The Free Syrian Army has announced conditions for the release of abducted Iranians in Damascus.
The Deputy Commander of the rebel Syrian army, Colonel Malik al-Kurdi, told Voice Of America’s Persian News Network that the kidnapped Iranians will be released if the Iranian government respects human rights in its own country and also tries to help end the bloodshed in Syria.
VOA quoted al-Kurdi saying: “This is a simple demand which comes from the Syrian people, who are suppressed and are being martyred every week.”
On August 4, a group of 48 Iranians travelling aboard a bus in Damascus was kidnapped by the Syrian rebel forces.
While Iran insists that the group was on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Shiite Saint Zeinab, the kidnappers claim they were militiamen and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi later admitted that a number of retired IRGC members might be among the group.
The holy Shrine of Zeinab is visited by thousands of Iranian pilgrims every year.
Iran has been one of the few countries to support the Beshar Assad regime during the past 17 months of unrest in Syria, and on August 7, Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran’s Supreme Council for National Security, described Syria as part of the “Axis of Resistance” against foreign enemies.
Iran has appealed to Turkey and Qatar to assist in the release of the Iranian hostages.
Turkey and Iraq have aligned themselves with the rebel forces in Syria.