to be responsible for at least 83,500 cases. The same report said that the Syrian government has confirmed the deaths of 931 people in detention in the same period.