BEIRUT: Syrian authorities have released a total of 64 women detainees, an activist group said Thursday, the latest in a three-way prisoner exchange that was one of the more ambitious negotiated deals in the country’s civil war in which rival factions remain largely opposed to any bartered peace.
The opposition-aligned Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday the government of President Bashar Assad had freed the women over the past two days. There was no immediate comment from Syrian officials, nor details on who the women are or their current location. However, activists told The Daily Star a number of the women had arrived in Turkey’s Adana after departing Damascus late Wednesday. They said there were fears for the women’s safety if they remained in Syria.
Activists with the Violations Documentation Center, a human rights group, said some 128 women are believed to be listed as part of the agreement. They, along with the Observatory were unable to confirm media reports that the bodies of another 12 women killed under torture in Assad’s prisons, had been returned to their families as part of the deal.
More prisoners are expected to be released in coming days.
“Since Tuesday the Syrian authorities have released 64 of the 128 prisoners due to be freed as part of the agreement,” another opposition activist Sima Nassar told AFP.
“We have received assurances that the others will be released by the end of the week,” she added.
The latest batch was freed Wednesday from the notorious Adra prison, northwest of the Syrian capital, and most of them hail from Damascus province, Nassar said.
“Syrian authorities have ordered some prisoners to leave Syrian territory while others were given a choice to stay or leave,” she added.
The Observatory said the release was part of a complicated hostage swap last week brokered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority that saw Syrian rebels free nine Lebanese Shiites, while Lebanese gunmen simultaneously released two Turkish pilots.
Lebanese officials have said a third part of the deal called for the Syrian government to free a number of women detainees to meet the rebels’ demands.
The involvement of Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Qatar and the Palestinian Authority in the deal showed the extent to which the Syrian crisis, now in its third year, has washed across the wider region.