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Updated: Assyrian Woman Arbitrarily Detained by SDF Forces in Northeastern Syria

Updated: Jul 10, 2022

The API is concerned by reports that Rasha Chamoun, a 32-year-old Assyrian woman, was detained without charges by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Al-Malikiyah (Derik), Syria on July 3, 2022. Six days after her arrest, Chamoun is being held incommunicado in an undisclosed location. She may have been subjected to enforced disappearance.

Derik, a heavily Assyrian-populated city and the center of an administrative district belonging to Al-Hasakah Governorate in Syria. The district constitutes the northeastern corner of the country, and is currently under the de facto control of the Kurdish-led self-governing administration known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES). The region is militarily controlled by the People's Protection Units (YPG), a mainly-Kurdish militia in Syria and the primary component of the SDF.

Rasha Chamoun was last seen at 2:00pm last Sunday and was supposed to meet a friend at a local cafe before she went missing. Family members and religious clergy brought the case to the attention of local officials. According to family members, a bishop belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Church was able to make contact with SDF General Commander Mazloum Abdi who reportedly confirmed Chamoun is in SDF custody in Derik. No one has heard from her since 2:00pm on Sunday and her whereabouts remain unknown. Family members have expressed concerns for her safety and well-being.

Rasha Chamoun was previously employed by the AANES in a secretarial role. According to her family, she quit her job and left Derik three years ago because she felt threatened by local authorities. She had been living in Damascus where she was actively seeking to emigrate to Sweden, where many of her relatives now reside. She had been visiting Derik when she was detained. The reasons for her arrest remain unclear. Speaking to the API by phone, her brother Bahig Chamoun stated: "We, Rasha's family, appeal to everyone to help us spread the word about her kidnapping to reach as many people as possible in order to pressure the Kurdish self-administration for her release." The API calls upon authorities within the AANES to:

  • Immediately disclose Rasha Chamoun's location;

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Rasha Chamoun from SDF custody, unless she is to be charged promptly with a recognizable criminal offense, in line with international law and standards;

  • Ensure that pending her release, she is not subject to torture and other ill-treatment and is allowed access to a lawyer, to family visit, and to adequate medical attention as needed;

  • End all forms of intimidation and harassment, in particular by the YPG, against Assyrians and other marginalized populations in northeastern Syria.


  • Write to the Syrian Democratic Council's U.S. Mission urging them to immediately release Rasha Chamoun

  • Tweet AANES and SDF officials urging them to immediately release Rasha Chamoun

Update: Rasha Chamoun was released from SDF custody on Monday, July 11, 2022 around 2:00am local time, per family members. More information to follow.


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