With the safe return of Tik, this page is now an archived place that helps tell the story of Middlebury College student Tik Root ’12 who was captured by Syrian authorities while studying abroad in Damascus. Tik is now back home in Vermont. Thanks for all your support over the course of these weeks. This page will no longer be updated.
On March 18th, during a semester studying in Syria, Middlebury student Pahtik (“Tik”) Root ’12 went missing near the site of a protest in Damascus. Syrian officials confirmed that they held Root in custody. Then on April 1st, Root was released. If you have more to add to our ongoing coverage (links, stories, news or more), please consider emailing tips at midd-blog dot com or leave a comment.
Tik Returns Safely to the U.S. (after 4/1/11):
- Root writes on the Facebook group:
I will likely be telling my story in pieces over the next few weeks, when I can be assured that doing so will not harm any prisoners still be held, or any friends that I have in Syria.
In an interview at the airport last night, Pathik Root explained how he was wandering around the Old City after Friday prayers ended on March 18 as hundreds of people began flooding out of mosques. He had just bought some chicken shwarma when he caught sight of some flags and heard chanting. Then he made the fateful mistake of taking out his BlackBerry to take some pictures. Seconds afterward, several plainclothes members of the secret police grabbed him, he said. One tried to drag him by his hair. He explained that he was an American, and the men threw him in the back of a Chevy Suburban. When he showed his passport, it made things worse. The worldly young man, who studied politics and economics and has long been fascinated by the Middle East, had previously visited Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt, all of which had stamped his passport.
BREAKING 4/1/11 9:39 a.m.:
This will be brief, but at very very long last, we have good news to share: TIK HAS BEEN RELEASED FROM CUSTODY AND IS CURRENTLY IN A CAR WITH U.S. CONSULATE OFFICIALS EN ROUTE TO THE U.S. EMBASSY!!!!!!!!!
We will update you when we know more details, but we have spoken with him briefly, and he sounds well.
MiddBlog coverage original coverage:
- Pahtik Root ’12 Missing in Syria – Our first post. Describes Tik’s involvement with the Middle East–he was one of the students evacuated from Egypt in February–and gives context on the protests in Syria. Includes updates as the College’s official response was made public.
- Root’s Online Presence Has Also Disappeared – Our second post, investigating erased and blocked content from Root’s blog. Tik’s classmate and fellow blogger from Eygpt writes in to help explain why Root’s blog was shuttered.
- A Letter from Tik Root – On Tuesday, April 5th, Root sent out a letter thanking those who helped him and talking a bit more about the location of the prison where he was held.
- Tik Root Clarifies and Expands on Syria imprisonment – Our last full post on the subject, from an extensive interview Tik did with MiddBlog and the Campus.
Other media coverage during Tik’s captivity:
- Early reports from the Huffington Post,Associated Press, Burlington Free Press (longer article)
- Interview with Tik Root’s father, Middlebury Professor of Biology Tom Root, on Now Lebanon.
- 3/25: CNN Online Interview with Tik Root’s parents (+ video interview)
“Tom Root: We have no information whatsoever–nothing. … [T]he only statement that the Syrians have made is that they are holding him. We don’t know where and in what condition he’s in.”
- 3/25: The Addison Independent. Good, comprehensive article.
“Right now, the U.S. State Department, all three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation, the U.S. embassy in Damascus and the college administration are all working to put pressure on the government in order to get Tik Root out of the country.”
- 3/25: The New Yorker (scroll down).
- 3/25: The Middlebury Campus.
- 3/26: The Reddit community links.
- 3/26: Wesleying Blog at Wesleyan University writes a post on Tik quoting Alex Meadow who was with Tik in Egypt.
- 3/26: The New York Times Lede Blog (scroll down to 7:26 p.m. ).
- 3/26: Bowdoin Orient Express
- 3/26: Middlebury College student Charlie Ellison wrote to New York Times columnist Nick Kristof on his Facebook page. (then Kristof’s tweet)
- 3/27: The New York Times (online & New York print editions)
- 3/27: Philadelphia Inquirer: U.S. student held amid Syrian unrest
- 3/27: The Boston Globe: Missing student found in Syria
- 3/27: Wesleying update
- 3/28: LATimes Blog
- 3/28: Huffington Post
- 3/28: Burlington Free Press
- 3/29: MSNBC
- 3/29: Tikkun Daily
- 3/30: Burlington Free Press
- 3/31: Addison Independent
- 3/31: Vermont Senator Leahy calls for Root’s release (via Middlebury)
This is not a time to be confusing a young American college student with the popular forces that are calling for political change in Syria.
Tik is an innocent 21-year-old who poses no threat whatsoever to the Syrian Government, but his continued detention will only further complicate our already difficult relations with Syria.
Other important links:
- Tik Root Facebook group
“The first day of week 2 of Tik’s detention is drawing to a close. Know that although we are not at the end of the road yet, there is much reason for optimism now. When yesterday began, we did not know whether Tik was alive or dead. Although Tik is still being held by Syrian authorities, today has brought one important difference: we have confirmation that he is alive, and safe. And that makes all of the difference. Is it not wonderful to be able to simply say that sentence, even knowing how much more remains to be done? Tik is alive and safe.” – Andi Lloyd, Tik’s mother, 3/27: now with 1400+ members.
- Report on Internet freedom in Syria (Open Net Initiative)
Official College statements and Middlebury College’s official site:
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.
We received some great news this morning from the Syrian Embassy and officials from Damascus, conveyed to me by Senator Leahy and others. Tik has been located, and we understand that he is safe and well. He remains in the hands of the Syrian authorities, who are current responsible for him. We very much appreciate the efforts of Ambassador Imad Moustapha and Senator Leahy in continuing to work to bring this complex situation to a resolution. Just as soon as we have more concrete information to share, I will certainly let you know. But in the meantime please know how much we value everyone’s good wishes and hopes.
Tom Root (Tik’s Father)