#SaveFawaz: Kidnapping and torture of Syrian boy sparks outrage as ransom deadline looms
The family of a young child kidnapped in November in the southern Syrian province of Daraa, announced over the weekend they were still gathering money to meet the ransom deadline set by the kidnappers.
Eight-year-old Fawaz Al-Qetifan was taken on his way back from school three months ago by unknown individuals.
The kidnappers demanded the family pay 500 million Syrian liras (approximately $138,000) by Wednesday 9 February to secure Fawaz's release.
They released a disturbing video appearing to show the boy being tortured after his family said that they could afford to pay only part of the ransom but not the full amount.
The video quickly spread across social media, sparking outrage and seeing an online campaign using the hashtag #SaveFawaz launched to save the boy.
Kidnappers reportedly threatened to cut off a finger for every day they are not paid the ransom after Wednesday.
In a video released on Facebook, Syrian actor Abd Al-Hakeem Al-Qetifan - a relative of the boy - said that the family would collect the full ransom amount "in hours".
He added that the money was being gathered by the family with no outside help. He also thanked everyone for their solidarity with Fawaz and his family.
According to local media outlet Enab Baladi, the family has only managed to secure about 190 million lira (approximately $53,000), despite selling their land and valuables to raise funds.
The New Arab reached out to the boy's family for comment but received no response.
Kidnappings in the southern provinces of Daraa and Suwaida happen with relative frequency, with general lawlessness allowing armed gangs to blackmail families with impunity. In March 2020, an eight-year old girl, Salam Al-Khalaf, was also kidnapped on her way back from school in Daraa.
One of the key complaints of the residents of Daraa Al-Balad - when they confronted regime forces in the summer of 2021 - was that armed gangs were able to operate without consequence in the southern province.
Despite promises to restore order following the regime's crushing of the summer revolt rights groups say that kidnappings and lawlessness remain a constant problem in Daraa. Assassination attempts on both former-opposition figures and regime forces continue to be carried out periodically, with two regime soldiers killed by unknown individuals in late January.
Dara's police chief said that he had been in touch with Fawaz's relative on a daily basis, and that he is "optimistic" that positive results will be reached in the case.
Editor's note: Doubts have now been cast on the authenticity of the video purporting to show Fawaz Qteifan being tortured. The fact-checking site Verify-Sy says the video shows another Syrian child being beaten in Greece in 2016. Fawaz is still missing as of 10 February 2022 and his captors have threatened to harm him if they do not receive ransom money of 500 million Syrian liras (US$138,000).