By Hajer M'tiri
PARIS (AA) - A group of women, campaigning for Syrian detainees' freedom, on Saturday urged French president Emmanuel Macron to put pressure on the Syrian regime to release the arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared Syrians.
The group of activists, part of the women-led campaign "Families for Freedom", arrived to the French capital on Saturday on board of the "Freedom Bus."
"Liberez-Les" [Set Them Free], reads a banner on the red double-decker bus, which is covered up with photos of the campaigners’ friends and relatives, who are either currently detained by the Syrian regime or killed.
Women, whose husbands, brothers and sons have disappeared in Syria, are calling on Macron to use all his influence to push for the release of their loved ones.
Speaking to a crowd at the Place de la Republique, lawyer Noura Ghazi Safadi, the wife of the prominent Syrian activist Bassel Khartabil who was reportedly executed in a Syrian government prison in August 2017, said: "Growing up under dictatorship I knew France to be a leading light of freedom, the country that created the statue of liberty."
"We’ve come here today because I believe in the power of France to help create freedom of our loved ones who have been locked away for too long. France has called itself a ‘Friend of Syria’," Safadi continued.
"Now we’re asking Macron to show that friendship by using all his power to make sure the release of detainees is top of the agenda at the Geneva talks and beyond," she added.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) says an estimated 200,000 women, men and children have been arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime since March 2011.
"I was forced to flee Syria because of my human rights activism, traveling through Lebanon and Egypt, I ended up in France. My husband, a poet, stayed in Syria to help create democracy there. He was illegally detained and imprisoned. I’m here today representing him and the hundreds of thousands like him in jail. Me and my children miss him everyday - there is a hole in our lives without him,” Farizah Jahjah said.
Jahjah, who now lives in France, said she has not seen her husband for almost four years after he was arrested from their home for his peaceful campaigning and humanitarian work with those who had fled the regime forces’ bombing.
"He is with me as I travel here to Paris but me and my children miss him everyday - there is a hole in our lives without him."
Fadwa Mahmoud, a long-time activist who has been detained, also called for the release of her husband Abdulaziz Al-Kheir and her son Maher Tahan, who forcibly disappeared since Sept. 20, 2012.
"I was locked away from my children when they were young and as my son became older and understood the meaning of freedom, he too has been locked away from me five years ago. We will not stop campaigning until we reach Damascus and pick up all detainees and drive them home."
The "Freedom bus" activists say they are planning to visit key European capitals as a rallying call to Europe’s leaders to act for Syria’s detainees and to draw attention to the cause of the tens of thousands of detained and missing people in Syria.
They hope to drive the bus all the way to Damascus.