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The Beginning Of My Ascendance - My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria
April 22nd, 2007
10:59 am

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My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria

(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria. Should the situation change or any breakthroughs be achieved, I will post it here*)

Nicole

Summary        

My sister, Jacqueline "Nicole" Vienneau, a Canadian tourist, disappeared in Syria on Saturday, March 31st, 2007 at the age of 32. She was in her fifth month of a six-month solo adventure through West Africa and the Middle East. She was last seen by the desk clerk at 8:30 in the morning as she left the Cairo Hotel in Hama, two hours north of Damascus.

Nicole

She definitely intended to return to the hotel as her backpack was left in her room along with the memory cards from her camera, full of photos. She also left her journals that include an entry made the night before she disappeared. Canadian police retrieved her Hotmail account email records indicating she attempted to login around 8:30 Friday night but was unable to (Syrian Internet connections are not reliable). Her last completed emails were sent Thursday night.

Nicole's guidebook was also left in her room. In the back of her Lonely Planet "Middle East" guidebook she wrote directions to a number of places in Syria that we believe she copied from the Cairo Hotel's copy of the Lonely Planet "Syria" guidebook. Nicole spoke with some guests about these locations earlier in the week and the hotel clerk indicated that on the morning she disappeared, she asked for directions to the "Beehive Houses", a local sightseeing destination, as well as Qasr Ibn Wardan (a nearby castle).

Nicole

No one at these locations recalls seeing Nicole (and they are not heavily visited) and the Qasr Ibn Wardan logbook has a record of only one visitor, Amin Ben Yahia, a person of interest to us (b. 1984, Algerian/Swiss nationality, father is Abbas, mother is Monica) in hopes that he remembers something unusual about that day.

Nicole preferred taking local transit, but none of the minibus drivers or locals remembers seeing her. As a foreigner, Nicole stood out in all of Syria, but particularly in Hama where the majority of women in Hama dress in robes and cover their hair. The streets from the hotel to the minibus pick-up are main streets with lots of people, even at 8:30 in the morning.

Nicole

In May 2007, I flew to Syria with Nicole's fiancé Gary to re-trace her steps and meet with police and local officials. Gary spent an additional two months criss-crossing Syria searching for clues. My mother joined Gary in Syria in July 2007 and met with the Grand Mufti as well as the Minister of the Interior. She also made a personal plea on Syrian television and we put ads in the newspapers and local flyers. Gary and my mother returned to Syria in April 2008 to raise awareness and follow up on leads with officials and the police.

My mother returned to Syria with Gary for a third visit in March 2009 and we continue to work with Syrian government and police officials on the investigation.

There is up to 2,250,000 Syrian pounds ($45,000) in reward money for information leading us to Nicole.

We are currently looking for other guests at the Cairo Hotel in case they spoke with Nicole. A list is at the bottom of this page.

Nicole

For pictures of Nicole and what she was wearing when she disappeared, as well as relevant personal information and summaries of the search so far, please visit:

http://www.findnicolevienneau.com/

From the "official" website, you can also submit anonymous tips, view the picture gallery and download posters and Nicole's notes. Arabic versions of most pages are also available.


You can always email me directly and anonymously at mattv99@hotmail.com

All comments and emails, public and private, are read immediately, but unfortunately I cannot respond to everyone. Feel free to respond in any language that you're comfortable with, though all of my responses will likely be in English.

Nicole

March 31st, 2012 (Afternoon):

Today marks five years since Nicole disappeared from the Cairo Hotel or in the vicinity in Hama. Despite five years of searching, we really have no new clues as to what has happened to her, though we strongly suspect one of the hotel staff was involved.

Syria today is very different from Syria of five years ago. There are certainly no tourists in Hama anymore, and there probably won't be any going there in the immediate future either.

Hollywood tells us that stories always have an ending, but unfortunately that's just not true. In those first few weeks we were so confident we'd figure out what happened. And then as each lead dried up the worry in the back of our minds increased, "what if we never find her?". That has turned out to be the case and we may end up being one of those families still searching 20 or 30 years later. You can never really give up.

An old friend of Nicole's has been putting huge amounts of effort into finding her. He's been posting on Twitter and updating a blog with details. You can read some updates here, here, and here.

Other people continue to offer suggestions and take action. It is very difficult to keep up hope after so much time has passed. All we need is one person who knows or suspects what happens to come to us, but they'll probably be in Syria and unlikely to have access to us anymore. Hopefully one day.

March 6th, 2012 (Afternoon):

Canada has withdrawn all diplomats and government staff from Syria. All Canadians have been urged to leave Syria. As per the official Government of Canada Travel Report:

"Civil unrest and demonstrations have been occurring in many Syrian cities since March 2011. There has been extensive use of force by the security forces and military in suppressing demonstrations across the country. Many casualties and fatalities have been reported and protests and violent repression are likely to continue. Security operations have involved the complete lock-down of entire towns for periods varying from a few days to a few weeks. This may take place with little warning."

Needless to say, our hopes of getting any information about what happened to Nicole have diminished greatly in the short term.

February 11th, 2012 (Morning):

Syria continues to be in the news as world opinion is slowly being swayed by the stories of what is happening. Once again, no progress on our search as we approach nearly five years since Nicole went missing. To think that at first I thought this could be resolved in five days or at worse, five weeks!

January 7th, 2012 (Afternoon):

Another month of chaos in Syria. In early 2011, the violence in Syria wasn't making the international news very frequently, but that has certainly changed. It is not surprising that we have heard nothing from Syrian officials, Canadian embassy officials, or our own contacts within Syria. This makes it difficult to move forward in the search.

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Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: Gerard McMann - "Cry Little Sister"
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From:thassan
Date:January 19th, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC)

Comments on the "19-Jan" info

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Hi Matt,

I don't think that being Jewish is really a problem in Syria, coz' there is
a small minority of Jewish in Syria, I think that wearing revealing
cloths might be a problem in "Hama" thought, it's filled with
radicals and extremist Muslims...

the era of the late president is OVER man... since 2000, It's not likely that she is in prison..., I don't like the current regime though, but it's better than the former one...

I'm welling to do whatever u think it might help...please don't hesitate to
ask ...

bbye


From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 30th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
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if this hasn't already been done, maybe someone who speaks french or arabic well could contact this university in algeria: universite de M'sila. There seems to be someone there whose name is Abbas Benyahia.
http://www.univ-msila.dz/enseignants/detail.asp?id=382
Maybe he is Amines father?
[User Picture]
From:lenno_cornish
Date:February 21st, 2008 11:05 am (UTC)
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Oh. She has a good body - maybe she was taken and sold for prostitute purposes?
Then it's good idea to analyze human traffic from this country.
As for asking bus drivers and so on - this is East, the level of corruption is high.
She even can be as a slave girl right at the same town - in somebody's garem or basement.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 27th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC)

a little request

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i have offered u help before. then i had written my email on the page up there. now my email is on the google and i got a little tasteless problem. the mail acc is "o e r c e l i k @ h o t m a i l . c o m".

if you please delete both messages, i will be apreciated. thanx anyway. and dont think is my help offer is gone. if i would give u a little piece of help, that could make me so happy.

anyway. i hope u still could find a track of your sister. i pray for it. dont lose your hope my brother. you have a hand in izmir/turkey. dont forget...
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:March 1st, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC)

Re: a little request

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Is there any way you can point out which message you specifically left? Livejournal doesn't have an easy mechanism for searching, and with 16 pages of comments and countless threads, it would take me hours to find it.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 11th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)

Nicole Poster - IRC

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Hello all,

I have posted Nicole's poster on "International Rewards Centre" Website.

It can be seen here - http://internationalrewardscentre.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1096&Itemid=207


Lets get united in finding her.

Cheers
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:March 11th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)

Re: Nicole Poster - IRC

(Link)
That's fantastic - I really appreciate the effort on our behalf, writing up the information and loading in the pictures and so on.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 12th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)

Thank you

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Just read your last few updates marking the recent milestones and, as always, my heart goes out to you. What a difficult time.

I thank you for sharing your wonderful memories of when you were last with Nicole, and I cried. They are such special memories and I wish you could hold onto them with no pain. But hold onto them nonetheless.

Great to read about the latest efforts being made, and your spirits on the up and up.

Roberta
From:thassan
Date:April 26th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)

If u need any help in "translation" please don't hesitate to ask

(Link)
Hi Matt,

If u need any help in "translating from/to arabic"
please don't hesitate to ask, I'll gladly do it for free
I'm still checking-up every info and news about Nicole, and I'm really
still willing to help in everything I can...

so please don't hesitate to ask me to do any updates to website regarding translating to/from Arabic, I'll do it willingly for FREE

take care
bbye
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 1st, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)

What are the Hama tunnels?

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Hi Matt,

I didn't understand the last sentence here: "Does anyone have concrete information about tunnels in Hama? They may relate to the events in the 1980s, which makes it awkward for some to talk about. "

Without bogging you down too much, can you say what you mean? (what events in the 80's).

On another note, it is heartening to hear about your good news - you deserve this joy in your life.

a regular reader...
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:May 1st, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC)

Re: What are the Hama tunnels?

(Link)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2008 02:21 am (UTC)

Still here, still supporting.

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Hi Matt,

I've been reading this blog since you alerted the media that Nicole had gone missing, and I am still here supporting you and staying up to date with the blog. I think there many of us out there who just want to know what happened to your sister and hope that you will have some answers soon. You haven't lost the readers who really care.

Selma (from Toronto)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Still here, still supporting.

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That's right. You are listed on my favorites and I still check on you and Nicole weekly. You, Nicole, and your family are in my prayers.

Bill (from Indiana, USA)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 19th, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)

Matt...we still check and still pray for Nicole and your family

(Link)
I am an ex-coworker of your mother. I have been reading your blog all along and my family and I still pray for a positive outcome (or at the very least an ending) for you and your family.

Was so glad to hear that you are now engaged. Wishing all the best to you and your fiance.

Elaine
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 21st, 2008 09:52 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Still reading your Blog and hoping that soon you and your family will have closure. It is amazing what you have done. You have left no stone unturned and though I'm sure there were times when you were exhausted and wanted to give up, you didn't. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a family like yours.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 22nd, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I agree, you and Gary have done so much. You have kept on when others would have given up.
We're still praying for you and your family daily.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 24th, 2008 04:26 am (UTC)

Still thinking of you and your family

(Link)
I have also been following your blog from the beginning, am still checking in every week to see if there is good news yet. Again, Nicole is very blessed to have a family like she has. Good luck and prayers to you all.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 28th, 2008 05:55 am (UTC)
(Link)
I'm praying for Nicole and for your family. I've been reading the blog for a year and just hope for the best for you and your family.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 29th, 2008 02:00 am (UTC)
(Link)
I've never commented but I always read and check for updates often. You and your family are in my thoughts. I'll continue reading until you have some resolution.

~Chicago, IL, USA
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 5th, 2008 12:53 am (UTC)

Hi Matt

(Link)
Hi Matt,

I just wanted to say that I am one that has followed the blog from the start and I regularly check back. I have commented more than a few times in the past but didn't realize how much the comments help keep you going.

Hang in there. I admire so much what you have done and your commitment to your sister. I still hold out for good news. However, Matt, even if the news turns out to be the bad and your sister is in heaven, know that she would be watching you all and everything you have done for her, and would be at peace. If the news turns out to be good, then you can tell her all about this search and hold it over her head forever. I always like to have things to hold over my siblings heads. :D

Peace and love to you and your family

Amira
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 6th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)

keeping your family in my prayers

(Link)
Hi Matt,

I've been following the blog regularly since Nicole went missing. You and Gary should be proud of all the efforts you made towards finding Nicole. I pray that you will find her alive, or at least get some sort of closure. I'll keep reading until she is found.

Take Care,

Lisa,
Toronto, ON
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 8th, 2008 02:30 am (UTC)
(Link)
Matt,
I am sorry sad to hear about what the last couple of weeks must have been like for your family..and yes I can understand feeling relief if the news was finding your sisters body. People need closure. Positive closure is what we pray for but even negative closure is a blessing of sorts.

I agree that the skills that you have picked up here would be very beneficial to an employer. I will think about this for the next day or so and will post any thing that I come up with about how to phrase this correctly.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 10th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)

still here and still listening

(Link)
Hi Matt,

I've been thinking about how you could include these new skills on your resume. Why not just state them as fact? Stop worrying about how it might sound...dont go out of your way to say your sister but dont avoid it either. You should be proud of the way you picked up these new skills and I would doubt that Nicole or your Mom would mind.

Thinking and praying for you and your family often. Keep up you strength and courage!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 10th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)

you are such a strong man.. keep fighting for your sister.

(Link)
Hi there,

i just read this blog. I just want you to know that there is a reason for everything. God doesn't give us challenges that we can't handle. never give up on hope whatever the outcome of this search could be.
i will always pray for yoou and your family..

by the way, there are travel sites like www.gapyear.com and www.couchsurfing.com..also you can use myspace. to post infos about what happened to your sister.

God Bless,
Angela
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 10th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC)

Jess J here and still reading

(Link)
Hi Matt,

I had a completely random thought today about a possible spelling of the gentleman's name you're looking for.

Amin bin Yahya

It's worth a try to see if that brings up anything in some searches.

Jess
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 16th, 2008 03:03 am (UTC)
(Link)
Matt,

I am glad that there are still leads. As a mother, I think the worst part would be if nothing new came up. I pray for closure for you and your family.

As for the trust, I am sure that you can count on all of us out here to give a little more. I promise to donate again.

Take care and keep strong.

Elaine
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 19th, 2008 06:25 am (UTC)

trust fund

(Link)
I'm still reading and praying for your family and in that vein just made a contribution via paypal.
Sending Love and Light your way.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 22nd, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)

Re: trust fund

(Link)
We have also made another donation, it makes us feel like we're helping you and your family in this difficult time. We'll keep hoping and praying for some sort of closure.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 26th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)

trust fund

(Link)
Hey all you BC residents, if you can't think of a way to reduce your carbon footprint with the $100 bucks the government sent us, you could always donate it to The Find Nichole Fund, I'm gonna!!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 26th, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)

Re: trust fund

(Link)
Bless you!! What a wonderful and worthy idea!!
Re: trust fund - (Anonymous) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:July 17th, 2008 02:03 am (UTC)

Re: Dreaming about lost loved ones

(Link)
Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts (and research) - it helps a lot.

(my apologies for not responding sooner, for once, I experienced a bit of the "not quite sure what to say" syndrome)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 2nd, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)

dreams

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Hi Matt,
My dad passed away a couple of years ago and one of my dogs died later that same year. I often have nights where one of them is in a dream. The ones with my dad are weird because, in my dream I know he has died, but in the dream he is alive. In the dream I wonder if people are wondering where he has been since he had supposedly died. In the dreams with my dog I am also aware he has passed away and ask others if they can see him when he is there. I think it is the way our loved ones comfort us after they have passed.
Best wishes!
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