The Beginning Of My Ascendance
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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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*)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.
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).
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. UPDATE: On January 19th, 2019, Amine contacted me. He does not remember anything unusual.
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.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.( Click Here For Additional/Older Details...Collapse )
Current Mood: worried
Current Music: Gerard McMann - "Cry Little Sister"
Tags: jacqueline nicole vienneau missing syria
|Date:||June 8th, 2008 02:30 am (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||June 10th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)|| |
still here and still listening
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!
|Date:||June 10th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)|| |
you are such a strong man.. keep fighting for your sister.
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.
|Date:||June 10th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC)|| |
Jess J here and still reading
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.
|Date:||June 16th, 2008 03:03 am (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||June 19th, 2008 06:25 am (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||June 22nd, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)|| |
Re: trust fund
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.
|Date:||June 26th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)|| |
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!!
|Date:||June 26th, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: trust fund
Bless you!! What a wonderful and worthy idea!!
|Date:||July 17th, 2008 02:03 am (UTC)|| |
Re: Dreaming about lost loved ones
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)
|Date:||July 2nd, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||July 3rd, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)|| |
Another stranger who logs on regularly to check for updates. Keep the faith, Nicole is lucky to have you as a brother.
|Date:||July 9th, 2008 02:15 am (UTC)|| |
Your post today
Hi Matt, I can certainly understand your emotions being all over the place. As far as the story that you cited re the father finding his son after 6 weeks and then having the son die in his arms.....as a mother, I think there would be a peace in having your child in your arms and the child knowing that you never gave up. Having said that, I will continue to pray that you and your family are reunited with Nicole in the very best of scenerios.
|Date:||July 9th, 2008 12:28 pm (UTC)|| |
Reward offer info on website
I just dropped by on an update on your search (I am glad you keep posting), and I noticed what appears to be outdated information on the main website:
Reward Offer of up to 1,000,000 Syrian pounds has been extended to March 31, 2008.
As that date has passed, readers might wonder if it was still available or not. Probably just an oversight, but thought I would let you know.
My heart and hopes remain with you.
|Date:||July 24th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC)|| |
Re: Reward offer info on website
|Date:||July 19th, 2008 01:07 am (UTC)|| |
Another post on Sex trade/trafficking
I can tell by your tone that you are beyond exhausted. I can tell that your family feels out of options and you are resigning (have resigned) yourself that she is dead. However, as has been discussed in the comments, I believe you need to find a way to check into the sex trafficking in the region. I know this could be a worse thought for you than if she were dead but many survive this type of scenario ...it is not necessarily a brutal deranged type of situation as we think of here in the USA/Canada when someone is kidnapped usually by a psycho. In this region, criminal gangs seem to kidnap and sell for profit. http://www.gvnet.com/humantrafficking/Syria.htm. She could very well have been kidnapped and sold to a brothel somewhere. She is a tough girl, she would manage.
I think that you need to take a breather and let us work together to start working this angle.
Flyers in refugee camps might be a way to go. The reward you are offering might not tempt the traffickers themselves but a lower level person that is in poverty in the camp might know something.
You also need to use a forum board where various people helping can contribute and talk with each other in one location. If you want, I can make you a board to use on my forum. It is populated by people who also hang on LP Thorntree so it might be helpful but is not affiliated with them. www.ttrefuge.com
Just let me know if you want me to do that.
|Date:||August 2nd, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)|| |
thinking of you all
these stories make me hold my kids a little tighter...keep looking and good luck with all you do. I'm so sorry.
|Date:||August 16th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)|| |
I just received your Mom's thank you for our donation. I wish I had thought to include a "no need to respond or say thank you " to my donation.
Although for me, it was great to hear from your mother, I realized what a drain this must be for her.
Please say hi to her from me and Rod and tell her that all of you remain in our thoughts and prayers.
With our prayers for Nicole's return,
Elaine and Rod Groom