The family of an American who was detained in Syria more than three years ago are hopeful that momentum on his case will continue following rare direct talks between the Trump administration and the Assad regime.
Maryam and Ibrahim Kamalmaz, two of Majd Kamalmaz’s children, told CNN Tuesday that they are working to keep up the pressure to secure progress ahead of the US presidential election in just two weeks.
“With this recent news we have a lot of hope, we have a lot of optimism, we have a lot of faith. We’re hoping to appeal to the human side of the President to make sure that he pulls the trigger when the option is put in front of him,” Ibrahim Kamalmaz said.
Majd Kamalmaz, a psychotherapist, was in Syria to visit family in February 2017 when he was detained at a checkpoint in Damascus. His family hasn’t heard from him since. They hope that the Trump administration will be able to get the Assad government to acknowledge that they have Majd Kamalmaz in their custody.
CNN reported this week that Kash Patel, the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, and Roger Carstens, the US special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, met with officials in Damascus earlier this fall in an effort to secure the release of American prisoners believed to be held by the Syrian government, including Majd Kamalmaz and journalist Austin Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012. The US does not have diplomatic relations with the government in Syria led by Bashar Assad.
Concerns about Majd Kamalmaz’s health and the potential complications that a change in US administration could present are among the factors driving the family’s push to obtain progress in the coming weeks.
“This initiative is being led by the White House and by a President that prioritizes bringing Americans home. We are concerned a presidential transition would complicate efforts to negotiate for dad’s freedom,” Ibrahim Kamalmaz said.
Maryam and Ibrahim Kamalmaz told CNN they are worried that their father is medically vulnerable, particularly amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 62-year-old has diabetes and heart stents, Maryam Kamalmaz said. Nonetheless, they say they are confident that his character and commitment to helping others has not changed.
“We’re pretty confident, even in the worst of situations he’s trying to help as many people as he can. And we’re staying hopeful, although he is an older man and has health issues, we’re trying to stay as hopeful as possible that he’ll be back home. And we are very concerned about him, and worried about his health,” she said.
“Even in the worst type of situations, he still cares for others and tries to help as much as he can, so his character is remarkable,” Maryam Kamalmaz added.
Ibrahim Kamalmaz called him “the master of Zen.”
“He was very focused on maintaining his emotional and mental stability. So we have a lot of faith that he will come out and he will prosper when he comes home,” he said.