Syria’s government released 21-year-old Obada Mzaik to his father Wednesday evening, said his uncle, Firas Nashef. Mzaik was taken into custody after flying from Detroit to Damascus on January 3, Nashef said.
“We’re grateful that he’s back with his family, and we’re grateful to the community for showing support to the family during difficult days,” Nashef said in a statement issued on behalf of the family. No further details were released.
Mzaik is a dual American and Syrian citizen who was studying civil engineering at a private university in the Syrian capital, his uncle said. He was born in Columbus but moved with his family back to Syria when he was child.
Mzaik had enrolled in a seasonal program at a Michigan community college and had planned to pursue a master’s degree in the United States, Nashef said. He had just flown back to Damascus with his younger brother to visit family and prepare for the start of the new semester when he was held for questioning by security officers, said Nashef, a dentist in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.
His brother was soon released, but Mzaik was held for further questioning — his second arrest by security forces amid the months-long uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to his uncle.
Nashef said his nephew had been arrested last summer and held for 37 days for “spreading fliers about the revolution,” and his family feared the worst after he was picked up again.
The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that it was trying to confirm Mzaik’s welfare and whereabouts. There was no immediate reaction to news of his release.