This year marks the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Austin Tice in Syria. Tice was abducted in August 2012 while working as a free-lance journalist and photographer. In a statement, President Joe Biden said Tice “put the truth above himself and traveled to Syria to show the world the real cost of war.”
On the 10th anniversary, President Biden called on Syria “to end this and help us bring him home.” So far, that call has gone unanswered. The Syrian government has, according to the State Department, refused to acknowledge its detention of Tice despite President Biden’s assertion that the U.S. government knows “with certainty” that Tice has been held by the Syrian government.
The lack of answers contributes to what Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called “the unfathomable ordeal” of the Tice family. Yet the Tice Family is not alone. Families of at least 102,000 men, women, and children that the Syrian Network for Human Rights has reported as disappeared in Syria since the 2011 civil war suffer from not knowing their loved ones’ fates or whereabouts. Nearly every Syrian family is impacted by this issue, whether those missing are the result of acts of the Assad regime, ISIS, or other parties to the conflict.
And Syria is far from alone as a country from which tens of thousands have been forcibly disappeared from their family and community in recent years. As Amnesty International notes, “Disappearances now happen in every region in the world and in a wide range of contexts. They are commonly carried out in internal conflicts, particularly by governments trying to repress political opponents or by armed opposition groups.”
On August 30, the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, Secretary Blinken deplored what he called this “egregious violation of human rights prohibited under international law. . .The United States,” he declared in a statement, “renews its commitment to addressing enforced disappearance and calls on governments around the world to put an end to this practice, hold those responsible to account, reveal the whereabouts or fate of loved ones who have been disappeared, and respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons.”