Note: This is the first post of several on Tik’s disappearance. You can find complete coverage including links to other media organizations on our special coverage page.
As reported today in the Huffington Post and the Burlington Free Press, Middlebury junior Tik Root is missing in Damascus, Syria. He was last in contact with friends on the morning of Friday, March 18th.
After being evacuated from Middlebury’s School in the Middle East in Alexandria, Egypt in February, Tik resolved to return to the Middle East to continue his studies. He enrolled in an independent study program at Damascus University just last week.
Political demonstrations are rare in Syria’s heavy-handed police state. On Friday, though, protests broke out in Syria in response to the arrests of 15 schoolchildren, who were peacefully protesting in the southern city of Dar’a.
The New York Times reported that the protest in Damascus, which Tik is believed to have attended, was met with opposition by a pro-government group. Protestors were “charged and beaten” and “about 30 were arrested.”
According to Tom Root, Tik’s father and a professor in the Middlebury Neuroscience department, it is likely that Tik attended the protest and was “picked up.” The U.S. Department of State and the Syrian Ministry of the Interior are still trying to ascertain whether Tik was detained by Syrian security forces.
Since protests began on Friday, violence in Syria, especially in Dara’a, has escalated. Security forces have fired live ammunition into crowds of demonstrators. According to local and international news sources, 37 demonstrators have been killed.
MiddBlog will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.
UPDATE 3/24 5:00 p.m. – Jeff Cason, Dean of International Programs, confirmed to MiddBlog that the College has begun drafting an official statement (with permission from Root’s family). The statement will be released later today. We will post or link to it when it is ready.
UPDATE 3/24 5:28 p.m. – President Liebowitz’s all-campus email (emphasis added):
To the College Community,
I write to inform you that one of our students, Tik Root ’12, is missing in Syria, where he has been studying at the University of Damascus. His last known communication with family or friends was on Friday, March 18.
According to Tik’s family, the U.S. State Department learned from the Syrian government that Tik is “almost certainly” being held by Syrian authorities. The College is doing everything it can to assist in the effort to locate Tik. At this point, no additional information is available but I will communicate further if events change.
I want to extend our support to Tik’s parents, Tom Root and Andi Lloyd, who are in our thoughts during this very difficult time. Everyone at the College is anxious to hear that Tik is safe, and we look forward to receiving word when his family hears more about his status.
It has been confirmed that Tik is being held by the Syrian government. Click on the tab at the top of this page for continuing updates..