Although arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance are common features of all repressive regimes, detention in Syria is worse than it is in other countries. This article takes a closer look at the meaning of the term ‘detainee’ in Syria.
All are Potential Victims
Arrests and enforced disappearances in Syria are a threat to all segments of Syrian society and its various social, economic categories, and not just political groups. The regime arrests children and the elderly, the healthy and the sick, women and men, arrests those who disagree with it in their political views and opinions and arrests those who have no orientation. It also arrests loyalists whose loyalty is in doubt or who show sympathy with the other whoever they are. It arrests pregnant women and infants. Therefore, the word “detainee” in Syria does not necessarily mean prisoners of conscience or political prisoners, but it also includes all those arrested on the background of the events of the revolution including civilians and even military personnel.
Disappearance not Detention
When you are detained in Syria, it means that you are stealthily uprooted from your life, without any legal justification or arrest warrant, and your name is replaced with a number so that not even your cellmates know you. You live with other detainees in total isolation of what is happening beyond the walls of your place of detention. No matter how much your family tries to search and ask about you, they will not get an answer. They may be intimidated and terrorized or even arrested if they try to ask about you.
Worse than Death
Syrians prefer to be killed before they enter security centres. Their families wish the same because the Assad regime made detention more difficult than death itself. It has been engraved in Syrian consciousness that the pain of martyrdom and departure of the martyr is felt only once and you have the luxury that your family knows where your grave is. The family of the detainee, on the other hand, does not know whether he is alive or dead. If he died or was killed, they are given a paper (certificate of death) without a known grave, and his family does not even have the luxury of observing a funeral.
At the mercy of the torturer
There are no rights for the detainees, even basic needs of any human being are denied them. Food and drink are merely given in small amounts as the torturer wishes. There is no medical care, no right to speak; even going to the bathroom is decided by the torturer. The torturer can do whatever as he pleases; he rapes his victims, beats them, deprives them of sleep and speech and humiliates them. He even has the freedom to kill them, torture them to death and by all means he pleases. The Syrian law even gives prison guards or intelligence agents legal immunity.
Judiciary without Justice
The detainee’s family cannot appoint a lawyer if he is detained in one of the security centers, not even to ask about him. The detainee cannot appoint a lawyer if he is detained for trial before military field courts. In the meanwhile, the lawyer’s job in cases before the court of terrorism is merely to file release requests without having access to the detainee’s file. The detainee is tried on the basis of the security statement fabricated by the intelligence services and taken under torture.
Prisons and torturers know no limits
Places of detention are not restricted to known prisons, any public or private establishment may be transformed into a detention center: sports facilities, university rooms, schools, military units, public parks …etc. Any party that is loyal to the regime or holds a public office can become a torturer: syndicates, labor, farmer and student unions and others have been armed and given powers to arrest at will. It is even possible that your colleague at university turns into your torturer who could arrest and torture you on campus where you both study and then hands you over to the intelligence services.
Disease a ticket to death:
Being sick in prison or detention center means that you are condemned to death. Doctors and nurses in all detention centers are worse than jailers and torturers. Hospitals and health centers have been turned by the regime into human slaughterhouses and places to murder detainees. The name of a hospital like Hospital 601 or Tishrin Military Hospital has become so terrifying for detainees that they prefer their cells to those slaughterhouses.
The word “detainee” in Syria includes even greater suffering, humiliation and oppression beyond human endurance. The above is a glimpse of the suffering and the stories told by the few survivors from the hell of detention centers.