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Mystery over videos showing abducted women, girl from Syria’s Sweida

Published: Updated:

Several videos have been surfacing out of the Syrian governorate Sweida, which is controlled by the Syrian regime’s army and the location of ISIS suicide attacks and shootings that killed more than 250 people on July 25.

The videos show Druze women who were among the 36 people kidnapped after the mass killing.

Some of the clips were attributed to ISIS, widely believed to be the kidnappers. However, other videos were attributed to parties allied to the Assad regime, as well as residents of the governorate.

The fate of the 36 people who were kidnapped, most of which are women, remains unknown.

The Sweida 24 news site reported on Monday that Sheikh Yehia al-Hajjar, the leader of a Druze opposition movement, rejected a proposal by Russia to transfer 2,000 people on the outskirts of Sweida to its neighboring Daraa governorate.

Hajjar stated that the utmost priority should be instead given to the release of the kidnapped. He told the news site that if the Russian proposal is implemented, those who move from Sweida to Daraa may be vulnerable to an ISIS attack.

A mysterious video

The leader of the independent Karama Druze movement asserted that transferring these people might mean their “escape” from questioning and investigations.

On Monday, a young girl from Sweida called Jumana Rafie Abu Ammar, appeared in a video asking UN organizations to work on the release of those kidnapped in Sweida, pointing out that she will not ask the Syrian regime, but only UN and international organizations.

This coincided with the release of a video described by analysts and the media as “mysterious and strange” in which one of the kidnapped women, Suad Adib, appeared demanding an end to military operations.

The 'millionaire presenter'

The woman in the video had previously appeared on TV appealing to one of the Syrian regime’s presenters, Keenanah Houwaijah, to call on the release of the kidnapped.

Houwaijah is nicknamed “the millionaire presenter” due to her involvement in various negotiations between Russian forces and regime forces, leading to the displacement of many civilians, where she was paid large amounts of money for this, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It was reported that she received $800,000 in her latest mediation to transfer Syrian opposition factions from southern Syria, to the north.

Adib, who reappeared again in the 40-second video, which Sweida 24 described as “recorded under mysterious circumstances”, worried observers about the real location of Sweida’s abductees and who their kidnappers were.

There was a lot of speculation about this, especially since ISIS does not typically show detained women in videos.

The Russian side have been negotiating with the Sweida residents in the last hours, according to reports, to agree to transfer 2,000 armed militants spread in the governorate as local officials are concerned that some of them might have been involved in the Sweida massacre.

Linking the Russian negotiations to transfer 2,000 unidentified armed militant from Sweida’s dessert to south Syria heightened speculations about the identity of the kidnappers, as they forced the opposition in Sweida to accept transferring 2,000 armed men who might be ISIS militants. It also forced the opposition to fight factions supporting the Syrian opposition as well.

Who kidnapped them?

The Russian pressure on the leaders of the Druze Karama movement to accept the transfer of 2,000 unknown armed men who are believed to be ISIS elements, coincided with the publishing of the latest video of one of the kidnapped, and with the Assad’s regime seeking to control the governorate.

Some Syrian media outlets have stated that they believe the Sweida residents are being held by the regime in order to place more pressure on the leaders of Sweida to accept the moving of the 2,000 armed men, and attempt to force opposition factions to participate in regime military operations.