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The Beginning Of My Ascendance - My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria
April 22nd, 2007
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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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 02:48 pm (UTC)

hey

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my sympathy for you and your family!
i hope everything will be o.k. soon :)

Hamawi
From:gaboro
Date:May 11th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)

Jesus My lord brings her back save to her family

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I ask God to come home save ,I am from Syria and living in USA now ,I hope I can help you but I am here if you need me also I have a lot of friends in syria I can contact if you need .please dont hestidate to send me or call me (919-401-9024) if you need any thing .
I will pray to Jesus to be save and back .
God will protect her.

Gabi Hanna
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)

Syrian from the UK

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Dear Math,

I would like express my sympathy and support to you, your family and to friends of Nicole. I do hope that she will back home very soon. I come from Hama country side and I must say that it is unusual at all such things happen in Syria. I will pray and look forward to hearing good news about her.

Best wishes,
Sawsan
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
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they sell cell phones in telecomunication shops,they are obvious,you can see there big pictures in the shop front,specially if you landing in big cities like damascus or aleppo...but they call it mobile phones there not cell phones.
take your laptop with you,you can get dial up services in bigger hotels,or if that is not possible ,they have internet cafes n every corner of major cities..(Aleppo,Damascus,Homs,Hama) for $2 for hour use.

a digital voice recorder might be helpfull for you in your trip,if you want to go over your day and details ,later on,just don`t show it,keep it in your pocket.

going to Syria is best thing u will do for ur sister,local simple people might be afraid to talk to police ,scared they will point the finger on them,just to get a suspect,but they might talk to a family member .

Syrian ppl are helpfull,but sometimes tell you stories to make themselve feel important,trust everybodys good itention,but check things yourself...

if you need anything,any information, I will be glad to help you.

take care
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)

Should find the taxi!

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I understood from the story that she left the hotel to reach that castle, would it help if syrian police or anyone could find about the taxi or that whatevar mean of trasportation she used?
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From:vienneau
Date:May 11th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)

Re: Should find the taxi!

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We've been told that the police have interviewed all the drivers of buses and taxis and no one reports seeing her.
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From:pipercat99
Date:May 11th, 2007 04:38 pm (UTC)

Best wishes

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I have been following this story since the beginning. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope for her safe return to you.

Would you mind if I borrow a photo and post it on my Flickr page? People around the world look at photos there - perhaps a traveller will recognise your sister...
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From:vienneau
Date:May 11th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Best wishes

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Please feel free to copy and post the pictures anywhere you want. We want to get the word out to any potential contacts, so no problem at all.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC)

best wishes

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I feel terrible that this happened in syria, the county which i came from. it was not like that few years ago. i just hope she is safe and well. good luck for you finding your sister and i wish you the best in these hard times.

Sincerely,

Syrian in Canada
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC)

Hi Matt

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Great decision Matt

When you arrive there, you will find plenty of people to help you. Very friendly people. Also don't worry I think the Canadian embassy has many contacts and people to help ( who are Canadians in Syria) who happened to sign a promise to help the embassy when it needs help. I was one of them but I'm In Montreal now. :(

I really wish I was there to help you with every step. That is what I keep telling my family here.

Good Luck Brother.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC)

Hope she will be fine

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Sorry to hear that about your sister, and hope she’ll be fine
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)

Psychic help

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Have you thought about seeing a good psychic to help you find your sister. I know sometimes the police use them to find missing people. Might help you with some of the missing pieces and put you in the right direction. Just an idea!

Good luck and have a safe trip!
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From:vienneau
Date:May 11th, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Psychic help

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Someone actually went ahead and did this and then forwarded on the response. We'll likely follow up on this lead as well, just in case.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 11th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)

Offering Help

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Dear Mr. Vienneau

I am Syrian leaving in Syria, I felt so bad to hear about your sister story and I know it is very hard time for you and your family, I hope she is safe and in good health.
I have already printed many copies of the poster and distributed in the area.
God be with her.
When you arrive to Syria and if I can be of any help to you being knows both Arabic & English and familiar with the area please contact me on my email qazaz1@hotmail.com
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From:dmasma
Date:May 11th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)

we are looking for your sister

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i am sorry about your sister, but we will do our best for her here in Syria

i send email to all my friend here in Syria with your sister pic's

we hope to find her soon .

god be with you and your family
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From:whoopseedaisy
Date:May 11th, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC)
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I heard about your Nicole on the news in Vancouver. I just came home from traveling through India, mostly by myself, so I feel very connected to this story.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your sister and family and all of her friends. You all must be just sick with worry. My heart goes out to you and I am praying that you will find Nicole safe and bring her home soon.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 12:07 am (UTC)

Best wishes!

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I hope everything works out for the best!

- Kevin Hollingsworth
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 03:35 am (UTC)

Canadian-Syrian

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Matt,

Two years ago, I heard about a french lady who went to Qasr Ibn Wardan as a tourist and ended up marrying one of the locals and to my knowledge she still lives there in ALHAMRA village.

If you go to Qasr Ibn Wardan which is an ancient site ask the locals there or in the nearby village of ALHAMRA about the french lady. Her husband who is one of the local nomads (Beduin) might be able to help you.

I hope Nicole is fine and you come together back home to Canada
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 06:07 am (UTC)

From syrian

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I hope very soon your sister will be back home
I am from hama (syria) the area where your sister lost not easy but be sure if CANADA Empassy made pressure on syrian police she will be very soon with you
thanks
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 06:51 am (UTC)

your sister its very cute

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hello there
i hope you will find it qiukly as you can
i know its hard feelling for you but wash you will meet har soon
syrian guys not bad they are very helpfull dont wary if she was in syria they will find it


GOOD LUCK
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 08:45 am (UTC)

call them, email them with links

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Hi, please my fellow Syrians, the best way to help now is to mobilise the officials, here is the contacts for the ministry of tourism:

Damascus tel:
country code/ Damascus code: 0096311
then dial
either one of these numbers
2237940
/2210122
2242646
www.syriatourism.org
min-tourism@mail.sy
call them, email them with links, they sure need to be responsive to this seriuos issue, I realy hope she is found.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 09:47 am (UTC)

Good bless her

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Hi, my name is Elias, me and all my freinds from Damascus want to inform you that we are praying for her, Muslims and Christians, we would like to inform you as well that we love all ppl from all around the world and we really wish that Nicole will join the family soon, maybe we can't do alot but we think of you and we're praying for you... Good luck, God be with you.

Elias, Damascus, Syria
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 10:33 am (UTC)

Solidarity and wishes from the heart - From Zman

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I am a Syrian and reading your journal makes my heart aches. I have two sisters and I love them so much; I understand how you feel. I have had many foreign friends in Syria; they always felt safe and welcomed there. Believe me, it is very unusual for a foreigner to go missing in our country; I'm pretty sure the authorities are taking this issue very seriously and they that will help you. Syria has always been such a safe and friendly destination for tourists and adventurers.
Whenever I saw a lonely female tourist in Syria I had great respect for her; I had great respect for the fact that she chose to come to Syria on her own in spite of all the stereotypes about the Middle East.
I pray for her safety and for her return; I will pray for her return every morning.
God bless Nicole.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 11:16 am (UTC)
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Dear matt
a new website has published the story..
here is the link
http://www.syria-court.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=12981
the story is copied from the syria-news site.. but this site also is commonly used by lots of people.
hoping that we hear some good news about her soon.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 02:40 pm (UTC)

call Syrian TV HELP

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Hey Syrian guys , cut the crap and do some real help, call the tv show for missing people, Khabrny ya teer, call Bassam Abedl Mageed,minister of the interior, emotional outbursts are useless here.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)

MAJD NASSAN ,SYRIAN IN SAUDIA

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DEAR Vienneau:
SORRY FOR YOUR SISTER DISAPPEARING I WILL BE GLADE TO HELP YOU AN HER ANY WAY AND I WISH THAT YOU WILL FIND HER SOON AND SHE WILL RETURN TO YOU AND HER PARENTS
MAJD
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 03:10 pm (UTC)

syrian lives in london

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my thoughts with you and the family and i hope that she will return safe ,and whats happening now will be a memory
i have the feeling that she is coming back .
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2007 08:26 pm (UTC)

A HOPE

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Dear Mathew, as a Syrian living and working in Canada I feel so bad about your sister. I have the feeling that she is still alive. Canadians are peacful people and so Syrians. We all pray to keep your sister safe and healthy. Nicole all of our hearts and souls praying for you. God Bless you.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 13th, 2007 01:46 am (UTC)

The Toronto Star

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Hey Matt: I just read the article about your sister in the Star. My thoughts and prayers are with you. You're a great brother! Travel safe and bring her home! Deb Barnard
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 13th, 2007 06:22 am (UTC)

Syrian Guy

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hi every one , i am from syria - lattakia .. i heard about this story from www.syria-news.com .. i have some friends from hama .. i will contact them , maybe they can help .. & i am sure that all syrians will help ..
i Hope to Find your sister matt .
Good Luck
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