The many and varied crimes of the Syrian government, led by Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, are known well to the international community, including the UN, many governments, and human rights groups.
Many of these crimes have been documented almost perfectly to start procedures to persecute the perpetrators. The regime’s crimes are perhaps the most documented crimes throughout history, since most of them, were observed live, by the international community, while others were documented through video recordings and testimonies of thousands of Syrians. One of the most horrible crimes is still being committed on a large scale, as you read this. As I wrote this article, several died among the tens of the thousands of detainees, who are struggling with death every day, in the network of detention centers on Syrian soil and under it.
Do we, Syrians, all know this? What have we done, to stop it or speak loudly about it, instead of directing accusations of silence, betrayal, and complicity to the international community? Do we know that detainees die and get killed in the archipelago of torture centers of the Syrian government every day?
Were the detainees the victims that we betrayed the most? Do we know the conditions of their detention? Who among us has not seen the Caesar photographs? Who among was not detained, or does not have a detained relative, or a friend who was killed under torture or due to illness? Do we carry their blood on our hands?
Have we dedicated just one hour, weekly or monthly, to do something for those forgotten people under us, in the depths of the earth?
Have we managed to save one detainee from his inevitable fate? Have we established one single organization specialized in following up the cases of detainees and campaigning to highlight their case? Have we worked hard to keep the issue of detainees at the forefront of our demands and calls? Do we search for the families of detainees to document their pain?
Who of us would dare to say that he or she has done all they could?
Have we resorted to burying our detainees in among al-Assad’s crimes? Have our hearts gone cold? Or have we failed when our humanity was tested, even before those whom we accuse of silence, betrayal and complicity? Have we fallen lower than the international community in their record on dealing with our detainees’ case?
Was it us, who killed Nabil Sharbaji?
Nabil Sharbaji, a Syrian journalist and peaceful activist, he was killed in detention in Saydnaya military prison in May 3rd ,2015.
The Syrian regime arrested Nabil on February 26th, 2012 in Daraya. Nabil spent the first period of his detention in the Air Force’s investigation department in Mezzah airport in Damascus. Later he was transferred several times, including to Adra central prison and then to Saydnaya prison. Nabil struggled against his fate for three years. He did not want to die. He used to sing “Raj’een ya Hawa” (Oh love, we will return) silently, so the jailers would not hear him. He wanted to go back to life.
His body tried to cling to his soul in this his Purgatory, but the feet of Sadnaya’s jailors kicked his chest sending his soul to heavens and his body to a mass grave, or an incinerator perhaps. All we know is that we do not know where Nabil’s body is, but we know his spirit is above us, asking for forgiveness for us or perhaps cursing us.
Al-Assad regime’s jailers killed the journalist Nabil Sharbaji, sending his soul to join the many others watching us from above.
Nabil spoke to us several times, but we did not really listen. He documented the names of his cellmates from inside his deaf concrete cell, but we did not appreciate the risk he took and kept neglecting him.
From his cell, Nabil wrote down in blood from a bleeding cellmate’s gums mixed with rust, the names, telephone numbers and place of residence of all his cellmates, on pieces of cloth, for it to be smuggled out of prison. The cloth, which was part of a shirt belonging to another inmate, was smuggled out by the journalist Mansour al-Omari when he transferred to Adra Central prison.
Nabil communicated with us, informed us of what was happening in his cell, in a letter smuggled out of Adra prison. He wrote:
“Mansour, my friend, I was so sad when you left us. I tried to continue what you started, but I could not, because the conditions have changed a lot, and it has become too difficult… We are now 90 people in one room. I miss singing together and you telling us stories of films, and missed when you and ****** annoyed when I wanted to rest… Oh God, we came back to life, my friend, at the tune of the song: (we are coming back) Raj’een ya Hawa… Peace be upon you. Adra Central Prison. 15/04/2013.”
Nabil had hopes of surviving more than once, but we let him down each time.
“The jailor used to come every morning and shout: ‘You bastards of the dormitories, who has a dead beast?’”, said Omar al-Shugri, one of the detainees who was at the same prison with nabil when he died. “That day, the cell head in the cell next to mine said he had one. The jailor asked him for the full name, mother’s name and date of birth. The head responded, ‘Nabil Sharbaji’. Then he said his father’s name, mother’s name and his date of birth. I remember that day well. One of Nabil’s closest friends was in the same cell with me, and he cried when he heard Nabil’s name. His mental and health state deteriorated after hearing of the death of one of his dearest friends.”