My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria - Updates from September 2nd to 30th

September 30th (Evening):

This is going to be a busy week. On Saturday I'm getting married. Tomorrow is my girlfriend's birthday, and also my other sister's birthday (some of you may have met her at the second fundraiser in Vancouver last year). There's also been a bunch of stuff happening at work that's been keeping me late and sucking up time.

End result - not a heck of a lot to blog about this week. I feel a bit guilty using the "it's my wedding so I'm skipping a week" so close to "it's my birthday so I'm skipping a week", but I don't expect it will happen again.

There was a bombing in Damascus last week that you can read about here and here. You can also Google "Damascus Bombing" for additional links. It has nothing to do with Nicole disappearing but I can certainly imagine Syrian officials thinking that they have more important things to deal with than a missing Canadian.

Macleans wrote an article this week on the female Canadian journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia. Early on I tried to get the attention of Macleans, but never heard back from them. I suspect the $2.5M ransom demand and the knowledge that it was definitely a kidnapping makes the story an easier sell. We'd love to get a (real) ransom demand at this point. Note how the story mentions the restrictions on the government due to Canada's Privacy Act. I can't tell you the amount of frustration the privacy laws have created for us - a side effect that I suspect was rarely considered when they were implemented.

I'm going to stay positive throughout the week, but as we work out which photos to take at the wedding and so on, the gap where my sister and father should be is quite apparent. My immediate family has shrunk quite significantly with their loss, and there isn't too many of us left. Nicole would have had such a fantastic time at my wedding, with lots of teasing and playful fun. She's always saying nice things about me (well, once we lived 3,000 km apart - distance and maturity makes the heart grow fonder), and has never missed an opportunity to party with my friends and show them how she's the much cooler sibling of the two of us. I remember when she came to visit me at university in my second year, and despite still being in high school, she still managed to get invited to two parties before she even arrived at my residence where I was busy being a nerd at my computer. Later that night she was up dancing on the tables with friends she had made, and all my friends kept asking if she was really my sister because she was so much fun.

Nicole also used to really enjoy this blog before I started writing about Magic all the time. She told me that she was showing it to all her friends and they were entertained by my strange stories. It's kind of ironic that they've all likely read it at some point by now, and I don't expect any of them were particularly entertained. And I don't think she'd enjoy reading it anymore. I certainly don't enjoy writing it.

September 23rd (Evening):

In an unexpected turn of events, my girlfriend went missing for 45 minutes yesterday. She was working very late, and was away from her desk, cell phone and blackberry, so I wasn't able to reach her at 11 at night. I'm not prone to panicking and was about to head to bed (she's worked really late a few times before) but then I had a nagging thought in my head, "what if I'm wrong?" The odds are a million to one that something would happen, but that's what we thought with Nicole as well, and it took us weeks to really start worrying (not that I think we would have found her or prevented anything if we had begun searching sooner).

So what did I do when I couldn't reach her? I used the same skills I've been using to find Nicole and started thinking up ways of finding her. One of those ways involved waking up her parents at 11:15 at night, but I was also using the Internet to try and find security for her building and so on. I eventually found an online telephone directory for her office and started calling numbers, hoping she might be in someone else's office, which she was. If that didn't work, I was calling the police (non-emegency line to start).

It's little things like this that show me how life has changed now that Nicole has disappeared. My mom swears my future daughters/children will not be allowed to travel on their own, and I have to admit - it will be tough to let them go if they want to, even though I know the odds of something happening are so remote. I've always tried to pay attention to the stats and not the stories when it comes to danger, but once the dice have landed the wrong way once, it's really hard to roll them again.

In other news, my mother spoke with the new Canadian ambassador to Syria. Former Vice-Admiral Glenn Davidson's appointment is announced here. I haven't talked to mom today, so I don't have an update on what was said. There has been an unfavourable development in Syria this week that I can't talk about just yet, so mom's planned visit was looking a bit doubtful last night. Hopefully that will change.

A long-time supporter in Syria has put up a new website and has included information on our search for Nicole including pictures. has helped with a number of translations over the past year and a half and also helped us develop the Arabic version of the official website. It's always wonderful when we receive help from people, especially those in Syria.

September 16th (Evening):

Not a whole lot to report this week. The entire family is distracted by a number of events here at home, and it's also Ramadan so very little is happening in Syria. Were it not for Ramadan, my mother would be in Syria, but we know from experience that nothing happens during holidays.

The student of a cousin of a friend of the family was in Syria recently and Hama in particular. They visited the Cairo Hotel and chatted with people about what had happened. We're always interested in any information from within Syria, especially from Syrians, as it provides new perspectives, or confirms information or rumours. It continues to astound me to see people several "degrees of separation" away from us go out of their way to help without being asked.

Keeping that in mind, a message was left in the blog regarding someone else who has gone missing in Syria. Someone commented last year about a show in Syria on missing people called "Khabrny ya teer" and at one point I spoke with the host over the phone and my mom chatted with him as well. The message is hard to find amidst the 17 pages of comments, so I've copied it here:

"its regarding a missing boy iasho dankha 7 years old lost injeramana,syria. How can we watch the show Khabrny ya teer as we are inmaustralia and the time and date its on. Please get back to us as soon aspossible."

Unfortunately, I would be surprised if the show is available to anyone outside of Syria. But if you think you might be able to help, please contact the listed email. I managed to find the email with all the contact information for the show from last year, so that has already been sent.

September 9th (Evening):

As a birthday gift to myself, I am skipping this week's update. This isn't a cry for "please email me with good wishes" but rather a relatively cheap excuse to cover for a lack of any news to report. I responded to some emails earlier this week and that's about all that has happened. I'm really tired today, so I'm going to leave it at that and hopefully post something a bit more substantial next week.

September 2nd (Evening):

We're raising the reward!

A private donor has indicated that they will anonymously contribute $5,000 CAD (approximately 250,000 Syrian pounds) towards a reward if Nicole is found. This is outside of the trust so it won't show up on the official page, but I can list it here. We've had very few calls with information, and none in the past year, but we're forever hopeful that someone will decide that it's worth it. If you have information, we will get the money to you, no questions asked.

In other news, my Mom will be returning to Syria! Details will remain hazy for now, partly for security reasons, partly because we don't have all the information locked down just yet. It feels like there's lots of forward movement whenever Mom is in Syria, so it makes sense to keep returning, especially with the change in Embassy personnel. Hopefully this trip will be even more productive than the first two.

On a blog-related note, when I checked the blog from work today, I noticed ads had been embeeded on the side. I don't see them from home, so I'm not sure where they came from. In case anyone is wondering, the ads are not mine, but may relate to the LiveJournal website that is hosting the blog. Very early on I decided to keep the blog non-commerical (no ads) so that no one doubted my motive, so I'm a bit concerned, but quite frankly, after getting five years of free blog hosting, I can hardly complain. I can only hope that the advertising software doesn't select too many inappropriate ads based on keywords in the blog - this probably isn't the best site to advertise "Delightful Vacations in Syria" or something similar.

I mentioned a new development a few weeks ago. We had a tip from within the Middle East regarding where Nicole's body might be found. Some of our people in Syria went to Hama to investigate and contacted the Syrian police investigators who are working on the case. The secluded location was underwater near the middle of town, so the police lowered the water and organized around 20 men to help to search, bringing scuba outfits in case they were necessary. But nothing was found.

This is an excellent example of how the local police have been willing to drop everything and investigate a site if we have information suggesting Nicole might be there. We saw this last year when rumours had her at the bottom of a well in a nearby town (they sent divers in then as well). After a year on the case, the police apparently did not hesitate to follow up when asked. We really appreciate this kind of effort.

I have received a number of emails this past week, but just haven't been in the mood for responding. As always, I read everything and appreciate everyone who contacts me. I also save every email, and should this search end up stretching out for many years, I know I'll be going through everyone's well wishes and ideas over and over again.

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