On February 8, 2017, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma al-Assad (the one with the pony-tail) met with women and children who were held in captivity by Islamist militants for more than three years. It is common for Syrian citizens to embrace the president and his wife like cousins, even on first meeting; this is a closeness within Syria. These civilians were kidnapped by the jihadi groups in 2013, when the last ones attempted to capture several towns in the northern countryside of the Latakia governorate. The prisoner swap between the Syrian authorities and Islamists was concluded yesterday, with each side pledging to release 54 women detainees. Thus, the insurgents will set freee 54 women who were kidnapped from northern Latakia countryside in 2013, in exchange for the same number of women imprisoned by Syrian authorities. On August 2013, a coalition of Islamist 'rebels' wich at the time included the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) launched a powerful assault to conquer the city of Al-Haffah in Northern Latakia. Although the assault was successfully repelled by government forces, the jihadists brutally massacred and kidnapped hundreds of civilians from Alawite-inhabited villages before leaving the area. This article features a short and a long video. The short video has English subtexts. The author of this article has translated the long one and provided the text of President Assad's words to the women inside this article.
This is my rough translation to what president Bashar al-Assad said to the liberated women and kids in the longer version.
At 0:50: President Bashar Assad (BA): First, Thank God for your safety. We were waiting this moment for a long time. We were waiting for it since 3 years and 6 months. Since that time, we were waiting day after day to know where have you been kidnapped - especially you, but there are others who had been kidnapped, and others became martyrs (murdered by the terrorists who kidnapped them), may God bless them. But the people and the government were asking and searching for you day by day. Each state's institution; each soldier; each martyr passed away (while searching for your location), they all had one goal, to rescue you and have you back. Thank God, despite the suffering you had, you returned to us safe and sound. We knew that some of you had become martyrs as well (murdered by the terrorists), God bless them. You have suffered a lot. We heard and knew exactly how much you suffered. You lived with a distorted society that has no humanity at all. You've suffered a lot, and witnessed a lot. But your immovability and resistance within those 3.5 years made us all able to resist. You, the martyrs' families, the wounded's families, the other kidnapped ones in other areas - whom we were trying our best to free one over here and two over there weekly, up to ten kidnapped persons maximum sometimes - but we are so happy to free all of you together not as individuals, because the crimes that happened in your villages were the most horrible ones that affected people. Your villages and ʿAdrā's Labour City (25 km NE of Damascus) were the biggest kidnapping problems we've ever faced. So, we are so happy to be with you today, but despite the suffering you had, we want you to return to your normal lives with your families, your country kinsfolk, the people of your villages. We want you to be an example of resistance, challenge, and patriotism, and you are so (you are a real example) - we know how they (the terrorists) couldn't change you after 3.5 years. Many of you had been under pressure to attack the country, the homeland, the state which is everyone's mother, but you refused, even under torturing, we know all the details that some of you had been a subject for torturing...
(one lady says: "Yes, indeed, we had been tortured". It could be translated as "suffered" as well instead of "tortured")
At 2:50: BA: But the most important is for those young girls and boys to go back to school. Unfortunately, you didn't live in difficult conditions only in the last 3.5 years; but you lived with people who know nothing of humanity, nor education/knowledge, nor civilization. So we'll not only be going to make those kids return to civilization but to be in the forefront of their colleagues, in everything, including education/knowledge, morals/manners, and mental/psychological state.
At 3:20: BA: I didn't want to see you just to greet you, and not because all people are happy - and in the name of all Syrians, I don't believe that there is a Syrian citizen who is not happy today (for your releasing). We didn't want you to go back to Latakia before seeing, meeting and greeting you. We'll be with you. We won't leave you. What happened had happened and passed. We all believe in God, the country, and the people, and such beliefs are going to help you resisting, and are going to help us all to stand with each other in the crisis which you went through.
At 3:51: BA: Had anyone communicated with her family members after liberation? (they answered: All of us)
BA: All of you? (they said: Yes)
BA: And your relatives didn't know anything about you before your liberation?
Asma al-Assad (President Assad's wife): Didn't you talk to each other at all, wasn't there any communication between you within the last 3.5 years?
The ladies say that there were few communications with relatives. A lady answers that they used to communicate for a very short time, once every 2 months, 6 months, a year, or 1.5 years.
BA: They let you call them from over there?
Another lady answers him, saying that the terrorists sometimes wouldn't let them talk with their relatives for more than 2-3 sentences, including "Hello" at the beginning of the phone call....
At 5:10: Ladies told the president that this flag on the kid's head was hidden with them for 3.5 years, and that they were afraid the terrorists might find it, but they didn't. (Not so clear as many ladies talks together)