You are viewing vienneau

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

[Link]

Previous Entry Share
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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Click Here For Additional/Older Details...Collapse )

Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: Gerard McMann - "Cry Little Sister"
Tags:

(855 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
Page 5 of 20
<<[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] >>
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 7th, 2007 07:35 pm (UTC)

just some thoughts.

(Link)
i lived and travelled extensively in syria a few years ago. it's all a matter of finding a syrian local who has seen her - foreigners in that part of the country don't go unnoticed for long. i'm really surprised the authorities didn't have a tail on her. be advised that hama is a sensitive city politically, and doesn't have great relations with the central government, because the government flattened the whole city a decade or two back. that may impede your progress, as people might be reluctant to speak with authorities.

syrians are excellent people though - i'm american, younger than your sister, and had no problems travelling alone through the country - and hopefully this will all turn out alright. it's very possible she would have no need for money if she was with a syrian family and unable to get back to hama for some reason - she would be taken care of without question on the basis of traditional hospitality.

yours,
katherine

she sounds savvy and clever though... presumably this will protect her.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 12:42 am (UTC)

TO THE PEOPLE WITH NEGATIVE COMMENTS

(Link)
PLEASE THINK AND ACT LIKE A HUMAN BEING BEFORE MAKING A REALLY INSENSITIVE AND IGNORANT COMMENT. IF THIS WAS YOUR MOTHER, DAUGHTER, SISTER OR GIRLFRIEND, YOU WOULD NOT BE MAKING SMART ASS REMARKS.

SERIOUSLY, THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK.

AS FOR NICOLE'S FAMILY AND FRIENDS, I REALLY HOPE YOU FIND HER OR AT LEAST THE TRUTH TO THIS UNSETTLING SITUATION. I THINK, HEADING OUT THERE IS A GOOD IDEA; YOU'LL PROBABLY GET MORE ANSWERS TRACKING HER DOWN THERE THEN FROM THE OFFICIALS, WHO TEND TO DO EVERYTHING A LITTLE BIT SLOWER. BEST WISHES AND SAFE TRAVELS.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:May 8th, 2007 01:21 am (UTC)

Re: Reward

(Link)
Hi Doug,

Our thinking at this point is that a reward will cause more trouble than it is worth. You start getting the scam artists and people with false information who are just trying to milk a reward.

At some point we may consider a reward-type offer, but it would likely be in a very local context, not over the Internet. Legitimate groups who have the resources to seriously help (search firms and the like) would be up-front about it, leaving only the trickier contacts that at this point I don't have the resources to verify.

And obviously, were someone to suddenly show up having actually found her (or return her), we'd be appropriately delighted and shower them with accolades that they would, one would hope, refuse, thus allowing us to insist.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 01:56 am (UTC)

From Toronto again

(Link)
Hi Matt,

In past 4 days whenever I have chance I check the update to hear any good news about Nicole.
The sad part about the search that why till now you didn't contacted the Arabic Media??!!, as we spoke on phone regarding the syrian Show about the missing people in syria '' khabrni ya Tyer'', did you try to contact the TV broadcaster?!!

Dear Matt,
I spoke with my family in Syria and they didn't hear about any canadian girl missing at all, which I found it strange. Why the delay?..

wish you the best in your search, and hope to find her soon.
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:May 8th, 2007 02:47 am (UTC)

Re: From Toronto again

(Link)
It's purely a matter of limited time. Between doing interviews and scanning incoming emails and keeping everyone updated in the family and online, I often run out of time to deal with new contacts, especially if it involves calling the Middle East where the time zone difference limits when I can call. I still have contacts from back on May 1st that I set aside as "special, to be re-examined", only to never have time to return to them.

I have your contacts in my "To Do for May 7th" list, but 17 hours later, I still haven't managed to get it in. They're back on the "To Do for May 8th" list.
(Deleted comment)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 02:43 am (UTC)

Time is of the Essence

(Link)
Matt,

I hope you make it out to Syria ASAP! It will surely be more effective getting answers from the locals if a family member is looking for his sibling, let alone the urgency of this situation.

I'm sending ya good energy...find her!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 04:16 am (UTC)

a few more thoughts

(Link)
I saw the article in the Sun today. I was in Syria for 2 weeks in mid-April. I stayed in Hama but did not visit Qasr Ibn Wardan. I did go to some out of the way places in other parts of the country and without fail whenever I was walking a quiet road, a local stopped and gave me a ride as far as he was going. I'm not sure if the custom would be different for a lone female though. There also minibuses travelling on most roads and they stop to pick up passengers anywhere along the way. If the area is at all touristy (either local or foreign tourists) there will also be taxis working the route. All I can say is get a good translator and walk every road she may have walked and talk to anybody she may have encountered along the way. Like everybody else has said I'm sure you'll get the warmest welcome imaginable from the Syrians.

I wish you all the best in your search. I've also forwarded your link to locals I met while in Syria.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 04:59 am (UTC)

Hope you find her

(Link)
Hey Matt, just a fellow Canadian from Toronto... came across a link to the National Post's article through Google News and felt touched by the story.

Just hope you're able to find her, and I've tried to help in a small way by contacting my Syrian friends here in Canada, as well as just trying to spread the word.

Good Luck,

~Ted
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Just wanted to say that I follwed the CTV news link on the msn homepage to this site, hopefully manner others will follow, others with information for you.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)

my hopes and thoughts go out to u and the family

(Link)
my hopes and thoughts go out to u and the ur family. I wish you good luck finding your sister and really respect what you're doing. My mother tongue is arabic if you need help with translations, calling places in Syria e.t.c email be at halherta@hotmail.com.

Cheers
Hussam
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)

Media

(Link)
Have you tried contacting the BBC and getting them to post an article or something? They have a worldwide audience.

Here’s a link to get you started: http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/feedback/default.stm

I hope you find her soon. My prayers are with you.
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:May 8th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Media

(Link)
We've submitted the story to the BBC. We (and people helping us), have submitted the story to a lot of media outlets, but it's tough for them to tell that it's serious, and the quality outlets need to verify their facts, so it can take some time. And that assumes that they're interested in the first place.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)

Clipmarked and StumbleUpon-ed this blog

(Link)
Just a concerned Canadian who clicked through to here from my Google News page.

I added your story to clipmarks.com and StumbleUpon, it's not much *shrugs*, wish I could do more.

My own daughter just returned from a trip to Turkey so I definitely feel for you, your parents, family and friends.

Hope she surfaces soon to a good dressing down from her Mom and you. And then you can make her read all the internet stuff that was generated while she was off having a grand adventure. Give her a good finger-wagging from Farm_Mom_in_Manitoba.

Huggs.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)

Turkey

(Link)
I would keep in contact with Turkey officials to extend your search there. She could have crossed the border (not under her own volition). Just don't exclude that. I don't think they keep track of passport numbers (record them when passing the border), but it's something to look into maybe.

Good luck. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)

Melissa Hawach

(Link)
Matt, you may remember that Melissa Hawach, from Calgary, recently "re-kipnapped" her daughters, in Lebanon, and took them home to Canada. I recall that part of her secret escape route was thru Syria. She must therefore have had some good on-the-ground contacts in that country. Perhaps they can be of help to you. I don't know how to reach her, but I do have contact information.

Jim Engdahl is her father. This is his number. When I called the number, back in December, making inquiries about that story (I'm a TV writer), her brother, Doug answered the phone. Hope this leads to something useful.

326 Wakabayashi Cres.
Saskatoon SK S7K 7L9
306-934-6016

Also, Melissa Hawach's Australian media representative may have a lead for you as to some people who knew where Melissa was (in Syria) and could possibly lead to a contact. His information is as follows...

sean.anderson@22.net.au
Sean Anderson I Managing Director
22 Management I Representing the Best
Suite 8/340 Darling Street I Balmain I NSW I 2041
T +61 2 9810 1966 I M +61 414 619 970
www.22.net.au
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 9th, 2007 02:07 am (UTC)

various thoughts

(Link)
Hi Matt,

Good that you have the pic of Nicole with her pack, but I did think that the previous photo was a good close-up of her face, and really gave a good sense of what she looks like. Might not hurt to put it back up, in addition to the others...

I've been posting the search info on some forums, and someone just posted this in response:
Why don't you see if there are any groups in big cities, like New York, local libraries, for instance, that would be likely to have Syrian travelers. Like the Syrian Studies Association.

I agree that you need to take care of yourself, don't worry about answering every email or post, I'm sure people understand.

Roberta
From:eaglehillgroup
Date:May 9th, 2007 02:15 am (UTC)

Nicole

(Link)
I was good friends with Nicole in High School ... the last time I saw her was many years ago in Vancouver .... she has a beautiful spirt and I hope she is safe. My thoughts are with her and the family ... please let me know if there is anything I can do. When are you going to Syria ? Have you contacted all the local newspapers ? Philip
From:eaglehillgroup
Date:May 9th, 2007 02:19 am (UTC)

Nicole

(Link)
Follow up ... I meant the local newspapers in Syria.
From:helenwindsor
Date:May 9th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)

My Canadian husband is in Syria and was unaware

(Link)
News travels very slowly there! I told him about your sister via the CBC news item where I found your site. I am moving to Damascus at the end of June. My husband, Bruce, was unable to google your site. I suggested he try CBC.ca. I hope he can get this as he could download the posters. He works for PetroCanada and will distribute posters where he can! Hope it helps!
Best wishes! Helen
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 9th, 2007 03:14 am (UTC)

Where is the bus driver?

(Link)
Hi Matt,

Have you found the bus driver on the bus she went on? Did anyone actually see her get on the bus? And why didn't Cairo Hotel report it when she didn't return? Did they take her stuff from her room or leave it in there? Was her passport with her? What about money, bank card, jewelry etc? Is there a way to take out an ad in a local paper about it?

How about hanging up signs and getting an international phone number that people can call free of charge from Syria? Is that possible? How about making a form that you can put up that people can type tips into without having to use email (jotform.com or zohocreator)? Have there been any other people missing in the area?

Amira
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 9th, 2007 03:19 am (UTC)

Re: Where is the bus driver?

(Link)
And Matt, I hate to say this, but you might want to try to have people check out brothals in Syria and say the UAE. I have read reports that there is trafficking through Syria and UAE. Alot of Iraqi girls are ending up in UAE.

I am sorry to say that but I have to in the interests of exploring every possibility.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 9th, 2007 03:45 am (UTC)

Matt

(Link)
Can you make your email addy bigger on the top of the page and change the color from the other text? Also, put something about how much she loved the middle east and syrian people and especially was interested in Islam. How she refused to believe the stereotypes in the media etc. I know this is how she felt or she would not have gone in the first place. She sounds like an amazing girl, and when you find her, we all want a chance to chat with her.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 9th, 2007 06:20 am (UTC)

Contact for the dead cities.

(Link)
Hi,

just for information, there is an association which knows well the Dead Cities zone. They are based in Kafr Nabil : it's the village you can reach by microbus from Mara'at An Numan (on the main road Hama-Aleppo). From there, you must hitchhike or walk in the countryside to the different sites.

This is their website : http://www.deadcities.org/home_page.html. They must have contacts in the villages around.

I hope this can be helpful.

Daniel
[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:May 11th, 2007 01:29 am (UTC)

Re: Contact for the dead cities.

(Link)
I've sent them an email. They are obviously Internet-savvy and knowledgeable about the area, so it's an excellent suggestion.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 9th, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)

Helping spread the word

(Link)
If you have a blog or website, you can help get the word out by writing about Nicole and this blog and linking to it from your website. The more real links this blog has to it, the higher it will come up in search engines.

I have blogged this page in two places.

Karen
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 9th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)
(Link)
there are small restaurants or cafes all along maret al -numan and homs,most of mini busses and major busses stop there on there way going to other cities...post her picture with arabic translation...and try to get a local phone number so,if someone ever seen her will give a call...,most ppl can't afford long dfistance call and never heard of internet in that rural areas....and perhaps affraid to talk to police as well...I would advice you to get down to syria and follow up from there...
you can buy cellphones with prepaid cards under $100 in Syria.

ICARDA has a branch in syria (www.icarda.org) ,european and northamericans live and work there with syrian ppl speaking good english,you might get a volunteer or two to help you with the translation and communication.
get in touch with there school (icarda school) ,young and helpfull ppl.

it is hard for me to belive she just disapeared without anyone seeing her...you must understand,syria is very small country,with ppl everywhere watching each other and gossip....my guess is someone knows of her,but scared to talk..

good luck,hope she returns home safe.

[User Picture]
From:vienneau
Date:May 9th, 2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
(Link)

Getting a local number is a good idea - we'll have to figure out a way to do that when we arrive.

We've reached a contact via ICARDA that has been very helpful - another good idea.

We also suspect that someone knows but may not be willing to tell us. That's the main reason I'm planning on going to Syria - maybe they'll find a way to tell me in person if they can't or won't tell me over the Internet.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 9th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)

Good luck from a fellow Canadian

(Link)
Hi Matt,
I've been following the blog for a few days now. I think what you're doing is really amazing and your sister will be really proud of all that you've done when she comes home! Having done a lot of travelling myself, I just hope that my brother (coincedentally also named Matt) or rest of my family would search as hard as you are. I hope everything works out good for you.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 08:52 am (UTC)

Private detectives

(Link)
Matt, you will be surprised to know there are private detectives in some of these places. I know Egypt has them, not sure about Syria. The Syrian secret police most likely knows where most of the syrian brothels are as not much gets past them. Likewise, there should be others who would know this kind of information.

I just don't know how to get into the smugglers circles. No clue, but something to consider.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 10th, 2007 09:37 am (UTC)

Private detectives

(Link)
Matt, you will be surprised to know there are private detectives in some of these places. I know Egypt has them, not sure about Syria. The Syrian secret police most likely knows where most of the syrian brothels are as not much gets past them. Likewise, there should be others who would know this kind of information.

I just don't know how to get into the smugglers circles. No clue, but something to consider.
Powered by LiveJournal.com