Syrian regime torture can’t steal hopes of ex-prisoner

Sat, 29 Jun 2019 13:36 GMT
Syrian mother believes in brighter future for country, despite witnessing cruel torture methods, death during incarceration A woman formerly jailed by the Syrian regime continues to hold on to the hope of a free Syria, despite the human rights violations...
Syrian regime torture can’t steal hopes of ex-prisoner

Syrian mother believes in brighter future for country, despite witnessing cruel torture methods, death during incarceration

A woman formerly jailed by the Syrian regime continues to hold on to the hope of a free Syria, despite the human rights violations and abuse she was exposed to.

Pregnant with her third child, Wafaa Najeeb recalled the inhumane torture methods and cruelties she witnessed during her imprisonment at several detention centers in an interview with Anadolu Agency.

Najeeb was first arrested in August 2012 at an Assad regime checkpoint in the Damascus countryside.

"During that time, I was working with aid organizations to help those migrating. The region I was living in was under siege during that time. Only civilians were able to enter and exit. I did not know I was on the Assad regime’s wanted list," she said.

As Assad regime soldiers were pointing guns at her and the others in the vehicle they were in, Najeeb -- together with the driver and a female friend -- got out.

They were arrested without being informed of anything and brought to the Yarmouk police station, where Najeeb found out that she was suspected of carrying out a terrorist operation against the state, kidnapping, killing and wounding others.

Her siblings had already been arrested months ago.

"Their goal was to arrest my entire family, all on terror charges."

Najeeb's ordeal began that day, when she entered an interrogation room for the first time in her life.

"[Later] I was transferred to the military intelligence center named 224. It all started again, the questioning, but I couldn’t speak out of fear. My silence made them hurt me more," she said.


- 'Rotten corpses'


Najeeb was later transferred to intelligence center 227 in the Kefer Susa region of the Syrian capital Damascus, where she remained for 65 days.

"Here we would be hit with chains every day," the 27-year-old said, in a tiny cell she shared with 10 others. Describing her stay there as the “most severe time”, Najeeb discussed the cruel torture the inmates were exposed to.

"I can’t forget those days. The smell of blood, people dying in front of me. They would shock [inmates] using electric chairs, pull out their nails," she said.

"I had reached the point of losing my mind because of the violence I saw. The sounds I heard when we were in the cells still ring in my ears. Blood would enter the cells we stayed in," she said.

"They would torture people until they would scream 'Assad is the greatest' instead of 'Allah is the greatest'.”

"The rotten corpses and the worms on them that I saw when they took me out of the cell to transfer me were signs of the cruelties that were committed," she said.

Forced to eat rice and bread where the toilets were, Najeeb said the conditions for men were even worse, as they were sleep-deprived and did not even receive any food.

"What we've been through will affect us throughout our lives. Many people lose their memory. When I returned to my family, I didn't recognize my mother. I didn't remember anything," she said.

At the end of 65 days of intensive torture, Najeeb was transferred to intelligence center 215.

"There, I spend 75 days before I was transferred to Adra prison, one of the most well-known prisons in Syria," she said.


- Two years in Adra


''In Adra prison, there were the Assad regime commanders Samir and Hammadi, we -- about 350 women, from young to old in the prison -- would be very afraid of them. They would swear and beat and torture [us]," she said.

Noting there was no medical treatment in the prison, Najeeb said she also witnessed a woman dying of a heart attack as nobody intervened.

"One of the things we encountered most in prison was rape. The Assad regime soldiers were doing it on purpose. In this way, they were trying to break the pride of our men, weaken them and make them lose their spirituality," she said.

She said many women died in prison without their families being informed, while there were also a number of births.

"No matter what they do, we will not give up on our cause because the Assad regime are neither suitable leaders for us nor for the next generation. If we can't win, the next generation will win, because we raise them to be strong," she said.

Recalling another memory, Najeeb said she saw a 45-year-old woman with burn marks.

"They gave her electric shocks for hours. Her hair, wrists and feet were burned by the electricity," she said.

Najeeb was released from Adra prison in May 2014 after staying there for two years.

"Despite the papers proving my release, I was rearrested on the second day and stayed at an intelligence center of the Assad regime security department," she said. This short arrest was only to spread more fear.


- Rearrested while pregnant


When she was released her family did not support Najeeb which is why she would stay with her friends.

"My family was never there for me, my friends were the only support I had," she said.

"About two months after I was released, I met my husband and told him about my situation. He shared the same [political] views with me and was also against the Assad regime. We got married in August 2014," she said.

After eight months of marriage, Najeeb was pregnant and was on her way to the doctor, only to be arrested again.

"During the arrest, without even considering that I was pregnant, they were beating and cursing at me while threatening me to trigger an early birth," she said.

After five days of torture at the police station, Najeeb was transferred to Adra prison -- the nightmare she endured two years before.

"There were 35 women in the cell. They were all like they turned mad. It was all dark, like a swamp,” she said. After spending 10 days there, she was released again.


- Leaving the region


Following her second release from Adra prison, the family decided to escape the region as they were afraid of further arrests.

"Taking my mother and my younger sibling with us, we were forced to migrate to northern Syria," she said, adding the journey was difficult.

Najeeb said that she found out that her father passed away, while one of her brothers died in prison, adding another brother still remains incarcerated.

"I thought humanitarian aid organizations were helping women who escaped from prison, but what I saw was they didn't even come to meet us," she said.

Najeeb said that almost all of the women entering the prison are abandoned by their families as the re-entry into society is challenging.

"Many young women fell apart due to these arrests, and the arrests still continue. There are still women who have been in prison for eight years facing torture," she said.

Najeeb said she would write down any information she would get on these women but could not take her notes with her when she had to flee.


- Aftereffects of torture


Najeeb said she has just begun to readapt to life. After her incarceration, she said that sounds -- such as door sounds -- scare her.

"I can't stay alone in a room. I always need someone with me. Even [the sound of] small insects disturb me," she said.

"We didn't see the sun for days. We didn't know which day we were in. I still don't remember some things. My memory got very weak. I wasn't like this before I was arrested," she added.

"Allah's greatest favor to me was my husband standing with me. He supported me the most.”

"As women escaping prison, we're still not free," she said, adding that living conditions in Syria are very bad.

Calling on humanitarian aid organizations, Najeeb said the women in question need to be taken care of as they are in need of financial and psychological support.

"We want a free, fearless environment where we can continue our lives, and job opportunities for our husbands who stand by us."

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