Syria: Detained and Tortured, But Still Strong

"My brother Ali emerged stronger than ever."

Syria: Detained and Tortured, But Still Strong

"My brother Ali emerged stronger than ever."

Monday, 24 August, 2015

Friday, a weekend day in Syria, used to be a time for leisure. Those days are long gone, and Friday is now associated with fear.

Ever since the revolution began, many Syrians find themselves willing Fridays to speed by without them witnessing any arrests or killings.

Early one Friday afternoon, my phone rang. I wasn’t expecting a call, so I instantly felt ill at ease. I walked slowly towards the phone wondering who it could be, and what news was coming my way.

It was my sister.

“They took him!” she screamed, “They took Ali. Come quickly!”

I stood there feeling helpless, knowing there was nothing I could do to help Ali, our brother.

I rushed to my family’s house to offer them the only thing I could, my support.

My parents were devastated. Their dear son had been taken from his bedroom. His fate was now in the hands of people with neither compassion nor humanity.

A group of armed government soldiers had broken in, smashing the door to Ali’s bedroom to pieces. They had stormed in via the rooftop, showing no respect to the sanctity of our home.

My parents knew they couldn’t stop them, but my mother did try.

“My son didn’t do anything,” she pleaded. “He wasn’t at the demonstration, I swear to God he was in his room.”

Her words fell on deaf ears, as the men she was appealing to were heartless. They handcuffed and blindfolded Ali and dragged him outside.

My father couldn’t bear to see this happening to his son, and tried to reason with the soldiers.

“Brother, this is my son. Look, this is our family record,” he said. “He was in his room and never left it.”

They took no notice and led Ali to a bus which already held dozens of other young men.

My father noticed an officer standing on the roadside. He was surrounded by soldiers and was watching my family with a smirk on his face. He seemed to be in charge, so my father walked towards him in a final attempt to save his son.

“Sir, my son was at home with us,” he said. “Your soldiers found him in his room. Believe me, he didn’t do anything.”

The ruthless officer shouted back, “We never set foot in your house. We don’t go into people’s homes!”

He was telling this lie in front of the dozens of soldiers and neighbours who had witnessed the incident.

My father realised there was no point trying to reason with him, and attempted to hide his tears as he walked back into the house, a broken man.

No one knew where Ali and all the other young men packed into the bus that Friday were taken. The only thing we could do was wait, hope and follow any news of detainees.

We were haunted by questions – “Is he hungry? Are they beating him? Is he okay?”

The days went by, and despite the promises we had received, we learned nothing of his fate.

We had almost lost hope of seeing him again when one day, we were told that a group of detainees was being released, and that Ali would be among them.

I was finally going to see my brother! I was finally going to hug him! Soon I would look into his eyes and tell him how much I had missed him.

When Ali came back home that day, I was the first to greet him. He was exhausted, and he tried to conceal the burns on his hands.

When I held his hand he flinched. I realised he was in pain, so I let go. I no longer wished to hug my brother. I was afraid I might hurt him.

Ali’s body was covered in wounds and cigarette burns. They hadn’t missed a single inch.

I couldn’t bear looking at his frail body, and I couldn’t look into his eyes to tell him I had missed him. He had a broken look on his face and his eyes were full of pain.

Eventually, he looked at me and sighed saying: “They made me kneel in worship to Bashar [al-Assad].”

It took my brother Ali a few days to recover from what had been done to him, and he emerged stronger than he had ever been before. The injustice he had been done had killed any fear that had lived inside him.

Umm Sara is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor from Daraya, Syria.

This story was produced by Syria Stories (previously Damascus Bureau), IWPR’s news platform for Syrian journalists. 

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