Saturday, February 18, 2012

‘How much blood must we pay before the world helps?’

"In his shocking report from the border with Syria, Amnesty International’s Researcher Neil Sammonds reveals the extent of the torture experienced by those arrested in Syria – treatment reaching unprecedented levels of brutality.

In his hospital bed in al-Ramtha, a few kilometres from the border with Dera’a governorate in Syria, Abu Suhaib tells me how two days ago he and most of the men of al-Taibe had fled the town as the Syrian army were closing in....

With the regime’s noose on Dera’a tightening, dozens have been killed in the last week, their homes looted for money, jewellery, computers; generators vandalized.

Yet as Abu Suhaib said: “I’ve seen many beside me be shot and killed but I’m not afraid of dying. What I fear is being arrested.”

First-hand testimony of torture from the Syrians I met this week in al-Ramtha, Irbid and Amman helps explain why.

Being beaten badly for long periods again and again over days or weeks is commonplace.

The punches, kicks, stamping, and beatings with metal rifle butts, sticks or cables are so commonplace they are barely commented on, even though they sometimes produce life-threatening wounds....

As shocking as any I’ve heard in my nine years working on Syria at Amnesty International is the treatment meted out to Jihad Ahmed Diab, a 34-year-old clothes shop worker from Dera’a city.

Arrested last December, he was, like many, subjected to extremely cramped conditions, with 32 men in a 6m by 6m cell, electrocuted several times, and left hanging and sometimes violently beaten in the shabeh position.

Also, like many, he had his religious beliefs denigrated by the security guards.

“The head of the branch [name withheld] brought me a picture of Bashar al-Assad while I was in the torture room. ‘He is your god’, he said. ‘There is only one god who is Allah’, I said, and ripped the picture out of his hands.”

“For this, he kicked me all the way down two flights of stairs.” Jihad unwrapped the bandage around his left hand and continued to the more shocking part. “He then ordered that I be restrained in the crucifix position, and have a piece of dynamite the size of a pen tied to my left palm. ‘Boom’, it exploded and half my hand blew off. Blood flowed everywhere.”....."

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