Human Rights Tragedy in Syria: Yacoub Hanna Shamoun
by Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO)
Yacoub Hanna Shamoun, an Assyrian (Syriac), was born in the town of Amouda, Syria in 1963. In 1972, due to economic hardship, his family moved to Lebanon seeking a better life. At the time, Yacoub was only 9 years-old and his brother Fawaz (born 1966) was only 6. As teenagers in Lebanon, Yacoub and his brother Fawaz gave up schooling at an early age and began working multiple jobs in order to assist their struggling family.
Syrian laws require mandatory military service of a male once reaching the age of 18. This prohibited the Shamoun family from returning to Syria for fear of prosecution of their children Yacoub and Fawaz, as they had reached the age of 18 and did not report to military duty. However, in 1985, the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad issued a general pardon for all individuals who had not reported to military service, declaring that anyone who had not reported will not be prosecuted but rather will be allowed to join the military service. Many Syrian families rejoiced this amnesty, including the Shamoun family who returned to Syria and their sons Yacoub and Fawaz reported to the Military Service Division in Qamishli, Syria.
On July 2, 1985, the Syrian State Security Forces arrested both brothers Yacoub and Fawaz Hanna Shamoun from their home and took them to the State Security Headquarters in Qamishli, where they were detained and tortured for weeks. After that the two brothers completely vanished and their whereabouts became unknown. Despite numerous attempts by the family to learn more about them, they were always denied any information about their children. Some even told the family to consider them dead and to give up hope of seeing their sons alive again and to stop pursuing this issue.
However, 11 years later, in 1996, the younger sibling Fawaz Hanna Shamoun was released without a trial. When Fawaz was erroneously arrested in 1985, he was 19 years-old, and when he was released in 1996, he was 30 years of age. Upon the release of Fawaz, the family’s hopes of seeing their sons alive were ignited once again. But the fate of “Yacoub Hanna Shamoun” remained unknown for years. In 2001, and after numerous attempts, the family was informed by one of Syria’s Security Agencies that their son Yacoub is in the Saydnaya Prison, where many political prisoners are detained without trial.
For years, Yacoub has been suffering from Inflammation of the Liver, and there are fears that due to lack of medical treatment, his condition has worsened and has developed into cancer. In recent years, the family was given more assurances that Yacoub is still alive in the Saydnaya Prison, where he has been detained without a trial for 26 years. When Yacoub Hanna Shamoun was immorally arrested in 1985, he was 22 years-old, today he is 48 and still awaiting trial. For years, Yacoub has been suffering from Inflammation of the Liver, and there are fears that due to lack of medical treatment, his condition has worsened and has developed into cancer.
It is worth noting that throughout the last 26 years, there have been many general pardons granted by the current and late Syrian President. Despite the fact that Yacoub Hanna Shamoun is covered by these pardons, he was never released nor allowed contact with his family or lawyer. On June 1, 2011, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a general pardon granting full amnesty to all political prisoners in Syria, and although hundreds of political prisoners were released, but Yacoub Hanna Shamoun still remains in prison.