torture

More than 20 different methods of torture used against detainees by Assad regime

SYRIAN REVOLUTION During Arab Spring on 27th Feb 2011, a group of school children in Daraa city in SW Syria innocently wrote on the walls: “Down with the regime”, “Go away Assad”.  The children were detained and tortured. Parents and locals protested. Assad security forces opened fire and arrested protesters. More protests followed and more killings by Assad regime.
It has not stopped…
Human Rights Watch documented more than 20 different methods of torture used against detainees.
Syrian children and boys are subject to Assad regime ill-treatment and cruelty!
— Prolonged and severe beatings with batons or wires
— Lashings with electric cables
— Painful stress positions
— Electrocution
— Burning with car battery acid
— Sexual assault
— Pulling out fingernails or teeth
— Gouging eyes
— Mock execution
— Sexual violence
— Use as human shields
Many were held in disgusting and cruelly overcrowded conditions; many who needed medical assistance were denied it, and some consequently died.
More than 20,000 children have been killed in the Syrian civil war, the United Nations says.

The Boy who started the Syrian War

We tell the story of Mouawiya Syasneh, the boy whose anti-Assad graffiti lit the spark that engulfed Syria.

10 Feb 2017 12:29 GMTWar & Conflict, Syria’s Civil War

Mouawiya Syasneh was just 14 when he sprayed anti-government slogans on his school wall in Deraa, Syria. It was February 2011, and he could never have imagined that such a minor act would spark a full-blown civil war.

More than half a million people have been killed in Syria since the start of the war. Mouawiya’s home city has been ravaged by street fighting, shelling and barrel bombing. The war has left scars that may never heal.

Now a young man, fighting on the frontline for the Free Syrian Army, Mouawiya admits that had he known what the consequences of his actions would be, he would never have taunted the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

His life has been transformed by that adolescent prank. He has lost friends and relatives, including his father. And Syria has been changed for ever.

The Boy who started the Syrian Civil War offers a glimpse into life in Deraa since the start of the conflict.

We meet Syrians trying to lead normal lives amid the chaos as well as those who have taken up arms against Assad’s forces.

FILMMAKER’S VIEW

by Emmy Award-winning producer, Jamie Doran

I was in Moscow recently, chatting to people you might have thought would have known better. Educated folk, among them an experienced journalist. I had asked them a simple question: how did the Syrian war begin?

They uniformly launched into the answer that has been peddled so often in recent times, that it has now become fact in certain circles: “It was the terrorists who started it all.”

The fact that ISIL in its current form didn’t even exist in Syria at the time, or that al-Nusra wouldn’t arrive until many months afterwards, appear to have been conveniently forgotten – not just in Moscow but in most media coverage around the world.

The surprise, even shock on their faces when I pulled out my laptop and showed them the trailer for our latest film for Al Jazeera, The Boy Who Started the Syrian War, was a wonder to behold. They simply had no idea.

They claimed they hadn’t been aware of how, for decades, dissenters towards government authority had faced the daily dread of a visit from the secret police, of torture, disappearance and extrajudicial execution.

They had apparently never heard about how fathers were frightened to allow their daughters to be alone on the streets for fear of abduction, rape and murder at the hands of the Shabiha, Assad-family militias that operated with virtual impunity.

And they were totally unaware that it was a mischievous prank by adolescent schoolchildren that lit the fuse that set a country ablaze.

Early in 2016, I was sitting in Books@Cafe, a hangout for liberally minded Jordanians on Al-Khattab Street, Amman, with cameraman and filmmaker Abo Bakr Al Haj Ali. He was busily puffing away on his narghile (hookah), as we discussed how Deraa, the city which had given birth to the revolution, had been virtually ignored by the media in recent years.

One of the reasons it had been overlooked was that the Jordanians wouldn’t let any Western journalists cross from their side. Almost the only other option was an official tour of government-controlled areas via Damascus that didn’t appeal to me at all, even if they had let me in, which was rather unlikely.

I’d spent the previous week sitting on the border, just an hour’s drive from Deraa, having established an agreement with the Jordanian military which would have made me the first Westerner allowed to cross over in three years.

READ MORE: Syria’s Civil War Explained

There I was, in the border compound about to leave Jordanian soil, when a call came to the post. Moments later, I was very politely placed in a saloon car … and driven back to Amman. I later found out that the representative of the British intelligence agency, MI6, in Amman had advised the Jordanian government that it would be a bad idea to let me cross … even though I was travelling on an Irish passport!

So, back at Books@Cafe, Bakr and I sat chatting about how we could make a film about Deraa without my physical presence. It’s his home town. His territory.

“So, who do you know, who was there at the very beginning?” I asked.

“I know the commander, Marouf Abood, who set up the very first people’s militia, after government troops attacked his village,” he responded.

“Interesting. And who else?”

He went on to reel off half a dozen names; commander this, commander that.

“Come on, Bakr. You must know someone else, someone different. Someone fresh,” I said.

Continuing to drag deeply on the narghile, deep in thought, he told me that there was no one else that was really very interesting.

And then he added: “Well, I suppose there’s the boy who scrawled the anti-Assad graffiti on his school wall that started the war.”

It was one of those moments where you could have knocked my 90 kilos over with a feather.

The boy who started the Syrian war! Think about it. It wasn’t ISIL, nor al-Nusra, nor any other terrorist group. It was an act of defiance, a moment of youthful rebelliousness, if you like, that led to an uprising which has seen more than half a million people killed and a country torn to shreds.

It wasn’t, of course, the fault of this 14-year-old boy and his three friends who joined him in this moment of adolescent disobedience – a prank which would have enormous consequences beyond their understanding. But when they were arrested by the police and tortured in a most horrendous way, a line was crossed from which there would be no turning back.

When their parents and families arrived at the police station to plead for their freedom, they were told: “Forget these children. Go home to your wives and make some more. If you can’t manage, send us your wives and we’ll do it for you.”

Anger rose. The fuse had been lit and, when police started randomly killing marchers in the demonstrations that followed, armed resistance became an inevitability.

READ MORE: The Syrian conflict does not end here

For me personally, this film has taken on an importance beyond many that I have made in the past. To be able to remind (and, in some cases, inform) a massive global audience of the true origins of the Syrian civil war, is an enormous privilege for a filmmaker.

For those directly involved in those origins, however, our film has provided an opportunity for reflection. So many have suffered greatly and sacrificed so much for a revolution which, by any calculation, is and will remain incomplete, no matter what the outcome of negotiations.

Mouawiya Syasneh, The boy who started the Syrian War, is now a young man who, like so many other young men in Deraa, carries a Kalashnikov rather than a satchel these days. As viewers will discover, his own family has paid a dreadful price for the events that followed his actions back in February 2011.

His own reflections are now a matter of record for the first time.

Article from: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2017/02/boy-started-syrian-war-170208093451538.html

Video from Al Jazeera English:

Published on Feb 10, 2017

SPECIAL SERIESSYRIA’S CIVIL WAR
The Boy Who Started the Syrian War
We tell the story of Mouawiya Syasneh, the boy whose anti-Assad graffiti lit the spark that engulfed Syria.
09 Feb 2017 10:22 GMT Syria’s Civil War, War & Conflict

Mouawiya Syasneh was just 14 when he sprayed anti-government slogans on his school wall in Deraa, Syria. It was February 2011, and he could never have imagined that such a minor act would spark a full-blown civil war.

More than half a million people have been killed in Syria since the start of the war. Mouawiya’s home city has been ravaged by street fighting, shelling and barrel bombing. The war has left scars that may never heal.

Now a young man, fighting on the frontline for the Free Syrian Army, Mouawiya admits that had he known what the consequences of his actions would be, he would never have taunted the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

His life has been transformed by that adolescent prank. He has lost friends and relatives, including his father. And Syria has been changed forever.

The Boy Who Started the Syrian Civil War offers a glimpse into life in Deraa since the start of the conflict.

We meet Syrians trying to lead normal lives amid the chaos as well as those who have taken up arms against Assad’s forces.

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Whats next for the Rohingya

Published on Jan 16, 2017
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On The Stream: What’s next for the Rohingya? Tens of thousands have fled Myanmar amid a military crackdown.

Thumbnail: Myanmar’s Rohingya population struggles on May 24, 2015 after mass exodus. (GETTY/JONAS GRATZER/STRINGER)

Fighting for Aleppo

How Syria’s Forgotton Revolutionaries Rose Up “To Kill This Fear”

syria-protest-article-e1477073983449

Demonstrators chant slogans and hold Syrian flags during a protest against the Assad regime in the opposition-controlled Kafr Hamrah village of Aleppo, Syria, on March 25, 2016.

 

As Naji Jerf stepped out of an office building in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep last December, a man walked up to him and fired two shots from a silenced pistol, striking Jerf in the head and chest and killing him instantly.

Jerf, 38, was a Syrian filmmaker and journalist who had become a popular activist during the revolution. A fierce critic of both the Assad regime and the Islamic State, he had received numerous death threats in the months before he was killed. Shortly after his murder, the Islamic State issued a statement claiming responsibility and Turkish authorities arrested three men in connection with the shooting.

Jerf is only one of the innumerable Syrian revolutionary activists who have lost their lives over the past five years. An editor and documentarian, he helped train a generation of young Syrians to continue the fight for democracy in their country. But his story, and the stories of those like him who continue the spirit of the 2011 uprising, rarely register in broader narratives of the conflict. For all they have sacrificed, their struggles have gone largely ignored, in a framing of the conflict that has been convenient for the Assad government.

Leila Shami, co-author of the book “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War,” told me, “The Syrian government has taken huge efforts to frame the conflict as one solely between themselves and extremist groups. People are not aware that there is a third option in Syria, that there are many Syrians from a wide range of backgrounds who are still fighting for the original goals of the revolution.”

Shami added, “Syria has had so many heroes, but people often don’t know who they are.”

Syrian students outside the damaged building of the University of Aleppo before sitting their exams on January 29, 2013, after the institution re-opened following an explosion earlier in the month, in northern Syria's city of Aleppo. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the blast on January 15, which caused a number of causalities, but said its origin was unclear. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian students stand outside a damaged building at the University of Aleppo on Jan. 29, 2013, after the institution re-opened following an explosion earlier in the month. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Khalifa al-Khadr was one of those whose lives Naji Jerf had touched. A student at Aleppo University when the war began, he now belongs to a new generation of writers and journalists committed to carrying on the goals of the revolution. Last week in Gaziantep, on the Turkish-Syrian border, Khadr sat drinking tea at a bustling outdoor restaurant, occasionally rising to greet other young Syrians who now also call this Turkish city home.

“When all this started, we were mostly too young to have any kind of ideology,” Khadr told me. “The reason we rose up was to just kill fear. To kill this fear that we had all been living under as a society.”

Khadr looked younger than his 23 years. He wore glasses, an orange jacket, and a beige scarf wrapped around his neck. The revolution had begun when he was only 17. It came to consume every aspect of his life and worldview. Despite his youthful appearance, he spoke with the serious intensity of someone who had come of age during war. On his cellphone, the background photo was a picture of a young Syrian girl killed in a government bombardment of the city of Idlib.

khalifa-al-khadr-article

Khalifa al-Khadr in a photo taken on May 30, 2015. Photo: Khalifa al-Khadr/Facebook

“When protests began at Aleppo University several years ago, we held them for only 15 or 20 minutes, just to show solidarity with other cities under attack and then disperse before the security forces came for us,” he recalled. “We were not calling for Assad to fall, just to remove the emergency laws and allow some space for democracy in the country.”When the government met those protests with brutal violence, Khadr saw sentiments harden among his fellow students. Now they realized that the government would choose force over incremental reform, and they began calling for bringing down the regime. Some spoke of taking up arms in self-defense.

 

 

 

As it turned out, they wouldn’t have to. In the summer of 2012, rebel fighters from surrounding villages swept into Aleppo and captured several key districts from government control. The people of Aleppo were divided in their response to the rebels’ arrival. Some wealthy residents were uneasy with the influx of poor, rural fighters. Even among those who had supported the uprising, there were divisions and concerns. Khadr didn’t share them. “I was excited,” he told me. “I felt like we were about to be part of something that was going to free the country.”

But as the war ground into a stalemate, many people fled Aleppo, and then Syria itself. Khadr was among the activists who stayed. He was continuing the revolution by other means: building an archive of photos and videos to document developments in opposition-held areas, and writing about his own experiences and observations of the uprising. In one passage of a longer reminiscence, he wrote about a childhood friend who took part in the revolution only to later turn away from it by joining the militant group the Islamic State:

A choke comes between memory and the bitter reality. The choke kills me and forbids me from mourning him. If I were an armed fighter, I would have killed him the minute I saw him on the battlefield, to save his soul. To prevent him from infecting others, to prevent his soul from sinking into others’ blood.

I won’t mourn your deeds, even if the one you killed was my own father. As you have loyalties of your own, I have loyalty to our revolution, more sacred than yours.

Syrian protesters gather in demonstration against the regime in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of the northern city of Aleppo on November 9, 2012. Syria President Bashar al-Assad said his future could only be decided at the ballot box and denied Syria was in a state of civil war, despite fresh attacks and heavy fighting near the Turkish border. AFP PHOTO/ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS (Photo credit should read ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian protesters gather to demonstrate against the Assad regime in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo on Nov. 9, 2012. Photo: Achilleas Zavallis/AFP/Getty Images

The culture of the revolution had imprinted itself indelibly on Khadr’s personality, as it had on those of many other young Syrians. Creating a “Free Syria” — free from oppression and upholding basic rights like freedom of expression and equal treatment under the law — had become the guiding purpose of his life. Like many others, Khadr felt compelled both to write and to seek out like-minded young Syrians.It was through social media that he first met Naji Jerf three years ago. Khadr was engaged in a debate with other young Syrian activists on Facebook when Jerf, known to many of them as the editor of the Syrian revolutionary news outlet Hentah, “liked” his status, part of a Facebook conversation that had begun around the quote “Man does not live on bread alone.” The two began messaging and Jerf invited Khadr to take part in a media workshop he had arranged for young activists in southern Turkey, where Jerf was then based.

Jerf became a mentor and adviser to Khadr, encouraging him to develop his writing and publishing his articles periodically on Hentah. While Khadr lived between relatives’ and friends’ homes in different areas of opposition-held Syria, he would occasionally cross the border to Gaziantep to meet with Jerf and other activists. In the relative calm of Turkey, they would spend days talking and reflecting on the future of their country — discussions that helped shape the nascent worldviews of Khadr and the other young activists.

“Syrians have tried secularism, nationalism, Islamism, and they have all failed in various ways,” Khadr told me. “The reality is that it doesn’t matter what the orientation of the government is per se. What matters is that the ruling system respects the rights of citizens and protects them from injustice.”

Under the Assad regime, Syria had become a police state whose prisons were notorious for torture, murder, and indefinite detention. Many activists, including Ghiath Matar, known as “Syria’s Gandhi,” and the Syrian anarchist philosopher Omar Aziz, had lost their lives in Syria’s torturous detention facilities.

“Even before the revolution, we all grew up hearing stories of people who disappeared, we knew the fear this created,” Khadr reflected. He told me that now he dreams of a country with “no prisons” — a country where the all-encompassing fear that characterized Baathist rule is finally removed.

naji-jerf-grave-article

The grave of Naji Jerf, a Syrian filmmaker and journalist killed in Gaziantep, Turkey, last December. Photo: Khalifa al-Khadr/Facebook

 

The outside narrative of the Syrian conflict, which focuses exclusively on the actions of armed groups and states, has minimized or excluded a significant dimension. The revolution fostered a Syrian civil society that continues to fight for the future of the country. Across cities and small towns in Syria, in areas that have slipped from the central government’s grip and are free of Islamic State control, local councils operate that provide a semblance of democratic rule in a country that, in its modern history, has known only totalitarianism. A huge array of new independent newspapers, radio stations, and video production companies has arisen, giving voice to a people who had long been either silenced or forced to consume Soviet-style Baathist propaganda. Khadr’s life, like the lives of many other Syrians of his generation, has been irreversibly transformed by the events of the revolution. Though he is still young, he exudes a brash confidence and poise. “All my old friends from before, when I was just a student, we lost touch and don’t talk anymore,” he said, fingering a string of beads wrapped around his fingers. “Everyone who is a friend to me today, they are people I shared experiences with during the revolution.”

Khadr was back in Syria last December when he received the message informing him that Naji Jerf had been murdered. In a Facebook post that day, Syrian journalist Rami Jarrah lamented that people like Jerf — Syrian civil revolutionaries who had given their lives for the freedom of the country — had been effectively airbrushed out of history.

“Syrians who have dedicated so much for principle and stood against tyranny and extremism [receive] no real recognition,” Jarrah wrote. “This mess of misinformation says that there are two sides fighting (Assad and ISIS) with little mention of those that oppose both wrongs. Those like Naji.”

In Muslim societies, funerals are typically held within a few days of death. Despite Khadr’s wishes, he could not cross the border back to Turkey in time to attend his friend’s farewell.

“Death has a different meaning in different cultures. At the beginning you mourn, but then, when so many begin to die, you have to find a way to stop mourning them and just keep going,” he told me, emotion slowly creeping into his voice.

“When I think of Naji now, I remember the things he taught me and I say: Your memory is my path.”

Top photo: Demonstrators chant slogans and hold Syrian flags during a protest against the Assad regime in the opposition-controlled Kafr Hamrah village of Aleppo, Syria, on March 25, 2016.

Contact the author:

Murtaza Hussainmurtaza.hussain@theintercept.com@mazmhussain

Article from: https://theintercept.com/2016/10/23/how-syrias-forgotten-revolutionaries-rose-up-to-kill-this-fear/

 

Syria’s Bodies: The Stench Was Unfathomable

Syrian civilians were tortured to death by Assad regime in prison

By Christoph Reuter and Christoph Scheuermann
January 27, 2014

He says he was never witness to executions, nor did he see torture taking place. That wasn’t his job. His task was that of taking photos of the corpses afterwards. He would snap four or five images per body — of the face and other parts of the person — documenting the cause of death, insofar as it was possible to determine. He did so tens of thousands of times between March 2011 and August 2013 — when he finally fled Syria, taking some 55,000 photos with him on a USB stick. The images are of starved, strangled and tortured men, primarily young and mostly naked. Some have no eyes. The defector, who has been cited under the alias “Caesar,” worked for Syrian security, and says that he and his colleagues were called on up to 50 times a day to photograph corpses, each of which was given a number for documentation purposes.

Caesar provided his testimony and photographic evidence to lawyers and forensic experts at a British law firm. Together, says Sir Desmond de Silva, former chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, the defector’s evidence shows the “industrial scale” of the killing perpetrated by the Syrian regime. In addition, the photos provide a horrifying explanation for what might have happened to the 50,000 or more missing people in Syria — those who were abducted by the regime of the course of the past two years. They are not included in the casualty figures, which assume a total of some 130,000 killed in the civil war. But prior to last week, there had been no clear indication as to where they might be.

The British experts randomly chose 5,500 photos for analysis. More than half of them depicted emaciated corpses, many of them showing signs of torture. By extrapolation, the images that Caesar brought with him could document the murders of some 11,000 people. The three prominent attorneys involved believe both the testimony and the photographic evidence to be authentic. In a report, they said there is “clear evidence … of systematic torture and killing of detained persons.” The report notes that “such evidence could also support findings of war crimes against the current Syrian regime.”

The investigation and report undertaken by the British law firm was financed by Qatar, which likely explains the fact that it was made public concurrently with last week’s Syria conference in Geneva. Qatar backs the Syrian rebels, but the country’s stance does little to take away from the power of the images provided.


Consistent with Witness Accounts

Caesar was likely but a small cog in the bureaucratic machine of death. But his photographs could be decisive in proving potential crimes against humanity committed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They provide visual evidence to back up previous claims made by other witnesses.

The images are also consistent — down to the details — with previously unpublished witness accounts provided to SPIEGEL during the past 20 months of reporting. Those accounts indicate that the vast military hospitals in Homs and Harasta, outside Damascus, became transfer points for the victims of Syria’s military and of the various secret services and militias. The dead, the witness accounts indicate, are centrally registered, photographed and then taken to mass graves in the desert regions in the eastern part of the country, which are still controlled by the regime.

When 19-year-old soldier Ahmed J., from Aleppo, reported for duty at the Homs military hospital on March 11, 2012, he saw a hip-high pile of corpses in the inner courtyard near the mortuary. The pile, Ahmed J. said, “was dozens of meters long and two or three layers high.” Ahmed J. was responsible for packing the corpses into white plastic bags after they had been photographed. Many of them were bloated and mostly unrecognizable. “And sometimes there were just body parts. We tried to make sure that we put a head, two arms and two legs in each sack,” he said. “Others were still dressed and still had mobile phones or money with them. I didn’t think about what I was doing and hardly slept at the beginning, but later I started talking in my sleep, saying to the others: ‘Hey, give me that head there! Take this leg!’ The same things that I said during the day.”

“They had a good camera,” he said, before remembering one more detail: “The stench was unfathomable.”

Each corpse, Ahmed J. said, was photographed three or four times. “Every bullet hole was documented,” he said, adding that he was part of a team of 15 who worked in two shifts. “One fainted on the first day and was beaten. Others plundered the corpses and made jokes.” Their superior was a military doctor, Ahmed J. said. “He left every half an hour, saying he had a headache. He said he had never seen such a thing in his 30-year career.”

Every day, several deliveries arrived, “most of them from different quarters and suburbs of Homs, like Bab Sbaa or Houla,” Ahmed J. said. Twice a week, a large, refrigerated truck with no license plate picked up the white body bags. He says he doesn’t know where they were taken. “We weren’t allowed to ask questions.” Ahmed J.’s assignment ended on March 23 and he defected two months later. He now lives in Turkey.

White Body Bags

A military doctor from the city of Rastan who defected later likewise had an assignment in the Homs military hospital in mid-March, 2012. He too provided details from the corpse collection site, which he saw in the exact same hospital courtyard. “I was there only briefly, but there were hundreds. They could hardly have all died or been killed in the hospital,” he said. He wasn’t witness to a corpse removal operation, saying he only saw soldiers packing the dead in white body bags.

Why would a regime, which kills thousands of its own citizens, collects them in a discrete location and buries them in hidden mass graves, photograph and number the dead?

Caesar says that one reason is so that death certificates could be issued. But why document bullet holes and signs of strangulation given the interest in concealing the true cause of death? The second reason mentioned by Caesar seems more important. The regime wanted to make a record of which security service was responsible for what death, he said according to the report. A kind of performance report for brutality.

Until deep into 2012, the military security agency, the air force secret service, the state security apparatus and other agencies often worked at cross purposes. Some of those wanted by the authorities could escape as a result — because, for example, he was on one agency’s list but not on that of another. Given the confusion, documenting who killed whom perhaps became more important than covering up the whole operation.

Beginning in February 2012, thousands of Homs residents disappeared in the wake of the 4th Division’s attack on the rebellious quarters of the city. Whether the victims belonged to the opposition or not was irrelevant for the subsequent death sentences — the wrong address was often enough. But the men whose corpses the soldier and the military doctor later saw in the inner courtyard of the Homs military hospital did not yet show indications of systemic starvation, as is evident in many of the images provided by Caesar.

That began later. Starting in 2013, severely emaciated corpses and released prisoners began appearing. The British doctor Abbas Khan, who arrived in Syria at the end of 2012 to help treat the wounded in hospitals, was also taken into custody by the army and tortured to death in a prison belonging to the military security agency. For an entire year, his family sought his release; his mother travelled to Damascus and even managed to visit her son with the help of diplomats, lawyers and middlemen. She said later he had been tortured with burning cigarettes and electric shocks and was clearly suffering from starvation, weighing just over 30 kilograms (66 pounds). “He was like a skeleton,” she said.

The Search for Number 417

A British parliamentarian promised to travel to Syria to seek his release and the family was hopeful. But then, on Dec. 17, came official word that Abbas Khan had hanged himself in his cell. His sister Sara, noting that he had become increasingly hopeful that he would soon be released, has said she doesn’t believe the suicide story.

Corpse collection points such as that in Homs were established in Damascus as well. It was a mistake that led to a real estate agent spending five days in the heart of the apocalypse there during his search for his brother. He had been killed, apparently in error, in November 2012.

“We had connections very high up, we knew the head of the air force secret service,” the real estate agent said during a meeting last April. “So I received official assistance in the search for his body.” First, he went to secret service division 601 west of Damascus and then to the military hospital in Harasta, east of the city. “The dead were lying on top of each other in eight or nine layers. They were in the basement, in the courtyard, in the hallways, everywhere, and new ones kept coming. All services brought their corpses there.”

Military security provided 10 soldiers to help the real estate agent in his search. “For five days, they heaved corpses from one pile to the next,” in the search for his brother, number 417. “But he was already gone.”

He was told he could also look at photos of the 1,550 people from in and around Damascus that had been killed in the last two months. “But, they said apologetically, they were only the ones from their service. They didn’t have the others.” But number 417 was not among them.

Translated from the German by Charles Hawley

Article from: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-reporting-supports-accounts-of-torture-and-execution-in-syria-a-945760.html

The ordeal of a 17-year-old Syrian in Assad’s detention centers

Syria Assad torture peaceful protestor to death

Unfortunately, not all of the revolutionaries who have ended up in Assad’s prisons have lived to tell their stories, but many of them have. The tales they tell of physical and psychological torture have often left scars that will take a long time to heal.

Omar was only 17 when he was arrested for his involvement in the peaceful protests in his hometown of Banyas.

On Nov. 16, 2012, Omar says he had gone to his aunt’s house in Al Bayda after Friday prayer.

Assad regime’s Air Force Security officers arrived at the house and arrested Omar and three of his cousins — Rashad, Basheer and Nour, all in their early twenties.

The four cousins were first taken to a detention center in Banyas where they were tortured and forced to make up stories to satisfy their tormentors.

Because Nour was with them, the three male cousins were treated more harshly in order to humiliate and break their spirits in front of her.

The jails in Banyas and Tartus were fairly empty when Omar and his cousins were there so the guards amused themselves with torturing their prisoners in a variety of ways.

The torture was conducted while the prisoners were blindfolded. Omar was hung by his cuffed hands and tortured with electricity until he agreed to talk.

Omar’s torturer asked him if he had been sufficiently “cooked” and when he said yes, his body was lowered and he was asked how many officers he had killed in his village.

Omar’s answer was; “Look at my face, I am 17 yrs old. Do you think I am capable of killing any officers?”

Angered by his response, the guard hung him up again and proceeded to electrocute him on different parts of his body, including his genitals.

There was also some type of fluid that was applied to his neck with a cotton ball which increased the effect of the electrical charge to an unbearable extent.

Omar said he was so delirious with pain that he would have confessed to anything — that his father was the one who killed many officers and his mother was the one who brought down their plane — just to stop the pain. But he was unable to speak.

When he was finally able to speak again, Omar began reciting the names of people he knew who were already well-known criminals.

Omar also says that those who had been tortured in Assad’s prisons were often given injections of drugs that allowed them to talk freely and must be excused for things they don’t remember saying.

Every night the cousins would whisper to each other from their cells. If one of them failed to respond, the others would fear they were dead.

They also compared stories about how each of them had been tortured. Basheer told Omar how they had opened a wound on his foot with a screwdriver.

Omar was moved 11 times; from detention centers in Banyas, to Tartus, to Homs, to Damascus and then to Al Qabun.

From Al-Qabun he was sent to the notorious Sednaya prison where he was held for one month before being referred to the military court.

The court sent him to the 291 “Death Branch” for one terrible day of indescribable torture before he was sent to 215 military prison where he was kept for the remainder of his detainment.

At 215 he was taken to the basement and examined by a doctor.

Omar said the prisoners he saw around him looked like skeletons. They huddled together and there were lots of dead and semi dead bodies on the floor with smelly wounds that oozed with infection.

After four days of wandering with no place to sit, an officer began questioning Omar about his cousin Nour and where she had supposedly gotten explosive materials for making bombs.

Omar eventually learned by word of mouth that his cousins were also being held in 215.

On March, 2013, Omar’s cousin Rashad died under torture. Rashad’s brother Basheer was so worried about how he would tell his mother that Rashad was dead when he got out.

He need not have worried for Basheer also died from pneumonia while still in prison in 2014.

Omar says that a fellow prisoner, a sheikh named Yasser Abdul Kareem, helped him and the other prisoners to maintain their sanity. He was their psychologist, their nurse, their spiritual advisor, their everything Omar said.

During his time in 215 Omar’s job was to record the numbers of the dead bodies and help dispose of them. He said the number had reached over 8,000 while he was there.

When four of their fellow prisoners were shot during an attempted jailbreak, their bodies were left where they fell for a week and then hung up as an example to the rest.

The prisoners were responsible for throwing the bodies of the dead unto the truck that came around each week to pick them up… Omar says the bodies sometimes fall apart as they tried to lift them.

Omar recalls that one of the men they were supposed to dispose of was still breathing. The guard forced them to throw him onto the pile of dead bodies anyways.

June 11, 2015, Omar was released. The prison guards had begun accepting bribes from family members of prisoners in exchange for their release.

It wasn’t until after his release that Omar learned his father had also been martyred during the Banyas massacre in 2013.

Omar is one of the fortunate refugees who managed to make his way into Europe through Turkey and Greece.

He is currently undergoing treatment for Tuberculosis in Sweden and says that no one comes out of Syria’s Branch 215 prison physically or mentally whole.

Orient Net – Yasser Ashkar Publication Date: 2016-04-20 11:00
Article from: http://orient-news.net/en/news_show/109666/0/The-ordeal-of-a–year-old-Syrian-in-Assads-detention-centers

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