The chilling, frightening, inhuman scale of state-sponsored torture under the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was revealed today.
“Torture Archipelago: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture and Enforced Disappearances in Syria’s Underground Prisons since March 2011″ (pdf), published by Human Rights Watch, documents in detail the abuses of the Assad regime since the beginning of anti-government demonstrations more than a year ago, including eyewitness accounts of people who witnessed or experienced torture in ‘detention facilities’ aka torture chambers (see Map 1 below).
“The guards hung me by my wrists from the ceiling for eight days. After a few days of hanging, being denied sleep, it felt like my brain stopped working. I was imagining things. My feet got swollen on the third day. I felt pain that I have never felt in my entire life. It was excruciating. I screamed that I needed to go to a hospital, but the guards just laughed at me.”
- Elias, tortured by Branch 285 of the Department of General Intelligence in Damascus
“They forced me to undress. Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. The staples in the ears were the most painful. They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks.
“They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again. They tortured me like this three times over three days.”
- 31-year-old detainee tortured by the intelligence agencies in Idlib Central Prison
“Then they took me to a torture room, to give me electric shocks. They beat me with a whip and electrocuted my toes. I didn’t confess to anything. If you don’t answer a question they shock you. It was like this for six hours every day. On the eleventh day there was a new interrogator who placed me on the ground, tied my hands, and beat me. He had a whip. My eyes were blindfolded. He was sitting on a chair and I was under him. He beat me with the metal whip on the bottom of my feet and on my thighs, and also above…
“He pulled me by my toes. I thought, I’ve reached the end. He pulled my beard with pliers, pulled my nails. Half of the nail is still gone. Then they took me and hung be in the shabeh position from the door for six or seven hours. They threatened to bring my mom and my younger brothers. I didn’t confess to anything except for going to demonstrations.”
- Tarik, tortured by the General Intelligence Branch in Idlib
“They used electricity on me in places I can’t talk about. They did it more than once. This was in the interrogation room. Every day there was an interrogation. Their questions were based on my answers. They wanted me to work with them but I refused and that’s when they used the electricity.”
- Malik, 28, tortured in Latakia
“They asked me why I protested, what did I want. I didn’t tell them anything. An officer ordered a soldier to give me electric shocks. They sat me down. I was still blindfolded, but I could see under the blindfold that they put a clip on my left big toe. I then lost consciousness immediately.”
- Firas, 27, tortured by Branch 285, Damascus
“All night and day we heard the sounds from men being tortured. One person who helped organizing protests was forced to stand on his knees the entire time in the prison cell. During the investigation they threatened me that they would strip my clothes off and torture me with the dulab. We didn’t know what time it was so we couldn’t know when prayer time was. We couldn’t sleep because of the sounds of torture. The other girl with us in the prison cell told me that they slapped her several times and kicked her in the stomach.”
- Marwa, 25, tortured by Al-Khattib Branch, Damascus
“We detained men there and some children aged 13 and older. I myself probably arrested 40 children who attended demonstrations. There were maybe 1,500 detainees there, coming and going. They would torture with electricity.
“They would tie someone on an all-metal military bed and electrocute the bed or put water on the floor and make the person lie on top of it and use the electricity.”
- Fakhri, 24, former Branch 285 agent who defected
“They kicked us with their boots and knocked out several of my teeth. They placed us in single cells and then took us out for hours at the time to beat us. With the unmarried guys they made them strip and beat them on their private parts. After about three days they put us in cells, seven people in each. We were all naked, so when they came back we could see that they were beaten and they were crying and peeing blood.
“The cell was located four flights of stairs underground. It was cold and wet. The food was a piece of bread with some yoghurt. We stayed in that cell for five days, naked all the time. They interrogated me four times. Every time they tortured me, with punches, kicks, and hitting me with cables. They put me in a tire. They wanted me to confess to carrying arms and being a member of armed gangs.”
- Ghalib, tortured by Latakia Branch
“After seven days, they moved me into solidarity confinement. The next day they put me in the tire. They put both legs in the tire and then they push my head inside the tire. I didn’t confess so they put me three times on the electricity chair. They would torture me and put be back in the cell.”
- Ziad, 25, tortured by Homs Branch
“He took me to the corridor, tied me to the door, and started giving me electric shocks. I couldn’t tell what they used to give me the shocks. I stayed there for an hour. They gave me shocks about every five minutes, each one lasting for a few seconds. My head was just hanging. I couldn’t hold it up. I passed out, but then they poured cold water on me.
“When they released my hands I fell on my face. I couldn’t stand up so they started kicking me. I ended up crawling back into the interrogation room. The interrogator asked me whether I still thought of the dead as martyrs. I answered that I didn’t anymore and that they are just dead persons.”
- Abdallah, tortured by Idlib branch
“One of the detainees in our cell was taken out for interrogation because they found the name of an activist on his phone. They tortured him with the flying carpet and beat him with cables. They electrocuted him six or seven times on different parts of his body. He was unconscious when they brought him back to the room. He was peeing blood for three days. When we were released he still stayed in the prison.”
- Jalal, tortured by Idlib branch
“They took us one floor underground and started beating us with cables and electric sticks. They put us on a rack device. They kept beating and insulting us until eight o’clock in the morning. My body was all black from beatings.”
- Sultan, tortured by Idlib branch
“Some had black spots from electrocution. Some couldn’t walk to the bathroom on their own. Some who had written slogans had their hands burned with cigarettes. My hands were burned as well. I eventually confessed, but was then beaten again for the crimes that I confessed to.”
- Farid, tortured by the Political Security Directorate, Damascus
“The guard brought two electric prongs. He put one in my mouth, on my tooth. Then he started turning it on and off quickly. He did this seven or eight times. I thought, this is it. I am not going to leave this branch. Then they started asking, “Will you confess now?” I said I had nothing to confess to. They removed the electricity from my tooth and put it on my knees. Here they used the electricity the longest. It is still marked. They would put it on for a long time and then take it off.
“They started torturing me here (gesturing toward his genitalia) [with the electricity]. They were also beating me and there was a guard behind me turning the electricity on. I passed out. They were beating me and shocking me. The interrogator was beating me with a cable over my whole body. I still didn’t have any clothes on… They asked me every thirty minutes if I would confess. I said no.
“At a point they said “We will kill you,” and I said, “Ok, ok. Kill me. Death is better than the torture you are putting me through.” When he shocks you the electricity hits your whole body. I was there for hours. They had to carry me on a mattress to the cell. I couldn’t walk after that.”
- Salim, tortured by Latakia Branch
“They hit the bottoms of my feet with a stick. There was a thick belt tied around my legs so that I couldn’t move them. I was lying with my face on the ground and my feet up. There were two people beating me with a silicon stick. One was standing on my neck. You prefer death. You hope to die. The entire time I was in detention my family knew nothing about me. They didn’t know whether I was dead or alive.”
- Fadi, tortured by Latakia Branch
“They hung me up in the shabeh position three times. The first time I was hanging for eight hours, handcuffed to the wall and pulled up. After a while I lost consciousness. The two other times they hung me for two to three hours. They hit us with electric prods and cable wires. They also threw acid from a car battery on my leg. They made me lay down, handcuffed to the table. Then they would bring the feet to my face and beat the soles of my feet.
“They also used the tire method. They forced my feet, hands, and head through the tire, they flipped me on the back and beat the soles of my feet. They also handcuffed my hands under the knee and used a stick to hang me up between two beds. They kept me like this for one or two hours, once or twice a day for four days.”
- Zakhya, 48, tortured by the Air Force Intelligence Directorate, Mezzeh Airport Branch, Damascus
“They used electric stun-guns and an electroshock machine, an electric current transformer. It is a small machine with two wires with clips that they attach to nipples and a knob that regulates the current. In addition, they put people in coffins and threatened to kill them and close the coffin. People were wearing underwear. They pour hot water on people and then whip them. I’ve also seen drills there, but I’ve never seen them being used.
“I’ve also seen them using martial arts moves, like breaking ribs with a knee kick. They put pins under your feet and hit you so that you step on them. I also heard them threatening to cut off the detainees’ penises.”
- Rami, former officer at Mezzeh, detained there, now defected
“In the morning on the second day they brought me up, blindfolded, to torture me. There were a lot of them, perhaps 10 people, hitting me in the face, stomach, and legs. They used the balanco method on me – it is like a chain that they hang meat on. They raised me from my legs so that all my weight was on my hands and legs. The cable cut off my circulation. There is a wooden beam in the ceiling and they hung me from it with just my toes touching the floor. This was the hardest torture, worse than electricity.”
- Munir, tortured by Homs branch
“It was the same routine as the first time, but this time they used a different torture method, the shabeh, hanging by the wrists from the ceiling, while being beaten by cables, batons, and electric batons. There were other people hanging next to me, maybe four or five. They beat me until I fainted or passed out. It hurts to the point when you can’t feel it anymore. They tested it out by putting out a cigarette on me. If you can’t feel it, they stop because there is no point in beating you further.”
- Fawzi, tortured by Aleppo branch
“When we arrived they started punching, kicking, and beating us with cables. The next morning they started interrogating us. We received no food for four days. They brought water only on the third day. Those asking for food were beaten. On the fifth day it was my turn to be interrogated. They took me to a different room and started reading the statement from Idlib. When I said that they had forced me to confess about the Kalashnikov somebody handcuffed me to a pipe below the ceiling.
“This was around 2 p.m. I could just barely reach the floor with my toes. The next day a kind guard loosened the hand-cuffs a bit so I could stand on my feet. I was kept like this for three days. I was not even allowed to go to the toilet.”
- Khalil, 31 tortured by Branch 215
“They brought me down to where the cells are and put me in a room that measured 2 by 1.5 meters. The ceiling was not high. They left me there by myself. I stayed in this cell the whole time I was detained. The cell had every kind of filth, cockroaches, fleas, the smell of dirt and mold. There was no toilet. There was just an old large Pepsi bottle filled with urine.
“On the floor there was a flimsy mattress with an unreal smell… There was no light and [when I entered] no food and no water. [You would] hear the sound of torture, beatings, people being sworn at, humiliated, it was routine. They let you go to the toilet two times a day. You just took your Pepsi bottle and emptied it and there was another bottle for water, which you filled.
“There was no showering and no soap. For 61 days I did not shower once. After a while, you get used to it.”
- Samir, tortured by Branch 235
“One guy had diabetes. We kept telling the guards to get him medical care, but they would just take him out and beat him up. For a week he couldn’t eat or stand up. We had to carry him to the bathroom. And then he went into diabetic shock. He said his prayers and then he just died.”
- Jalal, tortured in Idlib Central Prison
“They wrapped wires around my penis and turned on the electricity. I could just hear it buzzing. They did this maybe five times for about 10 seconds. I passed out. When I regained consciousness they were pushing my legs and hands into a tire. My entire body was blue from beatings.”
- Amer, 23, tortured by the Political Security Branch in Latakia
Below is a video of the torture methods:
• Syria: Assad’s forces “using rape as a weapon” 29 May 2012
• Syria: Massacre of the innocents 27 May 2012
• Syria: When will the West act? 2 Jan 2012
This is the reality of life in Assad’s Syria. It will only end when his rule ends. Until the West acts his regime will continue to torture and torture and torture.