So far, the only concession from the Syrian government about the detainment of our former Wolfson Press Fellow, Dorothy Parvaz, has been confirmation that they are holding her. (She’s now been in detention for eight days and has had no contact with the outside world). We knew from Facebook and other sources that her friends have been pressing the US Embassy in Damascus on her behalf. (Dorothy has American — as well as Canadian and Iranian — citizenship.) This excerpt from yesterday’s Press Briefing by Mark Toner of the US State Department is the first public indication that the US is on her case.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Posner yesterday talked about the Ambassador working with the human rights groups and the families. Has he been able to help locate missing people, for example? Is that part of his duty, and has he done? And more particularly, there’s a missing woman from Al Jazeera TV who has Iranian, Canadian, and U.S. citizenship. Can you say anything about her?
MR. TONER: Lach, the – your second question first. We are certainly aware of the case of this detained American journalist for Al Jazeera. And as you said, I believe she has – has dual or even triple citizenship. But we are aware of her case and obviously concerned about it. And we’ve asked for, obviously, given that she’s an American citizen, for consular access.
We have pressed our concerns to the Syrian Government about missing individuals, as we often do. The other day we had the UN say that it was going to investigate human rights abuses by the Syrian Government. We are concerned about the situation there and we’re taking steps.
QUESTION: Does the Ambassador have a long list of missing people that he presents to his counterparts?
MR. TONER: I’m not sure, in fact, if he’s presenting a list or just inquiring in general about these cases. But obviously, it’s foremost on our agenda.
MORE: Chris Barton, a New Zealand journalist who was in the same group as Dorothy at Wolfson last year, has written a nice piece about her in the New Zealand Herald.