ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Photo provided by IHH
A massive prisoner exchange is underway between Syrian officials and Syrian rebels in several cities across the crisis-hit nation, including Damascus, Latakia, Homs, Idlib and Aleppo.
Some 2,130 Syrian civilians will be released by Damascus in exchange for the return of 48 Iranians currently held by Syrian rebels. Among the 2,130 civilians held captive by the Syrian regime there are at least four Turkish citizens, head of the Turkish non-governmental organization (NGO) Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) Bülent Yıldırım told the Hürriyet Daily News. Yıldırım is overseeing the exchange in Damascus.
The release of captives is being conducted in a building of the Syrian Interior Ministry with a senior Syrian general directing the process, Yıldırım said. While it is known that there are at least four Turkish citizens among the captives the number could increase, according to Yıldırım.
The swap is being directed with mediation from Turkey, Qatar and Iran, Yıldırım said.
Freed civilians are being given travel expenses to assist them in leaving the cities where they were being detained.
Prisoners will be freed in Latakia, Homs, Idlib and Aleppo. Eight Turkish citizens led by Yıldırım are managing the process in Damascus at the moment. It is expected that the exchange process will continue until evening, the press consultant for İHH, Serkan Nergis, told the Daily News.
The exchange will take a few hours today as the group is very large and registration procedures take a long time to complete, Yıldırım said.
“We have not yet been able to receive any clear information on the Palestinian journalist
Bashar al-Qaddumi. We are trying to determine the whereabouts of Qaddumi. As the İHH, we call on all Syrians and the entire world to get in touch with us if they have any information on Qaddumi,” Yıldırım was quoted as saying by Turkey’s Anatolia news agency.
In 2012, the İHH helped facilitate the release of many Turkish nationals, including journalists Adem Özköse and Hamit Coşkun, who were being held captive in Syria along with 28 Iranian nationals and seven Syrians who were kept in prisons.
48 Iranians held by Syrian rebels 'released': Iran TV
TEHRAN- Agence France-Presse
Forty-eight Iranians held hostage by Syrian rebels since August and threatened with execution were released on Wednesday, Iranian state television reported.
The Iranians, among them several Revolutionary Guards members Tehran claimed were "retired", were freed in deal exchanging them for 2,130 prisoners held by the Syrian regime, a Turkish charity told AFP.
Iran insisted the 48 Iranians were all pilgrims visiting a Shiite shrine in southeast Damascus. It denied any of them were on active service in Syria.