Middlebury Student taken captive in Syria; detained indefinitely

Despite the continuing coverage all over the CNN and HLN and whatever other newsy-outlet they blast over at Freeman, it is often the case that it is quite difficult to grasp the gravity of the chaos that’s ripping a new hole in the Middle East and North Africa right now. That is, until some shit closer to home hits the revolutionary fan.

On Thursday, the Burlington Free Press reported that a Middlebury student, Pathik “Tik” Root ’12, went missing in Damascus, Syria, where he was studying abroad.

Yesterday, the Burlington Free Press followed up by confirming that he has indeed been taken in and is being held by Syrian authorities. It is believed that he was rounded up when he was witnessing a demonstration that was taking place on March 18th at a “major mosque in the old city.” He has not been heard from since that date.

Details remain considerably sketchy at this time. More info after the jump.

Update [3/27]: On March 26th, confirmation has been given that Tik Root has been located and is believed to be safe and well. More info on the Middlebury page. Thanks to Leslie in the comments section for the tip!

Root, an International Studies major, was abroad in Alexandria, Egypt last semester and was in the middle of things when the nonviolent revolution broke out. The revolution, of course, disrupted his Arabic program and he was forced to evacuate the country. (An account of his Egypt experience can be found here.) He then found a Spring program in Damascus, which was at the time more stable that Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries that had Arabic programs.

Alex Meadow ’12, who was in the Alexandria program with Root back in Fall ’10, explained the situation to me earlier in an email:

Tik has not been heard from since Friday.  The Syrian government has stated that he is in custody.  He was arrested with a group of demonstrators.  The others have been released.  He has not.  No American has been allowed to speak with him. I am trying to get in contact with members of Congress and you should encourage others in your post to use any connections possible to try and get the word out (Congress, Media, etc.).

As I mentioned earlier, details are very, very sketchy. An overview of the Burlington Free Press reports as well as the updates on the Middlebury College website (accessible here) reveals a clear restraint in making any solid or clear remarks on Root’s exact situation and whereabouts.
Also, US officials appear to be working on Root’s situation, but what exactly is being done also remains somewhat blurry. As the Burlington article wrote,

Tik Root.

The Syrian Embassy in Washington issued a statement Friday night to CNN about Tik Root’s “situation,” according to a post on the network’s website.

“The Syrian Embassy in Washington was recently made aware of Mr. Pathik (Tik) Root’s situation and has been following it very closely ever since,” read the statement, which was posted at 7:25 p.m. on the In the Arena blog. “We have been in touch with Mr. Root’s parents, his state Senator, and the US embassy in Syria. This is an unfortunate situation that we hope will be resolved as soon as possible.”

If you’re interested in getting involved with this case, I suggest you contact Alex Meadow at ameadow(at)wesleyan(dot)edu.

Let’s hope for the best, folks.

Post-Note: I just want to reiterate Meadow’s point here – if you can, get the word out on this as much as possible. For some reason, as of this writing there has been little coverage of Root’s disappearance among the conventional news outlets. Greater awareness may lead to a better outcome.

Update: For more up-to-date information, head on over to Middblog’s “Tik Root ’12 Missing in Syria” webpage where they’re keeping a tight watch on the situation.

7 thoughts on “Middlebury Student taken captive in Syria; detained indefinitely

  1. Pingback: Update: Middlebury Student located in Syria, presumed to be safe – Wesleying

  2. Rory Stamp '12

    Wow this is pretty shocking. I went to a high school of 100 students with Tik and know him well. http://www.boston.com/news/local/vermont/articles/2011/03/27/missing_student_from_vermont_found_in_syria/ apparently, the U.S. embassy has confirmed that he is safe and alive in Syrian custody and will be transferred to the custody of the U.S. embassy, though the details are a little fuzzy. If any of you are interested in hearing about Tik’s situation, there is a facebook group that is updated regularly by his sister: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_151563211575129

  3. Lawl

    this could have happened to any of us. This is out of character for me but can we please just have a moment to send good thoughts to damascus. please?

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