US State Department acknowledges death of American therapist held in Syria

Family say US intelligence sources told them that he probably died a few months after he was last seen

Syrian hostage Majd Kamalmaz and former Emirati business partner, courtesy: Ibrahim Kamalmaz
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The US State Department on Tuesday formally acknowledged the death of an American psychotherapist who disappeared during a trip to Syria in 2017.

Majd Kamalmaz of Arlington, Virginia, had travelled to Damascus in February of that year to visit a sick relative.

According to the State Department, he was last seen at a checkpoint outside the Syrian capital.

His family spent years searching for answers and calling on the Syrian government, which they believed had detained Dr Kamalmaz, release him.

Last month, the family revealed that US intelligence sources had notified them that Dr Kamalmaz, who was 59 when he disappeared, probably died a few months after he was last seen.

On Tuesday, the State Department recognised his death and family members gathered outside the department’s headquarters in Washington to remember their loved one and to raise the hostage and wrongful detainee flag.

“The Syrian government must answer for what happened to Majd,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Families of Americans wrongfully detained abroad gather in Washington – in pictures

“We support Majd’s family and the families of all those who are missing or unjustly detained in Syria in their quest for accountability.”

Dr Kamalmaz was an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder and had worked in a number of countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Indonesia. In 2005, he travelled to Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina to help people there.

At the time of his disappearance, he was running a project in Lebanon in which he was researching mental trauma in young Syrian refugees who had fled the civil war.

In addition to his work in Lebanon, he also ran a mental health and counselling centre in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Kamalmaz was one of at least two Americans believed to be in Syrian regime detention. The other is journalist Austin Tice, who disappeared in 2012.

In August 2022, the US said it knew with “certainty” that the journalist, who had been covering the Syrian civil war, was being held by the Syrian government.

Tice's mother has said she is “confident” her son is still alive.

Updated: June 11, 2024, 6:35 PM