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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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:||May 8th, 2007 04:59 am (UTC)|| |
Hope you find her
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.
|Date:||May 8th, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||May 8th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)|| |
my hopes and thoughts go out to u and the family
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 email@example.com.
|Date:||May 8th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||May 8th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||May 8th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)|| |
Clipmarked and StumbleUpon-ed this blog
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.
|Date:||May 8th, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||May 8th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)|| |
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
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 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
|Date:||May 9th, 2007 02:07 am (UTC)|| |
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.
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
Follow up ... I meant the local newspapers in Syria.
My Canadian husband is in Syria and was unaware
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
|Date:||May 9th, 2007 03:14 am (UTC)|| |
Where is the bus driver?
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?
|Date:||May 9th, 2007 03:19 am (UTC)|| |
Re: Where is the bus driver?
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.
|Date:||May 9th, 2007 03:45 am (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||May 9th, 2007 06:20 am (UTC)|| |
Contact for the dead cities.
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.
|Date:||May 11th, 2007 01:29 am (UTC)|| |
Re: Contact for the dead cities.
I've sent them an email. They are obviously Internet-savvy and knowledgeable about the area, so it's an excellent suggestion.
|Date:||May 9th, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)|| |
Helping spread the word
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.