Middlebury College student and Ripton native Pathik "Tik" Root disappeared while observing a protest in Damascus on March 18. Syrian authorities on March 26 confirmed that Root had been jailed, and since then state officials and his family and friends have continued working to have him released.
See bottom for our first story on Root's disappearance, and below for links to ongoing coverage of the situation.
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Middlebury College student and Ripton native Tik Root has gone missing in Syria, according to reports from the college and his parents.
Root, 21, has not been heard from since last Friday, March 18. Following the emergency evacuation of Middlebury College’s program in Egypt in late January, which he was a part of, Root had chosen to continue his year abroad in Syria to study Arabic.
Amid national coverage of Root’s disappearance, Middlebury College released an official update on Thursday morning.
“According to the family of Middlebury College student Tik Root, the U.S. State Department says it has learned from the Syrian government that Tik is ‘almost certainly’ being held by Syrian authorities,” said the statement.
His parents, Tom Root and Andrea Lloyd of Ripton, said they were focusing on bringing Tik home safely.
“We are very grateful for everyone’s concern and thoughts, but our energy at this time is fully committed to bringing our son home. We will therefore not be able to do any interviews at this time,” said the family’s statement.
Shortly after the Middlebury College program was evacuated from Alexandria, Egypt, the Addison Independent spoke with him about his harrowing last days in Egypt in the country (see the story here, and video he captured here).
At the time, Root was already looking for ways to return to the Middle East.
“I’m looking to go back to Damascus, (Syria),” he said at that time.
At the same time, Root was sharing his photographs and video footage of protests in Egypt with as many outlets as he could, and began compiling information and reports from Egyptians still in the country, e-mailing updates out to a list that he’d compiled and starting a blog to catalog reports.
In the end, Root did make it to Syria earlier this month, enrolling at the University of Damascus. But in recent days, that country has seen an unexpected escalation in anti-government protests. After a week of steady protests and seven casualties, Reuters reports that security forces on Wednesday opened fire on protesters in the south of the country, leaving at least 37 dead.
In an interview with the Burlington Free Press, Tom Root speculated that Tik might have headed out to view the protests last week, as they were beginning to escalate, since his son would likely have wanted to follow what was happening in the country.
In addition to his parents, the Free Press reported that the State Department and the Vermont congressional delegation are at work on Tik Root’s case. College officials said they will release updated information on Root’s situation as it becomes available.
“Everyone at the college is anxious to hear that Tik is safe, and we look forward to receiving word when his family hears more about his status,” said the college’s statement.
Update 3/24/11: The Middlebury Campus reports that the state department has said Root was detained due to his involvement in a protest on March 18. And Middblog reports that Root's blog, mideastreports.wordpress.com, has been set to private, and two public Google Documents with information on Egypt have disappeared. Root has not been active on his Facebook page since March 16.