Therapist from North Texas who was detained in Syria in 2017 presumed to be dead

A therapist from North Texas who was detained in Syria in 2017 is now presumed to be dead, according to his family and several advocacy organizations.

Majd Kamalmaz, then 59, died in Syria where he was detained since February 2017, according to a statement from the Bring Our Families Home Campaign, which is comprised of family members of American hostages and detainees. Kamalmaz, whose family has a home in grand prairie, decided to cross into Syria to see if he could provide any help and visit family members that were suffering from cancer.

“He went in from Lebanon into Damascus legally without any issues,” said his daughter Maryam Kamalmaz to members of Congress at an April roundtable. “He slept the night at a family member’s house. The next morning, he was out on his very first trip into the city when he was stopped at a checkpoint and wrongfully detained.”

Since he was detained, Kamalmaz’s family did not hear from him nor know why he was detained. His daughter told The Associated Press she met with eight senior American officials who gave detailed intelligence about her father’s presumed death. The outlet reported that the officials told Maryam Kamalmaz that they believed his death occurred years ago early in his captivity.

Jonathan Franks, a spokesperson for the campaign, wrote in a statement that Majd Kamalmaz “was a kindhearted, loving and caring person who embodied these qualities as a son, husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle.” According to his family, Kamalmaz was born in Syria but raised in the U.S. and had an American passport. All of his children were born in the U.S., his daughter said at the roundtable.

“He had a heart to care for people, his passion was to help, and he found it through mental health,” Maryam Kamalmaz said.

In a statement with the campaign, she wrote, “he will be missed tremendously, yet we hope that his legacy of helping others in need lives on and is carried out by many.”

According to the Syrian American Medical Society, Kamalmaz helped create the organization’s mental health projects for refugees and survivors of detention in Lebanon and Jordan. He has helped countless people heal, from survivors of Hurricane Katrina to refugees in Syria, the advocacy organization, Syrian Emergency Task Force, said in a statement.

The family has plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Syrian government, the organization wrote. Under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad, the U.S. State Department has said unjustified arrests, forced disappearances, prolonged detention and harsh prison conditions are significant human rights issues in the country. Kamalmaz is one of many Americans who have disappeared in Syria, including the journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in 2012 at a checkpoint west of Damascus, the AP reported.

“SETF and the Kamalmaz family are dedicated to pursuing accountability for Majd, an American humanitarian wrongfully detained and killed by the criminal Assad regime,” said Mouaz Moustafa, the organization’s executive director, in a statement.

Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, R-Austin, shared his condolences in a post on X and wrote “we must ensure accountability for this barbarism in Syria as we vow never to forget the life of an innocent American, humanitarian, father, and husband.”

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