BEIRUT // The fate of dozens of Syrian women prisoners who were to be freed in exchange for nine released Lebanese hostages was unknown on Sunday.
On Saturday, the nine Lebanese Shiite pilgrims kidnapped 17 months ago by rebels in northern Syria were set free, as were two Turkish pilots taken hostage in Lebanon in August, as part of an exchange mediated by Beirut and Doha.
Lebanese authorities repeatedly thanked Damascus on Saturday for accepting the rebels’ demand to set free 100 to 200 women detainees held in regime jails.
A day earlier, the Lebanese interior minister, Marwan Charbel, had said a senior security official who secured the deal would hand over a list of some 200 names of women detainees to Damascus, and that the Syrian authorities were “co-operating very well” on the issue.
But since then there has been no word on whether the Syrian women have been set free, and Syrian authorities have made no statements.
Several Lebanese officials have given the same answer, claiming the women “are supposed to have been set free”.
Sources close to the negotiations said the women were supposed to have been put on planes from Damascus to Turkey on Sunday.
But Syrian activists, including several in Turkey, said they had no news of the women’s arrival.
“There is no confirmed information” on whether the women have been released, said Syrian human-rights activist Sema Nassar.
“I think it’s just going to be rumours until we have something solid. What’s noteworthy is any media that supports the Syrian government doesn’t even mention the women detainees,” said another activist, Rami Jarrah.
London-based Saudi-owned newspaper Al Hayat reported that “122 women detainees have been set free ... as part of the three-way exchange”, but did not provide details.
Lebanese independent television channel LBC also said the women detainees had been set free.
Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al Awsat said “the Syrian authorities have set free 158 women detainees, and gave them the choice to travel wherever they wanted”.
The paper also said the Syrian rebel Northern Storm brigade, which had held the Lebanese hostages for 17 months, “received 100 million euros” as part of the deal.
Tens of thousands of people are being detained by the Syrian regime, many of them without trial, activists say.
* Agence France-Presse