Mideast Reports Restarts and Syria Detention

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Picture of Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Taken by Tik Root, December 2010.

Mideast Reports is coming out of nearly a month security induced hiatus. All those affiliated with the blog are now safely out of Syria, which allows us to continue covering events in the region.

The full reports have now been updated with reports that I (Tik Root) received while the blog was down. There are updates from Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain; please go have a look. In regards to the blog, please be patient as we work to rebuild our network of sources and contributors. This may take a little bit of time, but we are doing our best.

I will also be using this as a place to compile items related to my two-week detention in a Syrian prison. Below is a personal statement that I released shortly after returning home, followed by a list of interviews I have done:

Dear All,
I am absolutely overjoyed to be safely back in Vermont with family and friends. A fellow prisoner phrased it best when he told me that; “everything is more beautiful when you have freedom.”

I would like to express my utmost gratitude to everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers. I cannot even begin to express how much it meant to me to discover the outpouring after two weeks in the dark. To my friends, family, the media, and the many strangers who voiced their support through all imaginable mediums, I hope a heartfelt thank you will suffice for now.

Although there is a long list of those who deserve credit for my safe return, I would like to send a special thank you to the US Embassy in Damascus, Senator Patrick Leahy, the Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha and the Middlebury College community. It is reassuring to know that genuinely kind people exist all over the world, even within the Syrian regime.

Over the coming days I will relay my own experience as well as the stories of those I met in prison. My hope is to help create an understanding of the challenges that Arab people face, and not to sour anyone’s view of the region. Arab culture is nothing short of amazing, and has much to teach us if we take the time to listen. Only through a better mutual understanding of each other’s lives can we begin to address tensions and stereotypes coming from both sides of the globe.

The Middle East has a rich, history and culture but is currently being plagued by repressive regimes that are keeping their citizens from reaching their true potential. The importance of this moment in both regional and world history cannot be overstated. If a lasting change does sweep the region, the possibilities for good are endless, and the future bright.  I offer my assistance, in any way useful, to Arabs who are peacefully fighting for the rights that we Americans enjoy everyday.

I want to draw immediate attention to one specific aspect of my detention: the details of the prison in which I was held. The following is what I have been able to ascertain with some confidence, despite being blindfolded during transportation and a lack of confirmation from Syrian officials.

The prison is located on Baghdad Street in Damascus and serves as a hub for the secret police (a division of the Syrian national security forces) and possibly a counter-terrorism group as well. Prisoners detained in this facility are generally kept for one to two weeks, and are often released on a Thursday night. This is especially true for people detained as protesters, without a camera or a criminal background. I share this information so that others are more informed than my family was, and so that families and friends of detainees can have at least a measure of hope.

To those still following my story, thank you for the continued support. For those still fighting in the Middle East, I hope that you win the rights that you deserve, but please stay as safe as possible.

Tik Root”

Chronological list of interviews:
Boston Globe
WBUR Boston (Possibly aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered”)
Local VT Station (WCAX)
CNN “In the Arena”
Associated Press
BBC “The World” (Marco Werman)
Burlington Free Press
Fox News “America’s Newsroom”
VPR “Vermont Edition”

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