BEIRUT

Middle East

Relatives of hostages block road near Turkish center

Relatives of Lebanese hostages kidnapped in Syria block the road in front of the Turkish Cultural Center in Downtown Beirut, Monday, April 22, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: The relatives of nine Lebanese hostages held by Syrian rebels in Syria briefly closed the road in front of the Turkish Cultural Center and Turkish Airlines Monday, accusing the Turkish government of intentionally preventing the release of their loved ones.

“We have one demand – we just want our families,” said Isra Zughaib, 19, whose father Ali is among the nine captives.

“It’s a humanitarian demand and everyone should be supporting us. We are sorry to all these people for closing the road but they have to help us too,” she continued. “We have lives, we are citizens and we have rights in this country. If the country doesn’t look at us, we also have the right to scream at the top of our lungs.”

Zughaib said she was heartened by a recent report that the hostages were still in good health but reiterated her demand to see her father returned home.

“My father has had three open heart surgeries ... if I don’t see him with my own eyes I don’t believe it,” she said. “Even if physically he is well of course psychologically he is not.”

Eleven Shiite pilgrims were abducted in rural Aleppo Syria while returning from Iran 11 months ago. Two hostages were later released in August and September.

The relatives of the hostages have held almost daily protests, in a bid to pressure authorities to act over their demands.

Mona Termos said one of her daughters was forced to leave university to find a job to support the family after her husband Ali was kidnapped in Syria.

Termos denied the Syrian rebels' accusations that the Lebanese were Hezbollah fighters.

“If we had a political party [backing us], you wouldn’t see so few people here, there would be many more,” she said, gesturing to the dozen or so protesters.

“We will not stop until we see our families at the Beirut airport, not with the Turks, because those Ottomans might send them back again,” she said. Last summer, what was to be a highly-publicized handover fell through at the last minute.

She went on to accuse Ankara of recapturing one of the Lebanese who escaped and turning him back over to the kidnappers.

“Why are they [the Lebanese] afraid of Turkey? What is Turkey using to pressure them?” she said.

“Abu Ibrahim was nothing more than a prison guard, working for who? For [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. He is the one giving orders.”

Termos vowed to continue their disruptive protests, threatening to target the airport if their demand is not met.

 

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