Justice for Life organization interviewed the witness Amer Al Mohammad, who narrated his detention Story in the prisons of the Syrian government.
Amer talked about the details of detention, torture, and threats that he received along with the quid pro quo by the Syrian security officers to be released.
The Syrian authorities aims by accusing arbitrarily their opposition at quell any deed, word, or opinion that demands change in Syria. The charges against opposition is ready and the only thing remained to those authorities is to seek for detainees to give these charges to them. Sometime there were two contradictive charges against the same detainee. This what happened to Amer Al Mohammad, who was detained three times and spent thirty-three years in the prisons of Assad, the father and the son.
Hundreds of Syrian families were recently informed of their detained relative death in the prisons of the Syrian Security Apparatuses as the latter claim the reasons behind death were of mere sickness.
The Syrian authorities do not hand over the bodies of the victims to their relatives, nor telling them about burying places. They also forces them to accept the claimed death reasons under penalty of sanction.
The testimony of Mr. Amer Al Mohammad confirms that torture in the Syrian jails, or even the jails supervised by Syrian Security Apparatuses in Lebanon, is an adopted method that often leads to death. Additionally, the conditions of the Syrian jails are dire in terms of space, availability of ventilation, food, water, and healthcare that lead to death of many detainees and result in diseases.
More Than One Detention:
The First Detention:
In February 1980, Amer was arrested for the first time by the Military Security, Guerilla Police Branch, which was located in Al Adawi street, Damascus. It was affiliated to the so-called Palestine Branch, the military security apparatus.
Amer says “When I was arrested for the first time, I was coming from Lebanon to Syria, through the road of Deir Al Ashayer, Maysaloun valley, in a mission by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). I was taken to Al Maysat square in Damascus, I remained there for two months and a half, then I was taken to Palestine branch for two months. I was tortured by the “Magic Carpet” and the tires, but at low level relatively”.
Amer continues saying “Then, I was moved to the Military Security Branch in Aleppo, I remained there for forty-five days. I was tortured by electricity, magic carpet, and the chair by the charge of being working with Muslim Brotherhood group, despite that I admitted that I was a communist and working for the PLO and had no ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. Then, I was moved to the old district branch in Damascus where I remained and completed one year”.
“I was released with five hundred members of the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the fact that I was arrested for being a part of this group. We exited the security building, and I was handed over to the court by the charge of crossing the line. I paid 400 SYP” Amer says.
The Second Detention:
Syrian Security members arrested Amer in 1983 after being injured in his back in Tripoli battle, in Lebanon, that was between fighters of the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and the fighters of the Democracy Party, which was led by Ali Eid.
Amer says “After I was injured in Tripoli, They took me to a hospital in Izgarta, I remained under lock and key as I was arrested as a Syrian-Palestinian citizen. I remained for eleven days, then I was moved to Syrian. However, I fled the hospital with support of one of the members of special forces and a Christian Lebanese nurse. I was taken to a hospital in Akkar, then to Ain Al Hilwa, Sabra and Shateela camps, Burj Al Barajneh, andAl Rushdeyya. I worked for the PLO, and primarily against the Syrian regime”.
The third Detention:
In 1986, Amer was injured in a battle against Hezbollah in Maghdousha. He was moved to the Dr. Ghassan Hammoud hospital in Saida. Amer says “I was observed to be arrested. I could not move and I remained in the hospital until I get another passport with different name. However, the injury in my face was prominent and I was not able to lurk or disguise”.
“ I was moved to Al Hamshari hospital in Saida, an ambush was made by the Nasserite People group, and another one was made by AMAL movement and Hezbollah to arrest me. The first ambush was successful. They delivered me to the Syrian security office, which is located on the coast road between the river and Al Rummaila. This office was headed by colonel Ziad, who was in charge of security in the south”.
Moving between Prisons and Detention Centers and the Ways of Torture:
The logical goal of torturing the detainees was to take information from them, and in case the information is given, torturing should stop as there is no meaning for it except pleasure, sadism, and victimization, which are aimed by the Syrian security apparatuses. Torturing on the muscles and shoulders was aiming at preventing the body from moving.
Amer says “ The torture startedin Al Rummaila detention center by Abo Ali, Kenan, who was a staff sergeant and close person to Ghazi Kenaan, the late minister of the interior. My sickness and injury were not excuses not to be beaten and tortured. Beating was on the wounds by iron ½ inch pipes. The beating was on my shoulders and muscles in addition to the magic carpet and the tire”.
Expressive Picture of Torturing Detainees with Tire, which is Used in Syrian Prisons
“ After they delivered me to Beirut security department, which was headed by Colonel Ali Haj Hammoud, I remained for 45 days in Beau Rivage Hotel in the western Beirut, which is a Syrian security center in Beirut, and among the detainees, there were Muslim and Christian Lebanese, Palestinians and other nationals.” Amer adds.
He continues “ The torture was unbearable; tire, magic carpet, hanging, electricity, Russian chair, starvation, and depriving from medicine, visits, and sleeping. The solitary confinement cells were too small, the prison was dark and dirty. There was no bathroom. In this prison, two people died under torture, one of them was Palestinian, and the other one was Christian from Al Sharqia in Beirut. There were many women, the majority of them was Palestinian. The persons who were torturing us were Amir Tallah, lieutenant Abo Ali, and lieutenant Wajeeh”.
Expressive Picture of Hanging Detainees
Moving from place to another continued as Amer was moved to Al Biqa’a area, specifically Anjar. He met an investigation committee comprising Ghazi Kenaan, Colonel Aref Adnan Balloulou, Deputy of Ghazi Kenaan, Lieutenant-Colonel Dirgham Yusnus, who was the military security official in security apparatus in Lebanon. He was moved to Al Bassal Factory in Anjar prison, which was headed by The Prophet Yunus as he was called, the Lieutenant Yusuf Al Abd, who became the head of one of the security investigation branches in Syria later. The real torture was in that prison and he remained for three months.
Amer narrates “The Lieutenant Yusuf Al Abd received me as he caught me from my throat, raised by my body with one hand, then he punched me and hanged me for one day. Sometimes they were preventing us from going to the restroom for two days. The purpose of torturing was to make us admit one of the charges, whether the detainee was Lebanese, Palestinian, or Syrian”.
The charges were ready such as being affiliated to Muslim Brotherhood group, Iraqi right-wing Baath, “ The deviant Arafati right-wing”- The sentences were between execution and prison for at least three years- Islamist Tawheed Movement, Phalangist, Lebanese forces, and communist labor association. Whereas the charges of spying for Israel or NATO were not a reason for torture as they were called five-star charges.
Amer says “I was charged by being affiliated to PLO and fighting the Syrian army and providing assistance to the Syrian opposition. As the investigation file closed, the food quality was enhanced and I became able to go to restroom in order to show that I admitted with my own will and I was not tortured”.
Then, Amer was moved to the branch 225, which was headed by colonel Fouad Nassif, then to the district branch in Damascus, which was headed by Colonel Bekhetyar. I remained there for three months. The torture was just like the previous one. Amer continues “ In the solitary cell, I tasted the severest types of torture, they were beating me with a thick cable with a rate of 150 times per day. Mohammad Wais al Rifae from Deir Ezzor was with us, who was called the hero of chairs as he had a record of chairs that were broken on him, more than 130 chairs. Thenm he was prisoned in Palmyra prison for twenty years”.
Then, Amer was moved to Palestine branch in 1987, where colonel Madhar Fares was in charge of the branch. He received the same level of torture, but the psychological torture was more extensive. Amer says “ I met Reyad Al turk, and the brother of the pilot Bassam Al Adel, who fled to Israel. His brother was taken as a hostage. I met women and girls from Suwaida and Jaramana. They were accused of being affiliated to the Red Star / Communists Association. they were harshly tortured.
The series of moving the detainees did not stop. It makes you think that Syria , the country of long history, has no places but detention centers and prisons. Amer was moved to the headquarter prison for one week, where he met a committee of officials. He says “I met Lieutenant general Hikmat Al Shihabi, Ali Douba, and Brigadier general Hasan Khalil and Bahjat Sulieman and others. I was moved to Al Qaboun, then to the Syrian Factory area, where there was a military barracks called the court of the second brigade, then to Al Mazza military prison for many months. Then, the last destination was Palmyra prison, where it was the pure hell”.
Within thirty-three years in the Syrian prisons, Amer received different types of physical and psychological torture and insulting, but the harshest one against the human dignity was in Palmyra prison. Amer narrates “the detective stepped on my face and teeth and smashed it. My face was bleeding. I asked him for medicine. He asked me about the place of my wound. He ordered the shift members to open my mouth and pissed inside it”.
Amer describes the situation in Palmyra prison “ There were two persons in a solitary cell. Beating the detainees was a daily behavior. When they were pushed us out of the cells, they were beating us. When we go to take the food, we were beaten by big keys on our heads or shoulders. The solitary cells were wet, cold, and dirty. It was the perfect environment for scabies, lice, and tuberculosis. They were providing us with seven eggs for each sixty people. The space for sleeping was 40cm -170cm. we were forced to sleep blindfolded. We were observed throughout a hole in the roof in order not be trained on Karate or memorizing Quran”.
When detainees are released by specific bargains, it is for enhancing its public image before the Syrian society and the international community. However, it was usually failing. Amer says “ On September 29th 2013, I was released based on a visit of medical committee. I was in the police hospital in Harasta. My name was with Anwar Malek, the medical committee member of the Arab Observers Team. Malek submitted my name to the civil and military courts. Since the regime president release amnesties, including for the detainees who suffer from terminal illnesses, the committee said that I will not live for more than six months. The head of the police hospital said “ let him die in his house in order not to be considered as a hero, icon, or demanded by the UN”.
Amer continues “ I was moved to a flat in al Mazza neighborhood under house arrest for giving me advices. The dean of law faculty, Kinda Shammat, who became the minister of labor, Fawzi Al Shuaibi, head of political sciences, Hana Al Saleh, the Al Dunya TV presenter, along with an officer in the republican guard asked me to show up on a public channel to express my gratitude to the Syrian president and express my regret in order to give me passport to travel to any country I wish along with a visa, or flat with car, or a shop in Damascus. One of these offers was in return to show up for at least five minutes, but I refused all of them”.