Dozens of Homs residents demonstrated in the city’s Alawite-majority al-Zahraa neighborhood on Tuesday, calling for the release of their relatives previously kidnapped by rebels and who are possibly being held in Waer.
Signs read “if our sons are martyrs, then they are sacrifices for the nation,” and “our missing have been our open wounds for four years.”
The demonstration comes in response to a reported deal between the regime and the rebels in Waer last week to end thetwo-year blockade of the last rebel-controlled district in Homs city. One reported condition of the truce, which has not yet been finalized, was carried out Wednesday: 300 hardline rebels who reject it and 400 of their family members and wounded were bussed out of Waer to the rebel-held Hama and Idlib countrysides, a member of the negotiating committee who is accompanying them told Syria Direct.
Wahid Yazbek, a correspondent for a local pro-regime radio station, was arrested on Tuesday for taking pictures of the protest. His photos, posted to his Facebook account before his arrest, accompany this interview. Yazbek has not yet been released.
The director of the pro-regime Central Region News Network, who asked to remain anonymous, tells Syria Direct’s Nisreen a-Nasser that demonstrators are worried that the deal will be carried out without the return of their loved ones. Provincial governor Talal al-Barazi has previously ignored appeals for his intercession in the matter, the director said.
Relatives “have presented a list of names to the governor’s office on multiple occasions, but the governor has avoided meeting them. As a result, they felt compelled to protest in order to put pressure on him.”
Q: Did the demonstrators have any specific demands? Are they against the truce agreement?
They are in favor of reconciling with the people of Waer in return for the release of their relatives.These families are worried that their relatives will not be released, which is what happened during the last agreement with rebels in Homs’s Old City. There are about 2,000 kidnapped civilians, and it is unclear whether they are being held inside of Waer or not. They could be in Dar al-Kabira or Talbisah, in which case the truce would not apply to them.
Previously, they have presented a list of names to the governor’s office on multiple occasions, but the governor has avoided meeting them. As a result, they felt compelled to protest in order to put pressure on him.
Demonstrators holding pictures of their kidnapped relatives in Homs’ al-Zahra neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Wahid Saiid Yazbek.
Q: Is the regime worried that these protests could disrupt the proceedings of the truce agreement?
I don’t think so, everything will go the way the regime wants it to. Also, the insurgents have already left, and that was the basis of the truce.
Last night, a reporter for Medina FM Wahid Yazbek was arrested on provocation charges after he published pictures of the protest. This arrest will fuel discontent among supporters of the regime in pro-regime areas.
Q: Will Waer be reconnected with the rest of Homs or will it remain an outcast?
It will rejoin, because it is a part of Homs, and there are people who want to return to their houses in Waer and live in peace. The arms will be taken away from the rebels who still remain in Homs as part of the agreement.