On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Syrian Regime’s Detentions Witness the Killing of More Than 60000 Detainees and The Torture of Tens of Thousands of Others
The file of torture victims and detainees, the most painful, invisible, and ignored file in the Syrian case
In the first scene, the officials will stand, the organizations will stand, those who are going to give the memory a salute will also stand, they will stand with their suits, ties, giving strong speeches, on the 26th of June.
In the second scene, humans are thrown, some of them are standing, others are hung, and others are being beaten in dark rooms that did not see the sun since it was built, the death is sneaking into the bodies of all of them in the morning of every hunger, every torture, every insult, and every hit, it sneaks when the death conspires with jailers who were taught nothing but lessons of glorifying their leader and carrying out the orders to kill, the man in this scene is “cheaper” than to be killed by a bullet, it is nothing but a way to get rid of anger for those angry people who are underground.
The third scene will include the families of who are in the second scene, of who will listen to those who are in the first scene, hoping to make a change in the reality of their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and their parents, whose bodies are being devoured by the wolves of detentions, who torn apart their present and terminate their future.
The fourth scene of all that, is an absent-present scene, fading from memory little by little, its presence is horrifying, but the conspirators against humanity are working to make it disappear, this scene is a scene of death, the scene of the victims of torture, the scene of the president’s killing of his people, the scene of the warden’s killing for the human beings, all their guilt was that they were victims in a country its rulers know no mercy, and they must kill everyone to keep the chair, and to keep the country in their grasp.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored the case of Syrian detainees being turned into pressure papers controlled by the players on the Syrian ground. The case of their release and the work towards emptying the prisons was a game of interests, manipulated by international bodies as well as local and regional parties, to use it in their negotiations and agreements, and this let-down of detainees’ case has resulted in thousands of casualties, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented 14768 civilian casualties, including 120 children under the age of eighteen and 59 woman over the age of eighteen, of who have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in the middle of March 2011, until the date of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, on the 26th of June 2018, out of 60000 detainees at least, all of them have been killed inside these branches and in Sednaya prison in more than 7 years, either as a result of direct physical torture or deprivation of food and medicine.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented more than 140000 detainees, of who are still in prisons and jails of the Syrian regime and who are suffering from extremely poor and disastrous humanitarian conditions, amid physical and psychological torture, insults and beating on a daily basis, and regarding the casualties under torture; the regime forces delivered the bodies of some of them to their relatives, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was informed by several reliable sources with that information, in addition to being informed by others that their children had died inside the detentions and that they were asked to issue a death certificate, also they forced the relatives of other casualties of who had died under torture within regime’s jails; to sign declarations that they were killed by opposition rebel groups, also the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights received information that there are a lot of cases of citizens killed under torture within regime’s detention centers, but their families and relatives didn’t declaration their death out of fear of security prosecution and arrest.
Those celebrating the international day in support of victims of torture, the international active parties, and humanitarian organizations should have been celebrating the World Day for emptying the prisons of the torture victims, detainees, and prisoners, who were arrested on the basis of their opposition positions or who expressed their opinion and disagreed with the regimes, but we see the Syrian regime in particular gives its jailers and torturers the freedom to kill, torture, and violate, as long as there are no surveillance cameras that monitor their brutality and thirst for the blood of the Syrian people, so, the Syrian Observatory joins its voice to the voices of those calling for the stop of systematic murder and torture against civilians and the arrested detainees, guaranteeing their rights and not violating them, and the stop of arresting whomever opposes the views, ideas, and positions of the governing regime in Syria especially and in the world in general, also the Syrian Observatory -after hiding away the file of the Syrian detainees completely- strongly renews its demand to reactivate the case of detainees, after being absent by parties that have made other files and categorical interests as their priority, SOHR also calls on the UN envoy, Mr. Stefan Demistura and the active international regional, and international parties and organizations to work diligently, so that the file of releasing tens of thousands of detainees and abductees becomes in the priorities of any political meeting, conference, or negotiations, and not making it just words, but instead of that planning for practical steps for the start of releasing detainees, also the SOHR urges the international community and in particular the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Security Council, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for the immediate work by pressing the Syrian regime, in order to release the prisoners who are still alive, and to work to establish a court to hold the killers murderous and those who ordered them accountable, those who have lost humanity in their hearts and consciences and killed so many Syrian citizens.
And so that this world day does not go away without shedding the light on the suffering of those who survived within the graves that the regimes establish for their people, in which they kill them either directly or slowly, after terminating the hopes of the future and shredding the body of the present; the Syrian Observatory presents a series of testimonies about the torture of detainees and killing them, testimonies by families of civilian casualties and relatives of detained people in the prisons of Bashar al-Assad, who killed tens of thousands of Syrians and wounded and displaced millions inside and outside Syria.
Testimony 1 – Homs Province:
The Martyr Thabit Mustafa al-Bakkour, who was targeted in the massacre of the Branch 215 in Damascus, from which tens of thousands of photos of detainees had come out. The Martyr Thabit Mustafa al-Bakkour was among them but he was nothing but a skin-and-bone, that’s what’s left of my Uncle Martyr, where my uncle was arrested in the first month of 2013, and that’s when we received the news from a friend, where he said that a he was arrested by the Branch 215 break-in detachment, where they came to his office at al-Mowasat Hospital in Damascus and called him specifically and said: we want you to come with us for some legal procedures and come back. He went with them, but he didn’t come back that day, we tried to find him after he entered the security branch, we searched over and over, and offered money to all officers we could find just to tell us something about him, large sums of money we were been asked, the lowest amount was $11000 US dollars, and we accepted to pay that amount if he will be gotten out of prison, we talked with senior officers who asked for an amount of $22000 US dollars to get him out of jail, and we told them that the money is ready to be delivered by a neutral third party when we receive our deceased man, we also accepted too many offers until we left the number open to the officers and the Assad’s Shabiha, but no one was telling the truth.
The days passed as we were looking for him, we learned that he was still in the same branch through a detainee who went out and sent us this information, until we revived news about he was martyred at the end of 2014 on a dark night, a security officer calls from the military hospital and says come on get your son, may he rest in peace, then a person from the family went to the hospital he was handed a piece of paper and a death certificate, no personal belongings, ID, or something, and they put the names of witnesses, later we learned that these same names were written on a huge number of death certificates from this criminal branch, just then, we knew where our martyr uncle was.
Two years later a person close to the family was arrested and entered the same branch and cell, he met with detainees they told him that here Thabit Bakkour died in this corner of the dormitory, his health was poor because every time a member comes to take him to the investigation; he was full of wounds of torture, some of them tortured him for being a Sunni Muslim from al-Houla city, that is enough reason to be killed, here we were sure that he is gone.
This is the story of the martyr Thabit Bakkour, who had a master’s degree in Shariah and graduated from the Faculty of Economics, he also studied journalism and media during the first events of the revolution and he passed away as a martyr in the prisons of the Assad’s regime
Testimony 2 – Idlib Province:
M.Z. and K.Z. went out to work in the neighboring State of Lebanon in order to earn a living on 5/2/2018, they are from Sarja town in Jabal al-Zawiyah in the countryside of Idlib, they went out of the town towards Maarrat al-Nu’man, and passed through regime’s checkpoint at the junction of Benin village in Jabal al-Zawiyah, that’s when that checkpoint stopped them and asked them for IDs, they had no names on the regime’s wanted lists, so they let them continue their way towards Maarrat al-Nu’man, and then they went to the highway of Damascus – Aleppo, and at regime’s checkpoint in Hamdiyyeh town south of Maarrat al-Nu’man, and they were stopped by the checkpoint in a Bsida village of the regime, they searched the car and people thoroughly, then they told them to go on their way, and when they arrived at a checkpoint near al-Rastan Bridge at the statue of Hafez al-Assad north of Homs city; there was a joint checkpoint of the army and the military security forces, they stopped the car and asked for IDs, in the bus there was 5 people, and an hour and a half after taking their personal IDs they asked M.Z and K.Z to get off the bus, and they blindfolded both young men, tied their hands, and beat them for half an hour, then they took them to an assembly belongs to the checkpoint and put both of them in a small pit, then they beat them on their heads with stones and the blood came out of their heads and bodies, and M.Z had 3 of his chest ribs broken due to the hard beating, then they brought embers and put them over their heads for two minutes, so both men made a very strong screams out of burn pain, after that an officer of the assembly came and said to soldiers: leave them, they may help us in something and then we finnish them, then a car belongs to the regime came and took them to Homs city, and each time they passed through a checkpoint the trunk of the car opens and they get beaten, then they took them to the security branch of the Air Defense in Homs, and when they got off the car at the door of the branch an officer asked them what’s with the blood and burns? M.Z said we have kids and we are poor, we work in Lebanon and we are going to Lebanon, then they took all of their clothes off and told them to faces the wall, then they whipped them over fifty lashes, and they fainted from the severity whipping then the members threw water at them, and took them and put them in a singular cell of 1.5 meters long by 80 cm width inside the branch, where they found 4 other prisoners, and all of them became 6 people in the cell. After putting them in that cell they heard many screams of people being tortured and beaten used by regime’s members when investigating the detainees, one hour later a man entered the cell of al-Wa’er neighborhood in Homs who is a prisoner as well, his back was burned completely, they asked him why he was tortured in that way, he told them: I was accused of murdering an officer in the al-Zahra neighbourhood in Homs city and the people of this neighbourhood are of the Alawite sect. Three days later they were transferred from security prison of the Air Defense to al-Baluni prison in the same city, and when they arrived at the new prison they asked them to take off their clothes and then beat them with a quadrilateral whip and then they put them into a dormitory contains 60 people, the food little, where every detainee is given one bread in the 24 hours and a boiled egg, and they stayed in the dormitory for 10 days within al-Baluni prison then they were transferred by buses from Homs to Aleppo, and when they arrived they took off their clothes and beat them again, and due to the severity of the torture M.Z had an enlarged kidney and swelling in his body, after that they were put in an underground dormitory of a 5 meters long and 4 meters width which contain 65 persons, and after 8 days of torture and insults they were taken from the military police prison in Aleppo to Idlib province, specifically, the military security branch, they told them that you were wanted for this branch on charges of going in demonstrations and carrying weapons against the regime and they entered them the new dormitory, and there was about 180 people in it, and it was 8 meters long and 5 meters wide, and the toilet is inside the dormitory, and the food is very little, and after 20 days M.Z was called for investigation, they brought him into a private room while he was handcuffed and his face wa covered, the investigator accused him of being a terrorist and killing members of the regime, he told them that he is just a worker in Lebanon, so the investigator told him that he is lying and hit him with an electric cable used for whipping, he stayed like that for an hour and brought him back to the dormitory without confessing anything, and in the next day they called M.Z for the investigation in the same room and asked him the same question, and without any confession, he was also beaten for an hour and then he was told to put the ink mark of his fingerprint on this paper, and while his face was covered he fingerprinted papers he doesn’t know their content, then they returned him to the dormitory, and it is customary among the prisoners that the one who fingerprints documents without a confession will be released out of jail, and the next day M.Z was called again at 1:30 pm for questioning, so they brought him to a basement under the branch, and the investigator said: I brought you a prove that you are a terrorist and carry a weapon against the regime forces, so M.Z said: as long as you have a proof, I’ll be ready for any punishment. The investigator told the members to hung him from his hands to the ceiling, if he did not confess, so they hung him more than half an hour and he screamed of pain during this period time, the detective said to him: confess so you can rest, he said: there is nothing I have to confess, but they kept torturing him, then they took him down and the investigator said: get him to the dormitory. After 5 days -it was Friday- they called the names of 60 prisoners including M.Z and K.Z, then they put them in a military vehicle and took them back to Aleppo; specifically the military police prison, and after 5 days they take them to the Baluni prison in Homs again and remained there for 3 days, then they were transferred to Damascus to the military police prison in al-Qaboun, and when they arrived to the prison they found containers contain food residue, and out of sever of hunger all the prisoners ate from the containers, 3 hours later they were transferred to the Branch 215, which is a joint security of all security branches, M.Z asked a security member where are they going, he said, “You’re wanted to the Branch 293, but there’s no place there so we took you to the Branch 215 terrorism department, and when they arrived at the branch the members of the Branch took off the clothes of detainees and beat them again within the new branch, then they shaved their heads and then they were put in the dormitory, in which there was 65 people, it is a 4 meters by 4 meters person underground with no bathroom, and they took them out twice during the day, 3:00 pm and 3:00 am for the bathroom. The body of M.Z was swollen a lot and he couldn’t breathe well and he was losing consciousness most of the times, and prisoners asked the warden for medicine; he said: let him die like dogs, and 20 days later they called M.Z for an investigation and took him with another 10 people to a room, each person has its own investigator, when they entered to be investigated they were beaten again, and due to the severity of beatings and torture M.Z was subjected to; the cover which was on his face dropped and he saw the second investigator beating another person on the head with a stick which caused the detainee to fall on the ground without any movement, so the investigator said to a member: “come and take this pig and put it between the bodies that died”, then the investigator asked M.Z: “we had information that you have given Fatwa in killing members of the security and military, and carried out detonations” he answered: “I’ve never done these operations”, he detective asked: “what do you do in Lebanon?” he answered: “I sell accessories in the streets in Beirut”. After 1.5 hours of investigation they were brought back to a dormitory other than the one they were in before, and in which there were 160 people and it was 5 meters long by 5 meters wide, and after 20 days they took him out and presented him it to the military judge in the branch, he asked them: you killed regime soldiers? they said we never did this, the judge said: we couldn’t prove any charges against you and you’ll be out soon after about 10 days. then they were transferred again to the military police in al-Qaboun, and 3 days later they were transferred again to Homs city, al-Baluni prison, after 12 days in it they were transferred to the military police and after 7 days they were brought to the individual military judge in Aleppo, and while they were going to judge a member of the regime forces told them: “whatever the judge’s question is tell him we didn’t do any of this”, the judge asked M.Z: “did you issued a fatwa or killed members of the regime?” he answered: “I didn’t do any of this”, the judge said to him “your file say you did”, he answered: “all of it lies and if there is a confession it was under torture”, and then they were taken to the central prison of Aleppo for 3 days then they were transferred to central prison of Idlib, and after 3 hours they were transferred to the military judge in the city, he asked them the same questions as the military judge in Aleppo, and they refute the charges again, then they were returned to the central prison of Idlib, where they remained for a day and then returned to the military judge again, they were giving a paper on which was written that they have been released and with no charges except for “demonstrating and insulting the president”.
Third testimony – Idlib Province:
Abu Islam Kelli works as a staff member in al-Ramosa in Aleppo, he is about 50 years old and was arrested in the 7th month of 2012 in Aleppo city in the military security branch, and he stayed for about 10 days and then he was transferred to the military police in Aleppo as a deposit for the military security in Idlib, where we met on 21/7/2012 and stayed with a group of young men of Idlib Province, we were 27 people as a deposit for the military security of Idlib, but because of opposition’s control over the road and the separation of Aleppo city from Idlib city; we stayed in the prison without anyone knowing about our condition, after several attempts of sit-ins inside the prison and sending messages to our families outside to put pressure for looking into our situation; an amnesty was issued in the 8th month of 2012 and 5 of those who were with us were pardoned while we stayed waiting for our fate, half a month later me and 2 other young men were transferred to the military security in Aleppo and remained for a month then I came out in early 2013, Abu Islam stayed with who remained inside the detention and was of who were left there was Mohammad Akash of Saraqib city, and after I got out I tried to know their fate, the communication was with a first assistant of the military police branch of Khan Shaykhun who defected shortly after and informed me that they were transferred to the Quartet Committee in Homs in the first month of 2013, and after a week of investigation Mohammad Akash and Abu Obada of Bzabur got out in addition to a lawyer from Binnish, and then a while later I was able to communicate with Mohammad Akash, with whom I spent nearly 4 months, he told me that Abu Islam died under torture in Homs and that he saw with his own eye the brutal torture against him, while he is a man in his fifties, they accused him of being the leader of an armed group. Abu Islam Kelli and Madyan Ba’bar of Ariha, and Abu Saleh Takko of Msibin they were with us, and they went with Mohammad Akash to Homs, as Abu Islam died in front of his eyes, while Madyan Abu Saleh he received the news of their death under torture; where he heard their voices screaming but he didn’t see them.
The Fourth testimony – Rif Dimashq Province, the Eastern Ghouta:
Abu Zaher al-Ghotani from a town in the Eastern Ghouta, was arrested on 2016/2/5 on charge of financing terrorism, where he was arrested from al-Maysat checkpoint in the capital Damascus and was taken to al-Khatib branch in the capital of Damascus, after being investigated on charges of financing terrorism in the Eastern Ghouta no accusation was proofed; the investigator moved to another file and he was accused that one of his sons is active in the media field on his personal account, and that he attacks the Syrian state over and over and incites the people against the forces of the Syrian Arm (the regime forces), and they threatened him that if his son did not close his personal page and stop his media activity against the Syrian state; they would finish inside the prison, then Abu Zaher sent a message via an officer inside the prison to his son to stop his activity, and after nearly a year he was released from al-Khatib branch in the capital Damascus after paying a large amount of money to one of the regime’s officers, he paid about 7 million Syrian lira and was released on 2017/3/27. Abu Zaher was subjected to some form of torture inside the detention during the preliminary investigation period; in order to confess the charge against him which was financing terrorism, but it wasn’t proved, and when the investigation file on this subject was stopped they moved to another file, which is the charge mentioned previously that one of his sons was active in the media field inciting against the Syrian state and inciting the external interference.
Testimony 5 – Daraa Province:
Tayseer Yousef al-Abdullah from Naf’aa town in the western countryside of Daraa, he was arrested on 18/12/2011 and was taken to the Branch 215 in Kafarsuseh area in Damascus, where he was subjected to very ugly torture methods by hitting his head with chains while he was handcuffed, the charge was ready according to the spies of the regime, which is inciting for demonstrations, also he was under torture for 27 days then the regime forces called his family and told them, also they checked with al-Mezzeh military hospital for taking the body and belongings. His family of a wife and 4 children became homeless after him, he was working in a small shop and was 28 years old at the time of arrest.
Testimony 6 – Idlib Province:
Muhammad Ismail al-Khani, his picture was leaked in the pictures of Caesar, and his body had the number “801954”, born in 1978 from Marshourin village in the eastern countryside of Maarrat al-Nu’man, a simple man with 4 children and 3 martyr brothers, and he is the 4th martyr among them, and Ahmad the half-brother speaks to Abu Ismail on 25/2/2012: during Mohammad’s return -or as the people call him Abu Ismail- from his usual job (selling washing sponges on the street) which was making barely enough money for his 3 children, he arrived at al-Zalaneh checkpoint which separates his village from Maarrat al-Nu’man city, the checkpoint stopped the car in which he was, and got Abu Ismail down from it to the checkpoint. According to who were with him in the car, members of the checkpoint beat and kicked him and then entered him into the checkpoint, and after one of locals who have relations within the regime forces searched and asked about him, he known that he was transferred on the same day to the prison of the Cultural Center in Maarrat al-Nu’man, and in the following day he was transferred to Idlib city, and stayed for a while in its central prison them he was transferred to Damascus.
All this time we couldn’t hear his voice or see him, all we know about him was just that he was transferred from place to another without being able to confirm the authenticity of the information, after about one year of his arrest; one of the detainees came out and confirmed to us his presence in the Branch 215 in Damascus, and that he was subjected to severe torture and told us that when Abu Ismail was taken out of the cell they took him for several hours, then they open the door and throw him into the prison with his slender body, unconscious, with bruises, burns, and blood flowing from his body, they wrap him with what they can find of their clothes, and after 10 months of last information received about Abu Ismail, a person got out of Sednaya prison and confirmed that Abu Ismail arrived at Sednaya prison about 5 months ago, he also told us that Abu Ismail was subjected to very severe torture and that he and the rest of detainees were subjected to hours of severe torture every day, but Abu Ismail was affected more because of his weak physical structure, and because of being transferred from one branch of torture to another, and he said that the feet and hands of Abu Ismail were always bleeding, and that they were the most damaged in his body due to being electric-shocked.
His brother the martyr “Mosaab”, one of the first rebels in the area, he was killed also under torture on 5/2/2012, Mosaab was arrested for 4 hours then he returned as a dead body to his relatives, and according to the person who was looking for Abu Ismail, Mosaab is the reason for Abu Ismail’s arrest, but the day of Abu Ismail’s arrest was the 20th day after the death of Mosaab. Many attempts to search for Abu Ismail and a lot of money was paid to hear Abu Ismail’s voice or to see him or it find one information about him, also Abu Ismail’s family is a poor family who didn’t have money for their food some times, but the help of some people and debts that piled up on the family, also we collected some money to try to search for Abu Ismail and get him out, because several detainees had gotten out by paying money to brokers who had relations and dealt with the regime, where a broker leads us to another broker after being paid 150000 Syrian pounds, and then the second to broker led us to another broker with greater dealings after receiving 250000 Syrian pounds, and then the third one got 300000 Syrian pounds, until we reached the final broker and paid 90000 Syrian pounds to him, the last was one of Brigadier Generals of the Military Security, and he was responsible for releasing the detainees in exchange for sums of money, the Brigadier General requested 3 million Syrian pounds, he said he will pay 2 million Syrian pounds as a bribe for the prison directors and officers to know the fate and whereabouts of Abu Ismail, and he will take 1 million Syrian lira in exchange of releasing Mohammad. After about 20 days in mid-2014 and after more than 2 years after arresting Abu Ismail, the office of the General told us that he found Abu Ismail alive in one of the prisons of Damascus, and that we should pay some of the money in order for the procedures of releasing Abu Ismail to begin, we agreed to pay the money ten days by transferring it to Hama or taking the money to Hama and delivering it by hand.
4 days after the deal, a bunch of the Caesar pictures were leaked, I didn’t think to look at the pictures, why would I need to do so while Abu Ismail is alive and will get out after a while? but a big shock hit my father when Abu Ismail’s image spread among people of the village, who recognized him among thousands of leaked pictures.
We never doubted that the picture was for another person other than himself, the same features, the many facial moles, his hair and face, his features have not changed despite the torture he was subjected to, we were in pain due to the death of Abu Ismail, who left his children and wife behind. The picture was useful for us although we were shocked with it, and we were going to pay 3 million Syrian Lira hoping that Abu Ismail will get out, but he was already killed a while ago.