Tales of horror from Syrian refugees (JERUSALEM POST) By ABDULLAH OMAR / THE MEDIA LINE 03/26/12)
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IRBID, Jordan -- Ahmed’s friends call him the living martyr. A total
of 16 bullets pierced his body when Syrian security forces attacked
protesters in the southern city of Deraa last year. The 24-year-old
activist was smuggled to Jordan for treatment after troops raided
Deraa hospital in pursuit of injured activists.
Ahmed says his survival is a miracle after seeing parts of his guts
burst out of his body as he was pummeled by a barrage of
gunshots .The troops sprayed him and his friend with bullets “like
they were giving away sweets,” he recalls now. Even from the safety
of Jordan, where he is now a refugee, he asks not to be identified by
his full name.
“They noticed we were standing near a demonstration and started
shooting randomly. I was injured and my friend was hit, too,” he
says, recalling the panic and fear among his friends as they saw him
bathed in his own blood. “The army noticed I was alive because I used
my phone to call for an ambulance, but they shot at me again.”
He reveals to a visiting reporter scars across his back, legs, arms
and abdomen. “They wanted to make sure I was dead,” the frail-looking
young activist explains. His friends and colleagues were sure the
army had succeeded. “Everybody was expecting me to die at any moment.
They even had a funeral planned for when the official announcement of
my death would come. I survived, and now my friends call me the
Ahmed arrived in Jordan last year to complete his treatment after it
became impossible to be treated in health centers in Syria.
The Syrian army regularly raids public hospitals and clinics, arrests
or shoots injured people, say activists from the southern city of
Deraa, which was the cradle of anti-Assad protests that are now
entering the second year. Jordan has provided a safe haven for
hundreds of activists over the past months as they sought safety from
prosecution and targeting by the Syrian army.
At least 28 civilians were reported killed in Syria on Saturday, with
fighting stretching from the outskirts of the capital Damascus to
Syria’s border with Turkey. On Sunday, Khaldiyeh, Hamidiyeh and Old
Homs neighborhoods suffered heavy shelling by the army and explosions
shook the whole city, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of
Most activists come from Deraa and more recently they have started to
arrive from the war-torn city of Homs. The city is 200 kilometers
(125 miles) from the Jordanian border, but activists are reluctant to
go to nearby Lebanon after pro-Syria forces arrested there some and
handed them back to Damascus.
As of March 15, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had
registered 5,391 Syrians in Jordan and more than 2,000 were waiting
for an appointment to register. But Jordanian authorities say more
like 70,000 Syrians have arrived in the kingdom since the anti-Assad
uprising started. Unofficially, the kingdom is constructing refugee
camps in expectation that more will arrive and be staying for some
In the north-Jordan city of Irbid, activists have begun taking
testimony from Syrian asylum seekers to document their suffering. It
is effectively the only way to know what is happening in Syria, where
the foreign press is officially banned and movement is severely
Two weeks ago, Amnesty International released a report based on
interviews with torture victims now in Jordan. It based its
conclusions on just a few-dozen interviews but said the number of
victims is likely in the tens of thousands because nearly everyone
who is arrested by the Syrian authorities faces some kind of torture.
Those families trying to cross the border legally, which is becoming
increasingly difficult as the Syrian regime tries to stem the tide of
refugees, have had to pay Syrian customs officials bribes of up to
50,000 Syrian pounds ($873) to cross, Khaled Fayez Ghanem, an
official at the Islamic Charity Centre Society, told the IRIN news
agency last week.
Wanted activists do not have that option: They have to traverse
landmine-infested borders and cross illegally into Jordan. If they
succeed, the Jordanian army on the northern border offers them cover,
including families and individuals, when they are shot at by Syrian
Islam, an activist from Deraa, has taken upon himself the task to
meet as many refugees as possible in order to piece together what he
calls the “systematic abuse by Syrian security forces.” Islam himself
is a victim of torture. The activist said he was arrested twice last
year and in each occasion torture was a common practice.
The first time he was arrested was in Damascus after speaking to a
number of activists and foreign journalists.
“I was blindfolded and had my hands tied with painful plastic
handcuffs. I was dumped in a small van alongside other activists. On
the way to detention, beating and insults were frequent,” says Islam
as he recalls the psychological torture inflicted on detainees.
Islam was placed in a small cell with a single window four meters (13
feet) above the floor. The only sounds he heard during his
confinement were doors slamming and people screaming from pain. “They
wanted us to collapse before even reaching the interrogation room,”
Under investigation, detainees would be regularly beaten amid
continued insults and threats to family members.
“They would threaten me to rape my sisters and wife if I didn’t
cooperate. It was a true nightmare,” says Islam, who detailed methods
of torture practiced that included sleep deprivation and mysterious
injections that cause anxiety.
London based Amnesty detailed in its report 31 types of torture,
including ‘crucifixion’-type beatings, electric shocks, use of
pincers on flesh, sexual assaults with broken bottles or metal
skewers. The scale of torture and other ill-treatment in Syria has
risen to a level not witnessed for years and is reminiscent of the
dark era of the 1980s and 1990s, said Amnesty.
In its report, Amnesty called on the United Nations Human Rights
Council to extend the mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry on
Syria and reinforce its capacity to monitor, document and report,
with a view to eventual prosecutions of those responsible for crimes
under international law and other gross violations of human rights.
In spite of the risks and severe injuries he has received, Ahmed says
he intends to return to Syria to join the revolution against
President Bashar Assad and his regime. In the meantime, he is
collecting donations to help the free army continue resisting
authorities while at the same time reveal to the international
community crimes committed by the regime.
“I was supposed to be dead long ago. I do not belong in Jordan or any
other place of exile,” he says. “I want to go back and fight for my
people.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 03/26/12)
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