Syrian survivors narrate ‘horrible’ tales of torture
AMMAN: Abu Zeid rubs what is left of his hand, which he said was destroyed by his warders with a small explosive after he refused to prostrate himself before a picture of President Bashar al-Assad.
Abu Zeid, who did not reveal his true identity, fled from Syria to Jordan in December after surviving torture for taking part in pro-democracy protests.
He is one of thousands of Syrians who crossed into Jordan fleeing a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests that activists say has killed more than 7,000 since March.
“I was tortured, beaten and electrocuted in a basement for 15 days after I demonstrated against the regime in (the southern province of) Daraa,” said the 34-year-old father of four, hospitalised in Jordan by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Daraa, near the Jordanian border, is the cradle of the 11-month revolt against the Assad regime.
“Assad forces arrested school children and threw them in my cell. They were scared and crying non-stop,” said the burly street vendor, who now lives in Amman after his friends smuggled him out of hospital and helped him escape to Jordan.
“I got enraged when I saw the children,” who he said were in their early teens, and “without thinking, I cursed Assad.
“The warders brought a picture of him, beat me severely and told me to prostrate before it. They blew off my hand after I refused and tore the picture in two. I passed out and woke up in hospital.”
Most Syrian schools are now closed because of the unrest and many of them have been turned into detention centres with snipers prowling the rooftops.
Human Rights Watch has said children as young as 13 are a particular target in the “rampant” use of torture by Syrian government forces battling opposition protests.
And the United Nations Children’s Fund has said at least 400 children have been killed in the violence and almost the same number detained, with reports of torture and sexual abuse.
MSF has accused the Syrian regime of “conducting a campaign of unrelenting repression against people wounded in demonstrations and the medical workers trying to treat them.”
“In Syria today, wounded patients and doctors are pursued, and risk torture and arrest at the hands of the security services,” said MSF president Marie-Pierre Allie.
“Medicine is being used as a weapon of persecution.”
Diabetic patient Said Heraki, 70, from the town of Herak in Daraa, said he lost a toe on his right foot during 22 days of torture.
“In jail, they forced me to drink at least two litres of water. I needed to go to the toilet. The guards knew I was diabetic. They stripped me naked, wrapped a thick rubber band around my testicles to prevent me from urinating,” said the man.
A construction worker, Heraki showed AFP bruises that cover his arms.
“After tying me up, they left me alone in the bathroom. I nearly exploded.
The pain was unbearable. I told them I would do whatever they wanted,” he said.
Heraki added that the authorities forced him to sign a “fake confession” to torching a police station in Herak during a demonstration.
He told AFP he was released from jail after a presidential pardon in November.
“Before I was freed, the guards threw burning coal on my left foot and then poured boiling water on it. My second toe was severed after one of the guards stepped on it and pushed me hard. It was horrible,” he said.
Lying in a Jordanian Red Crescent hospital bed in Amman, Ibrahim, 26, said he was pistol-whipped by regime forces, his right leg broken and skull fractured.
“They brutally beat me just because I was trying to take an injured demonstrator to hospital in Daraa,” the construction worker told AFP.
“Many of my relatives and friends were arrested after a demonstration. I saw them after they were released. Some of them had their fingernails pulled out, ears partially cut off, penises severed. I was lucky.”
He said doctors will install a metal rod in his leg to replace a broken bone.
“The Syrian forces deliberately killed wounded demonstrators. I have seen these scenes with my own eyes,” said Ibrahim.
Saher Harriri, a 23-year-old university student, took part in a demonstration in a southern town, where he was hit in the hand by a bullet after the army attacked the protesters.
“Doctors in my town told me I have to go to Damascus because they did not have the needed equipment to treat my hand. In Damascus, I woke up in hospital to see that doctors had amputated my hand. I do not know why they did this. They could have saved it,” he said.
On Thursday, a UN human rights report said the government had “manifestly failed” to protect its own people. Investigators said they had submitted a list of Syrian military and political officials suspected of crimes against humanity to the UN’s top human rights official.
“The human rights situation … has deteriorated significantly since November 2011, causing further suffering to the Syrian people,” wrote the commission after conducting 136 interviews since its last report in November.
The Jordanian government, which is planning to open a 30-dunum (30,000 square metre/323,000 square foot) refugee camp to host Syrians near the border, has said more than 70,000 of them fled to the kingdom since March.
“Some of them have returned to Syria, while others left for a third country,” said government spokesman Rakan Majali.
Jordan has accepted around 5,000 Syrian students in public schools.
The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, has said it is providing aid to 4,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, without providing details.
According to Jordanian Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh, the kingdom is in touch with international organisations to help Amman deal with a possible influx of Syrian refugees.
Meanwhile, Heraki said: “I will go back to Syria to help speed up the fall of that criminal regime.
“How can I forget the way regime forces tortured me? How can I forget how they killed the wounded?”