The father of a British Columbia journalist who is being detained by Syria said he is concerned about his daughter and is asking the Canadian government to call for her release.
Syrian officials confirmed to the television channel Al-Jazeera English that they are holding Dorothy Parvaz, who was detained on arrival in Damascus six days ago and hasn't been heard from since.
"I am concerned. It’s better than being missing, But I’m concerned about how is she being treated," Fred Parvaz told CBC News. "I rely on [the Syrian government] to treat her like a human being. She is just a journalist."
Al-Jazeera called for the immediate release of Parvaz, who joined the network in 2010.
Parvaz said he spoke to his daughter last Thursday and hadn't heard from her since.
"Right now I feel better because I’ve heard that she’s been detained. So now the Syrian government is in charge and they’re responsible for her safety," he said.
Parvaz described his daughter as a "very courageous, resilient person."
"She believes in what she’s doing, and she believes in the task of a journalist, and I think she can handle it."
He said he's sent an email to the Canadian Embassy in Damascus, asked them for help and received a reply that they will do whatever they can.
"What I’m asking the Canadian government is just basically to ask for her release."
Dorothy Parvaz is an experienced journalist who joined Al-Jazeera in 2010. She graduated from the University of British Columbia, obtained a masters from Arizona University, and held journalism fellowships at both Harvard and Cambridge.
She previously worked as a columnist and feature writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in the United States.
Journalists have faced ever increasing restrictions in Syria since protests there began.
"We are worried about Dorothy's welfare, security and safety," an Al Jazeera spokesman said. "Syria should release her immediately."
A statement from Dorothy's family read: "Dorothy is a dearly loved daughter, sister and fiancée .… We need to know where she is. We need to know that she is comfortable. We need to know that she is safe."
Her family is desperate to hear from her.
"We just want to know she's safe and we want her to come home," her sister, Sheila Parvaz told CBC News Tuesday.
Parvaz was born in Iran and is travelling on an Iranian passport, which prompted the foreign minister of Iran to ask for more information on Parvaz's fate.
About 2,000 people have joined a worldwide Facebook campaign for Parvaz's freedom.
Her fiancé, Todd Barker, said he tried to talk Parvaz out of going to Syria, but didn't succeed.
"Nothing I would say would change her mind," Barker said in a telephone interview from Portland, Ore.
The Radio Television Digital News Association — a professional organization devoted to online journalism — called for answers.
"We are shocked to hear that Dorothy is being detained and insist that the Syrian government provide an explanation for their actions," RTDNA chairman Mark Kraham said Wednesday.
"It is completely unacceptable to think that she may have been taken into custody because she was doing her job, trying to inform the world."
Meanwhile, Syria's president said Wednesday the military operation in a southern city at the heart of the country's uprising will end "very soon."
The city of Daraa has been under military siege since April 25 as protests that started out as demands for reforms seven weeks ago mushroomed into calls for Bashar Assad's ouster.
Rights groups say at least 545 Syrians have been killed in the uprising.
Assad's remarks were reported in the private Al Watan daily on Wednesday.
Late Tuesday, activists say, security forces fired tear gas in the northern city of Aleppo to disperse hundreds of students rallying and calling for an end to Daraa's siege.
The activists spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing government reprisals. They say many protesters were later detained.