Syria – two Italian volunteers kidnapped

Posted: 08/07/2014 by editormary in Grassroots Activism, Human Rights, Middle East, Newswire, People's Movements / Struggles, Syria, War
Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo, two human rights activists and aid volunteers for Syria.

Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo, two human rights activists and aid volunteers for Syria.

Missing from Aleppo, no news of the two young women since 1 August

Hours of anxiety for the fate of two young Italian aid workers abducted in Syria in Aleppo, where they had been since 28 July to carry out humanitarian projects. The Foreign Ministry, which has activated the Crisis Unit, confirmed “the impossibility of contact of the two Italian citizens,” but the strictest secrecy on the matter is being maintained.

The abducted women are Vanessa Marzullo from Brembate (Bergamo) and Greta Ramelli from Gavirate (Varese), respectively 21 and 20 years of age, the founders of the Progetto Horryaty – solidarity initiative for Syria, which is primarily concerned with activities in the sectors of health and water.

According to the website of the Jordanian newspaper Assabeel, responsible for the abduction of the two Italian aid workers would be an armed group which in the past has kidnapped several activists and journalists. It cites as a source a local activist who reports to some newspapers, according to which, the girls were taken in the town of El Ismo, west of Aleppo, in the house of the “head of the Revolutionary Council” local, where they were housed. With them, the source continues, there was also an Italian journalist, Daniele Raineri of Il Foglio, who managed to escape and alerted other to what happened. “The two Italians – Assabeel states – were seen for the last time Friday, 1 August.”

The site does not give the name of the group behind the kidnapping, nor specify whether it is a criminal organisation or a politically motivated one. But he adds that in the past several of its members were killed in military actions.

On Greta’s the Facebook page, for whom this is the third trip to Syria and who already behind her has several experiences in humanitarian missions in Africa, the last update to was on 31 July: a picture of Aleppo devastated by bombing and a boy with a Kalashnikov and a camouflage jacket that looks at the rubble in front of him. On Vanessa’s, the last post was on 16 July. “Red, red like that crib, and in the crib the battered little body of the girl of Aleppo whose legs were pulverised by an explosion. Red like the bloodstains now encrusted on the walls and the floor, in the corner of the room where you have been tortured until you want to die, until you die in an unspeakably horrible way …., “wrote the volunteer who is studying “Linguistic and Cultural Mediation” at the University of Milan and who speaks Arabic.

Immediately from the disappearance of two young women, the Foreign Ministry had activated the crisis unit, intelligence and “all the information and research channels for the necessary verifications.” The families have been informed and are kept constantly informed of developments. “If you want to stay close to Vanessa and Greta, just tell the world what’s going on in Syria and why it is in this situation.” This is how a close relative of Greta Ramelli responded to reporters about the kidnapped woman when questioned by journalists at the family home in Gavirate.

Since the first of August it has been working to bring them home, as was done successfully in the past in similar events. “I hadn’t heard from Vanessa and Greta for a few days,” said Roberto Andervill third manager of Progetto Horryaty, who in March had gone with them to survey rural areas of Idlib. There, the aid workers wrote on Facebook, they “had tried to establish an initial relationship with the local population, in order to understand the true needs and visit the places involved in the project.” “During this mission – it says – we were always accompanied and escorted by local staff, with a high degree of safety.” This time, the two aid workers had entered Syria through Atma, one of the largest refugee camps near the border with Turkey.

With Vanessa and Greta it brings to the number of Italians kidnapped and currently missing in Syria to three: from July of last year there has been no news of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, 59, Roman Jesuit who had worked in the country for thirty years. Throughout the world there are three other Italians kidnapped: Giovanni Lo Porto, 38, missing volunteer in Pakistan for two years; Gianluca Salviato, 48, clerk, who was kidnapped in Libya in March; Marco Vallisa, technician kidnapped a month ago in Libya.

Original La Stampa http://www.lastampa.it/2014/08/06/esteri/siria-sparite-due-volontarie-italiane-THhNZTD0WFWMTLSxBjAZTN/pagina.html translated by Mary Rizzo. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED TO LA STAMPA.

 

Two Italian women abducted in Syria, for six days no information of their whereabouts is known, perhaps in the hands of common criminals

Two Italian volunteers, Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli, were abducted by armed men, probably common criminals in Syria, near Aleppo.

The two women, founders of Progetto Horryaty (charitable initiative for Syria), had entered 28 from Atma, a village on the border between Turkey and Syria. A few kilometres away is the namesake refugee camp, one of the largest in the country. Here over 28,000 people have found refuge.

The area of ​​Atma is a sea port managed jointly by several militant groups, such as those of the Jabhat al Nusra and the FSA, but also frequented by ISIS cells and criminal gangs. It is not clear what the two women came to do in Syria, if to enter with a cargo of medicines or food staples to be delivered or if only for an exploratory mission. The abduction is said to have taken place in Aleppo, in the Al Abzemo area, around four o’clock in the morning between 31 July and 1 August, according to reports from local sources.

An abduction that was carried out by dozens of armed men (at least thirty militants) that surrounded the house the Italians were staying at, taking hostage also two Syrians of the battalion Noureddin al-Zengi who were with them with the task of protecting them. The Syrians were then subsequently released a dozen miles from the house. The two women had with them about four thousand Euro in cash. The kidnappers also took away laptops and mobile phones of the women.

The information activities. The Foreign Ministry, confirmed the impossibility of contacting Greta and Vanessa, meanwhile, has launched information activities on site in order to reconstruct the sequence of events. The last message in chat by one of the women carries the date of 31 July at 3:31 pm. Then, nothing. Also according to some well-informed sources, the two were last seen together with members of Jaish al-Mujahideen, an acronym that contains a dozen Islamist groups (allies of the Free Syrian Army and anti-Isis).

“The women were in a house. With them were three men to protect them,” says a Syrian who knows them and who previously had accompanied the first two voyages. “I do not know with whom they entered from Atma and what they were doing in Aleppo. They told me that they had several thousand Euros with them.”

The hypotheses. At the moment no one knows where they are, and above all who is with Greta and Vanessa. The hypothesis of common criminals is the most likely one, even if nothing happens by chance in Syria. Organising an abduction with the use of four vehicles and thirty people is not a trivial matter and takes a planning stage, people and vehicles.

Whoever organised the kidnapping knew they would arrive in the country, when and where they would go and how many men would be in their escort. And in a country where people have been killing and seeing others kill for over three years, where people are left with nothing and where violence is the daily companion of everyone, abducting two Western young women is a business that can mean the exchange of millions of dollars.

The other trips. It was not the first time that the two volunteers have been in Syria. In March 2014, their first trip, according to what is said by other activists, then a second at a distance of a few weeks to set up small projects and send medicines and basic necessities. A journey, the second, seems to have been done with a casualness that leaves many speechless.

Syria is not the ‘country of evil’ as the journalist Domenico Quirico labelled it, himself abducted in Syria in 2013 and held hostage for five months, but it is not a country where two young women can go on their own, relying on chance. Father Paul dall’Oglio, who knows Syria like the back of his hand, is an unfortunate witness. For over a year, no one knows anything of his whereabouts.

ORIGINAL il Messaggero 
http://www.ilmessaggero.it/PRIMOPIANO/ESTERI/rapite_siria_due_ragazze_italiane_criminali_comuni/notizie/836524.shtml translated by Mary Rizzo

Thursday, August 7, 2014 – 08:13 Last updated: 14:08

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (to il Messaggero)

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