Tuesday, 12 January 2016



 Mariam Haid

 'One of my indelible memories is the date of my arrest: January 10 2014. It was a Friday morning. I went in through the door of the Criminal Security Branch. I just walked along, listening to the sounds they were all making. I stood in the corridor for quarter of an hour, then I went into a room where there were two people. They both started to hit me. I didn’t know why they were beating me, and I started to think about them: ‘This must be their way of welcoming us to make sure we’re scared from the very beginning – but I wonder what’s gonna happen next?’ They used an electric cattle prod on me, punched and kicked me, and when they’d finished with me they took me out of the room and had me stand again.
 I was subjected to torture three times a day, each of them exactly the same: an extremely cold shower. The interrogator would say to me ‘Good morning . . . I’ve got a cold shower here, so be my guest, have a shower and have a think.’ He would turn the shower on, put me under it, and leave. It occurred to me that I might turn into someone with a fear of showering, after I got out of detention. I began to be scared from the onset of physical torture.

 Someone from the Syrian Electronic Army was brought in, who didn’t even know how to open my account. This person was examining my Facebook account and saw a chat message to me from a user called ‘Aleppo Liberation Front’. All it contained was a single phrase, the standard greeting ‘Peace be with you’ which I hadn’t ever answered. The investigator said to me, ‘You are involved with fronts in Aleppo, and you are acting as a pair of eyes for your brother who is wanted by the Political Security Branch and who left you in Syria so you could be a spy and tell him everything.’

 After an interval of the usual torture, they decided to bully me up in the air. They tied my hands together, hung me up by them and then introduced me to ‘Lakhdar Brahimi,’ who I had heard so much about and had hoped never to meet. I didn’t feel humiliated by the torture methods I was subjected to; what hurt me were the words they used – I wasn’t used to hearing them or to saying them. I felt that I was a thing these people owned, that they were trying to abuse my body so that the pain would seep right inside me, into wherever they couldn’t gain physical entry.
 After a month and a week had passed they put me on the ‘flying carpet’, the most painful torture method of all. After they had finished they forced me to walk on my feet, and put Epsom salts on them so they wouldn’t swell, or perhaps so that they could torture me again in the same way, but I feigned being entirely unable to walk for a whole week so as not to have a second experience of that method.
 One of the stories that I remember well was of a woman from Hama who lived with her husband and her two children in Lebanon. She decided to visit her family with her children,  and she told me that she was seized at the border because of a deliberately deceitful statement made by one of her relatives. She knew nothing of what had happened to her two children; she used to cry a lot, and stop when she got hold of a cigarette. Another woman used to live in Jaramana, and was accused of stealing cars – even though she couldn’t drive. She used to lend me her clothes after every cold shower I was subjected to.
  On March 15 2015 we made a video about media fabrication to be shown on the television programme ‘The Watchful Eye’, so that our torture would stop and we could wait to get moved to Adra prison. I had a sense of great loss that day. I wanted to say, ‘Leave me be, I don’t want to talk and I don’t want to get out.’ But I did want to get out of there, and I paid the price.
 What do I want to say about the amount of darkness I saw in there? What about the faces that cried for help over and over with no response, and the echo of the voices pleading their innocence – ‘Leave me alone . . . I didn’t do anything to deserve this punishment! Why are you hitting me? Why are you humiliating me? For God’s sake, stop it, please! I kiss your hands, I kiss your legs, I’m begging you! I’ve got children and a family, they’ve only got me to take care of them! For God’s sake stop it stop it, I can’t take any more!’ – what do I want to say about them? What do I want to say about all the cruelty, oppression and inhumanity? I want to say this: I was and I am still with revolution, but the feelings inside me have become more intense. It is impossible for us to accept a regime like this and a bloodthirsty serial killer of a president who violates human rights. I want Syria to be liberated, and for there to be an end to the suffering brought by barrel bombing and depraved Russian planes. I want the people of Syria to be freed from the fear and anxiety that every bomb brings, and for their children to dream ordinary dreams with no rockets in them, no machine guns, and no blood – dreams as tranquil as their peaceful sleep.
 I know that everything has its price. We will get our freedom, even if it takes a while.'

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