Two British citizens have been snatched from the streets of Damascus in dramatic fashion. But the question is – why were they taken?
It’s thought they were taken by the police, but there is no confirmation. It’s already causing a diplomatic storm – with the UK threatening to tone down warming relations with Syria unless the British Embassy is given access to them – assuming they are in a prison cell.
British woman Maryam Kallis went missing on 15 March. A UK man was taken on 17 March in apparently unconnected circumstances.
Kallis was caught by ten men in civilian clothes. She was taken to her flat, where the men demanded she hand over her passport. She had been staying with her sister.
But here’s where it gets interesting.
UK Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell has met not just Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Muallem but also the country’s religious affairs minister Mohamad Abdul Sattar Al Sayeed. Why?
Kallis’s husband has made an issue over her religion. Masood Kallis has accused the British of not making a big deal of her case because she is Muslim.
She was arrested as she walked the streets of Rukn Ad-Deen (right), in northern Damascus. Rukn Ad-Deen is one of the most religious areas of the city, and the destination of choice for many foreign Muslims moving to Damascus.
The area is home to the controversial Abu Noor religious school. A few years ago, Syria banned foreign students from enrolling at Abu Noor because of alleged connections with extremism.
So what is going on? Were these two people involved in something darker than we’ve been told?
Of course that’s not the issue just yet – at the moment, the priority is just for British officials to meet the prisoners.