Printed Edition ‖ No.: 215
Enab Baladi – Damascus
After they have been barefoot and stripped of everything, their bodies are covered with some worn-out pieces of cloths, they are heavily walking in a line due to the abundant wounds in their feet, they know nothing about their families, some of them survive to revive some aspects of life and decide to write about their pains and sufferings, embodying the torture they have undergone and the number of times that almost killed them under their jailors’ machine. They try to publish their testimonies in an attempt to expose the tyrants and their guards of hell, while others object to publishing people’s pain to the public, since they are helpless in stopping this tragedy, so, in their opinion, it is inhumane to use others’ sufferings as a trade.
Torn between the two opinions, we find that the most reluctant ones in documenting the stories of detainees are the detainees themselves and their families.
Detainees are not a media commodity
Ahmad (previously detained in the Region Security Branch) asserts that the page his friends have established to demand his freedom, led to the death of his colleague who was detained a few weeks before him, in fact, it almost caused his death as well. He confirmed “I used to work undercover on land, however, driven by good intentions, my friends began posting my personal pictures with my friend while we were on relief campaigns in the Damascene countryside, which was a proof of our condemnation”, his friend was subjected to more torture, since he could not deny what was written about him. What made Ahmad more distressed was the fact that the detective got these information with the least effort, “since our friends thought that these pages will entertain us when we are released, and that they are an assertion of their demand for our release, without realizing the damage they caused.”
While pain fills the heart of Mrs. Reem watching the pictures of her husband in a leaked file of pictures; “the file itself was a wound that is not going to heal anytime soon, but it is painful to see the media trading with our wounds, publishing these pictures and calling people to see them and lament over our wounds and the distorted bodies of our detainees.”
Khalil says that one of the political activists working in documenting the Syrian regime’s violations, stressed for him the necessity of documenting the arrest of his daughter, quoting his words to him “with your silence over the arrest of your daughter, you become an accomplice in the crimes of the regime against detainees. We should not be silent, our voices should fill the International courtrooms in order to condemn this brutal regime”, the father goes on saying “unfortunately, documenting our pain is more important than healing it. It is important for the media, along with those who can offer us nothing, to see what happens to us.”
Our detainees are not just figures
Ever since the beginning of the revolution, Syria has witnessed a wide range of arrest campaigns, those entering Security branches or the prisons of Saydnaya and Palmyra are lost, and those released are actually reborn. Many stories, formerly published about Syrian prisons, were told by released prisoners who were out of prison, but the prison stayed inside them. You find them trying to convey the image to the International society, demanding the trial of their jailors, issuing statements demanding these jailors and the condemnation of the regime’s crimes.
Nabeel, the detained, has called many times for the necessity of documenting the arrest cases in Syria, calling for campaigns and sit-ins to demand the detainees, with his persistence to work for them. One of his recently released friends confirmed to Enab Baladi, that Nabeel has been seriously thinking of methods in order to document the regime’s crimes, as well as, what he witnesses on a daily basis inside the basements. He plans to expose the regime’s crimes, as he believes that detainees are not only figures that one can forget about inside those basements. Media is the best way to uncover their destiny, since Nabeel has been transferred among security branches, as well as the prisons of Adra civil and the military Saydnaya, experiencing himself what he read about in Prison literature. He has previously published articles and appeals for the rescue of detainees, participating, along with his friends in more than one strike inside the prison, in order to pressure their jailors to uncover their destiny.
Facebook is filled with campaigns demanding the release of detainees, a center for documenting violations in Syria has been allocated, in addition to groups and pages to follow the news of detainees. They communicate with the released, take their testimonies and deliver the news they have to the families of other detainees. The Syrian Network for Human Rights, as well as, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, have allocated part of their work to demand the detainees. Even the Red Cross organizations inside the Syrian lands have been contacted by the families of many detainees, where they have documented the arrest cases, the families also wrote letters to reassure their sons, while the organization promised to seek knowledge of their whereabouts, deliver the letters, reassure the families and stressed their consistent effort in getting the Syrian regime’s approvals to visit the security branches and take care of the detainees there.
Jailers document as well
In a new process of documentation, a personal photograph of the detained is taken once entering the branch or prison, whether it be civil or military, to be included in a file carrying his name, with details of his family, work and many others. Even those who do not carry an identity card, they issue a personal details document for him, once arrived to a civil prison, they also take a photo to attach on a personal identity card that is given to the family to show every time they visit.
You find lists of prisoners who have been transferred to the Court of terrorism, which you have access to, you can also inquire about their charges, duration of imprisonment, visiting them and hire a lawyer for them, all of this through Justice Palace and the military judiciary, without having access to the confidential records of the Field Court.
Families inquire about the detainees through the military police’s records and documents in Qaboun. They face 4 possibilities; either telling them that their son is at one of the security branches without naming the branch, he has been transferred to Saydnaya or Adra or any other prison, be it civil or military, that is if they were allowed to visit him, while the third option is the absence of any data about the responsible for him and the last possibility is directing the family to the death records, where they receive a paper by which they are directed to the military hospital to receive the prisoner’s identity and a death certificate, since the detainee is no more than a figure that enters the records, with no assertion to families about the veracity or the falsehood of these records, as more families are now doubting the credibility of the death record, and that they only give families death certificates in order to intimidate them and decrease the pressure over the government’s institutions of the families inquiring about their sons, without evidence to validate the families’ doubts or the government’s records again.
Documents asserting the regime’s committing crimes against the detainees
According to Violations Documentation Center in Syria, “one of the agents who served for 13 years in the military police force of Assad’s regime, was able to, along with a number of his colleagues, take 55 thousand pictures of 11 thousand systematic torture-to-death cases that the regime forces have committed over 2 years against their detainees.”
After examination, the documents showed that the victims were tortured while hand-cuffed and leg-cuffed, with some cases of deliberate strangling using wires or ropes, while in other cases, some victims lost their lives after strangling them with a vehicle’s “belt”, not to mention using starvation as a method of torture.
A team of lawyers in London, specialized in International justice and investigating war crimes previously in Sierra Leone and Yugoslavia, has issued a report of 31 page, which was published by the CNN, upon which a committee consisting of globally famous International expertise, who have formerly worked in investigating committees of the United Nations regarding similar cases, has decided that the mentioned documents constitute “strong evidence” to condemn Assad’s regime of committing “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes”, yet, after these documents and condemnations, has any of the detainees been released? Or their dead bodies at worst case?
Rudaina, a detained activist’s wife, says that the Syrian Revolution’s stand, despite the media’s attention to rescue the detainees and the kidnapped throughout the revolution, “is still yet poor in face of a terrible international silence.”
In the corridors of Prisons Literature
“Who was the first prisoner in history? Who invented prison? How did the first prison look like? Is there a prisoner in this whole world, at all the times, in all of the prisons, that spent one year or more in prison, then went out he was…himself?”
“All rights are reserved…yet not the rights of the prison because they are for everyone”
“The most dangerous thing in prison is to lose your self-respect, because then your neck will be at the hand of your jailer and you will accept the slap in the face of dignity as a kiss on the cheek of content”
“Yes, our spirits were at rock bottom, and the most precious wish we had was to die a sudden death that would spare us the horrors of the long and slow dying when the prisoner turns to a decomposed corpse hastily torn by mosquitoes, flies and countless kinds of flying and creeping insects.”
All that has been mentioned is not solicitation of anyone’s emotions, nor is it an appeal for anyone’s humanity, it is only naming some of what detainees suffer in prisons, what writings and letters we have received from them and what we have read in their books and literature, you are to remember what has been already written in this context, for example, but is not limited to these; “Ah ya Watan” by Fadel Al-Sebai, “You Are Not Alone , A New Dance, At the court of the Heart, Ḥamamah muṭliqat al-janaḥayn (Dove in Free Flight), Asian Recitals, Betrayals of Language and silence, My Isolation in the Syrian Intelligence prisons, Exiting the Cave” by Faraj Bayrakdar, “Nahnahat, Blue Waer, The Smell of Heavy steps” by Ibrahim Samuel, novels of “Ghobar AlTal’ (Pollen), Bakaya min Zaman Babel (The remnants of the time of Babylon), Mawt Moshtaha (Desired Death)” by Imad Shiha, Marwan Hadid’s divan, the divan of Yahya Al-Haj Yahya “”Hymns on the walls of the Palmyra”, the two novels by Hasiba Abdul Rahman; “Chrysalis” and “Inadvertently Omitted”, “Moving to the Unknown” by Aram Karbeet, “memories from Hell” by Ali Abu El-Duhn, “Vehicle of Humiliation” by Hussam El-Deen Khadour, “Testimony in order not to repeat the Crime” by Bader El-Deen Shanan, “Hearing its Hissing” by Ayman Al-Atoom, the novel of “Losing” by Louai Hussein, the two novels of “Clay” and “A Child from Heaven” by Samar Yazbek, “Palmyra…A witness and a proof” and “Diary of a Prisoner in Assad’s prisons” by Salim Hammad, “Eye on the Ship” by May Hafez, the two latter ones are both Palestinians who experienced the horrors of the Syrian prisons. Also, “Because they said No” by Mohammad Adel Fares, “Dizziness of Freedom” by Malek Daghstani, a short story by Mahmoud Tarjouman entitled “the Story of the Detained Man”, the book “Only Five Minutes, and Nine Years in Syrian Prisons” by Hiba Dabbagh, the book “At the Bottom” by Khaled Fadel, “Solitary – Snooper’s Diary” Mustafa Khalifa, “Negative” by Rosa Yaseen Hasan, “A river as it is supposed to be” by Manhal As-Sarraj, “No Knives in the Kitchens of this City” by Khaled Khalifeh, “Palmyra to Harvard…the Journey of a Prisoner of no opinion” by Baraa’ As-Sarraj, “What you don’t see, the Green comers, full stop, the investigation is over” by Salim Abdul Kader Zanjeer, “Salvation for you Guys, 16 Years in Syrian Prisons” by Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, “At the Bottom…2 Years in Palmyra’s Desert Prison” by Khaled Fadel, “Night steps” by Mohammad Hasnawi, “Banana Fingers” by Ghassan Al-Jibai, in addition to poetry, short stories and articles that are published through the social network, as well as, produced films, press interviews and many others that tell the tragedy of the Syrian prisons, and what happens there, where death comes from all sides.