Shadows of the Disappeared

November 13, 2018

Enforced disappearance is one of many human rights violations that occur in armed conflict. It is, however, one that does not end when conflict ceases, but rather continues to have long-term impact on the concerned persons, their relatives, and the community as a whole. This kind of ambiguous loss makes an impact that transcends generations and shapes societal interrelations. Hence, whilst enforced disappearance should be considered in relation to and within the broader context of the current armed conflict in Syria, the inverse is equally important. Other human rights violations should also be examined in relation to enforced disappearance. Examples include, and are not limited to, forced displacement as invoked in many cases by the fear of losing family members to arbitrary detention raids; livelihood deterioration; and education deprivation.

The Syrian Oral History Archive (SOHA) project has been launched in August 2016 to challenge the narratives of enforced disappearance that focus solely on the missing, detained or forcibly disappeared. SOHA documents the stories of women relatives of the detained, disappeared and missing persons in Syria with the aim of giving historians, researchers and advocates a greater understanding of the magnitude of the issue of detention and enforced disappearance. This report uses oral history as a tool to reintegrate women’s silenced voices and neglected personal and communal narratives into the epochal events taking place in Syria today. It uses gender as a defining category of analysis and opens a space for women interviewees to shape the report agenda by articulating what is of importance to them, with the aim of redirecting our gaze to overlooked and/or undermined topics.