UM MUHAMMED / DAMASCUS
I was detained in 2015 while I was on my way to work. I was forced into a car by regime forces who took me to a detention center and beat me. After I was interrogated three times, they placed me in a room with seven other female detainees and forcibly removed my headscarf. I was raped in front of everybody. On everyone’s face in the room you could read the traces of their torture. You go in there with your dignity, but you cannot leave with your dignity intact. Women were raped and tortured countless times. Those voices continue to ring in my ears and my head. I just cannot forget it.
MARYAM / HAMA
I am a 24 year old mother of four. The torture that we experienced in prison knows no limit. I would say to the commander who raped me, “For the love of ALLAH, don’t do this!” He would reply, “There is no ALLAH.” I would say, “For the prophet’s sake!” He would reply, “He’s on leave.” They would ask repulsive questions like “Who gives you more pleasure? Those in the Free Syrian Army or us?” We have struggled until now to get our voices heard. We have called on humanitarian organizations, on heads of states. To no avail. No one hears us.
AMIRA TAYARA / HAMA
I had been tortured in a Syrian prison in 2013, and still couldn’t overcome the impact it had on me. We would tread on corpses on our way to places. They would then give the corpses to the dogs. They would strip us, hang us, and pull off our nails. I have seen soldiers putting corpses through meat mincers. There were multiple cases of scabies and lice because we could not shower. I was subjected to all kinds of torture. They executed my son. My husband has been under the same circumstances since 2011 and I still haven’t been able to hear from him. Today there is more rape and torture than there was when we were in prison. When we laid down, they would drop ice-cold water on our heads. After some time it would feel as if the drops were hitting our brains directly. The sound of water still reminds me of torture.
MAJD IZZAT AL-CHOURBAJI / DAMASCUS SUBURBS
I was arrested in Damascus in 2013. The reason was because I was telling people where the hidden field hospital was and I had participated in peaceful demonstrations. My husband and my three children were also arrested soon after me. The last time I saw my husband was when he was being transferred to a different prison. His face was covered in blood. Six months after my release, he died as a result of the torture he had endured in prison. We couldn’t even find his body. They only handed me the clothes he had been wearing. I was imprisoned for about seven months. They would hang people by their hands and beat them with iron sticks. In the last prison I was taken to, they put 20 of us in a room measuring 20 square meters. For days we got no sleep. Some of us stood up so that others could get some sleep. They only allowed people to go to the bathroom three times a day. I saw people urinating on their clothes. Many women gave birth to babies who died in prison. The amount of psychological torture the soldiers have used was unfathomable. Sometimes the torture went on for hours, for days. I was taken to court for starting a hunger strike. That is how I got out of prison. Later I made a promise to myself. I would keep struggling for all the other women who were still in prison. This is why I joined the Convoy of Conscience.
11 / HAMA
My name is 11. This was the name they gave me in prison. I belong to one of the minorities which al-Assad claims to protect. Perhaps it was a second offense that I belonged to a minority but was not pro-Assad. I was bringing medical supplies, aid and milk for babies to areas under siege. It was an act that could result in 20 years or life imprisonment. Even though it has been one year since I got out, I’m still not fully recovered. Physically I am here, but psychologically I am still there. I am still with the young people I saw in those human slaughterhouses. Still reliving the times they were martyred and their bodies torn to pieces. I’m still with those young ones, the fattest weighing no more than 35 kilos, who awaited their deaths. I am still there with the girl who died because she did not have the courage to say she was sick. I am still there with the children who were imprisoned for five years along with their mothers, siblings and grandmothers. Those who were imprisoned for no other reason than the fact that one family member dared not to side with the Syrian regime. A child who had been detained at the age of three and was still in prison five years later. What can you expect from her? I want my voice to be heard by as many people as possible. They need to know that there are cities under cities there, and slaughterhouses. There are people there whose greatest and most beautiful dreams have the shape of death. I want you to put an end to the crimes of this cruel person and his sadism.
NOUR AL-HUDA HIJAZI / DAMASCUS
On 25 September 2012 I was arrested through a military security trap by Syrian intelligence in Damascus because I was doing relief and media work to help affected civilians soon after the war began in Syria. I was abducted in the street in a humiliating way in front of hundreds of people and was pushed inside the intelligence vehicle. In the car on the way to the military intelligence branch, I was harassed under the pretext of inspection in a hideous and inhuman manner. At first I refused to talk or answer their questions. I was severely beaten in order to give them information but I still refused because there were information that would have affected a large network of friends with whom we worked to help the wounded and the innocent people. They asked for my Skype account and I gave them the account that I opened two days ago, instead of the one I had used regularly. I did not give them my personal account but they were aware and requested it by telling my username. They opened my account and they talked to my friends. One of my friends asked the location for the warehouses of medicines in Damascus, I responded her in writing, but from the style of writing I made her understand that I was speaking under irregular circumstances. The officer was angry for not receiving anything. After that, I was put in a prison and began to struggle in a cell measuring not more than six square meters. We only had two small openings to breathe and were overwhelmed by the smell of moisture and smoke and in front of the bathrooms.
The conditions under which inspections are usually taking place are widely known in Syria. The detainee be it women, men or children, is strip-searched and inspected nakedly in a humiliating manner.
There were seven Syrian women in the cell. Among them a 65-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl who had begun to show signs of pregnancy after having been raped right after her arrest. That night I slept on the tiles as there was nothing we could sleep on. It was a very difficult night. I did not know what would happen tomorrow. I remember that night our talk with men from the nearby cell through the hole in the waterways. They had been detained five years ago. The investigation began right after the morning. When the prison guard told me to come with him, the blood froze in my veins. He blindfolded and handcuffed me and took me to the interrogation room. I sat in a room on a chair and in front of me was the officer asking questions, I was hearing the presence of a number of soldiers in the room talking about me and laughing. I didn’t want to give any information because any information they would got would cause harm to my friends and family. My only response was: ‘I do not know anything’ or ‘I do not have anything to say.’ The officer got angry and started beating me painfully everywhere on my body, hit me on the face. For every question he didn’t get an answer to, he started beating me and giving me electroshocks. The soldiers kept sitting in the room. They blindfolded me so I did not know when and where they will hit and when I was screaming from pain they would laugh. After two hours of interrogation and beating, they left me in a corridor with my hands tied for more than four hours. Everyone passing by slapped me on the face and cursed the ugliest insults.
In the days of interrogation, I was constantly threatened with rape. In one of the most horrific days after hours of torture and insults, the interrogator said to one of the officers: ‘Take her to a room with five officers, so that they rape her.’ They made me walk through a long corridor. I closed my eyes hoping they would go away. After a terrifying and unpredictable ten minutes’ walk, I opened my eyes and found myself in front of my cell.
The interrogation lasted seven days from morning till evening. I used to live these dreadful feelings every single day. I did not want the morning to come because I didn’t want to undergo that torture.
After seven days I was tired of the torture that I lived through. After understanding that it was useless to resist, I gave them the names. I told them nothing else. He gave me seven papers to write what actions I performed and what actions I did not perform.
After an interrogations of seven days I used to live with the rest of the detainees in a psychological torture. They were placing the young detainees in front of the cells and beating them and torturing them until they lose their consciousness. Then they poured water and electrocuted them to start torturing them again. We heard their screams more than 3 hours each day.
Our daily food was starchy, cold and underdone potatoes which lead to digestion problems. We were only allowed to enter the bathroom three times or twice a day and for a period of no more than six minutes for nine women. We were only allowed to shower once per month and for the six minutes. After 13 days I was taken with my friend to a solitary cell that did not exceed two square meters with a very small hole and full of insects and cockroaches.
I’m out of prison but so far there are women who are subjected to daily torture in prison, thousands of them and no one hears their voice.
SAYHA AL-BARUDI / HAMA
I am a mother of two. I was detained at a checkpoint on the way to Beirut with my husband. I was tortured in the first place for having refused to remove my headscarf. I was raped in front of everyone. Another woman, who was even 55 years old, was also raped. There was a girl in the ninth grade. She was gang raped in front of everyone by six men. Nighttime was a hell for us. They would hang us on racks. When one of us passed out, she would be taken down to the wet floor where they would electrocute her back to her senses. Every morning there was torture and every evening rape. No one heard us. If you ever could imagine the things that happened once it was past midnight. Commander Suleiman would choose the most beautiful girls and have them delivered to his room. His office consisted of two rooms. The one in the back was used for rape. A girl got pregnant as a result. They raped her while she was pregnant as well. She went into labor in the sixth month. After delivery, they shot her baby dead in front of her eyes. She completely lost her mind. Now her family has to keep her tied down. The people I saw in prison were only moving corpses who were all skin and bone due to starvation, prematurely aged by the heavy beating. All I could smell was death and corpses. The rooms all smelled of death.
I was imprisoned in my own country without having committed a crime. I was subjected to so much torture in prison. The regime of the murderer Bashar is truly merciless, and it has done us all sorts of harm. I have sisters who are still in prison. I want to make their voices heard by the world. I call to all countries in the world: Please, hear the voices of our women! This oppression must come to an end.
SAMR AL-NAJJAR / HAMA
On Saturday, December 22, 2012, a group of officers working for the provincial administration captured and dragged me horribly through the barriers. They confiscated my purse and phone straight away, and put me in a small room. They closed the door without a word. After half an hour, a well-built guard with a long beard opened the door. He grabbed me by the neck and dragged me to the soldier’s room, and there the soldier began to swear at me and insult me verbally. He accused me of having assisted armed assaults. One time a guard called Abu Abdu came inside and whipped us all. I was subjected to all kinds of torture while in prison.
MARIYA / DAMASCUS
Regime soldiers had come to detain my sister for having helped opposition groups. They detained me along with her when I refused to hand her over. We were in prison for 100 days. The torture started when we refused to talk. Every single day felt like a hundred years. Sometimes we were in the same cell, sometimes in solitary confinement. They tortured me and my sister a lot. I would crouch down in fear when they whipped us. They would make me watch her being raped, and make her watch me being raped. One day they threw me up in the air and I broke my lower back and feet when I fell back down. I blacked out for 13 days. When I came back to my senses, I saw my sister covered in blood. I understood that they had done the same things to her. She would beg me to help when they tortured her, but I couldn’t do anything. Sometimes they wouldn’t give us any food for days, and when they did, it would be rice or pasta softened with water only and full of insects. When we asked why they were giving us that kind of food, they said it was for nutrition, that we had to eat it. We even ate those black insects. When both my sister and I got out of prison, we were in no shape to face one another after all those things we had been through. We were unable to live together. My sister took refuge in a European country. And I came to Turkey.
WALAA ASHI / HOMS
I am a 45 year old mother of five. I currently live in Ersal Refugee Camp. For reasons unknown to us, a large group of security and military forces raided our neighborhood. They entered the neighborhood and arrested the men they saw in the square. Then they entered homes and stole all that they could carry. It was my house’s turn. They broke in and the commander ordered that all members of the household line up in front of him. My husband, five children, and I were home at the time; he ordered my husband’s arrest. Then he asked me what I was hiding under my dress and ordered me to reveal it. He said his men would do it if I did not. I started crying and begging him, he beat me and took off my headscarf, tore my dress to pieces. Then he ordered me to stand up and put my hands up in the air so that they could make sure I wasn’t hiding anything. In the meantime, he kept saying that I had been enjoying myself with armed groups, that I had been a prostitute for them years ago, and that we all lacked dignity. He said he would come back to entertain his own men, because he said they were no worse than those armed groups. Then they left, breaking things they saw on their way. My husband was in prison for a week, and when he got out we decided to leave the neighborhood and flee to Lebanon, because we knew they would come back for us.
IBTISAM AL-DIRANI / DAMASCUS
I am 52 years old. On Thursday, June 20, 2013, an officer stopped me at a military checkpoint. Someone opened the door and made my kids get out of the car, then the car moved on with me still inside. I could hear the cries and shrieks of my children. They took all the money and gold I had on me by force. I was held for 20 days at the Air Force Intelligence Division. I was subjected to violent torture and segregation there. The interrogation took three days. It was taking place in the airport. Then they put me in a 6 meter to 3 meter squared cell with others. I was kept there for 17 days with 25 other inmates. Accused of acts of terrorism, I was taken before the terror court at the Air Force Intelligence Division along with 60 others. After that I was released.
MARIA / HAMA
I am married and a mother of three. I was arrested when my house was raided on August 3, 2012. They tortured me violently nonstop for three days. The interrogation started at two in the afternoon and lasted until eight in the evening. Every day, two of the women inmates were taken to Lieutenant Colonel Suleiman Djuma’s office. The office was equipped with two beds, a toilet, and a fridge filled with alcoholic drinks. On the fourth day, after the torturous and brutal interrogation ended at around nine in the evening, I was taken to his office along with one of the young inmates like myself. We were raped in turns by Colonel Suleiman and his friends. Colonel Suleiman would turn to the younger ones and say repulsive things. He would mock us and say, ‘Here, we are giving you dogs the freedom you wanted so much,’ then he would resume the despicable act. This went on for 24 days. This is also the number of days I remained under arrest at that division. I was released as part of an exchange deal between the division authorities and a battalion of the free army in Hama. It is impossible to forget what happened, no matter how much time passes. But, I will make them pay me my due, no matter what.