Rima Marrouch: “Surviving torture: Syrians share advice”
Detention and torture have become such a common experience for Syrians that they’ve published documents on survival tactics. At least two publications have been made on the topic, while social media has spread specific recommendations.
“Tip: Cut your fingernails very short before protests. It sounds weird, but you will thank me. They can’t rip them off when short. #Syria,” wrote @ArabSpringFF on March 12.
A young Syrian writer identified as Abo Gabal wrote a nine-page document with other activists who went through detention to describe and prepare others. The publication, “Detainee Guide,” explains how to behave (the worst tactic: not showing pain, which challenges the guard to give harder beatings), what to avoid (thinking about the day of the release), and methods of torture (flogging, electric shocks). A similar guide was written by a female activist describing a women’s prison and has been circulated on Facebook.
“The worst thing was the scream of other people being tortured; you feel fear, which is your worst enemy”, says Abo Gabal, who spent more than a month in the infamous intelligence detention center, Al-Mukhabarat al-Jawiyeh, after he was detained with video footage of the army’s assault on Deraa.
“I wanted to pass this experience due to many mistakes committed by activists and protesters during their confessions,” he said. “We cannot blame them for that, as the conditions of detention – especially in Syria – are beyond the abilities of a regular man to endure.”
Memories of detention are bitter yet the black humor of Syrians remains. Amer Matar, a Syrian journalist who was detained for four months, describes one of his first beatings in detention: “The warden was hitting me and at some point he suddenly stopped,” Matar says with a smile. “He asked me why I’m here. I said that I’m a journalist. He started beating even harder, saying, ‘You are making crosswords in the newspaper difficult!’”
Rima Flihan, a scriptwriter and spokesperson for Local Coordination Committees, was arrested with dozens of other intellectuals after taking part in a peaceful demonstration in July.
“They wanted to know who organized the protest,” she says. “I said it was posted on my Facebook wall. The investigator asked me, ‘There is a wall on Facebook?’”
One of Flihan’s friends confessed that he found out about the protest via Twitter. “They were so confused. ‘What is a wall? What is Twitter?’”, Flihan says.
“It’s similar to a TV program we have all seen or a music band we all knew. Now we know the true face of detention because many of us have lived it,” says Matar, who has been detained twice since the beginning of the uprising.
Tens of thousands are believe to have been imprisoned.
© Photo: David Enders. Pic shows Rima Flihan, script writer and spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committee in Amman.
Rima Marrouch is a Syrian-Polish freelance reporter. She was brought up in Homs in the 90s, when Homs was a happier place. She has reported from Libya and Syria for the LA Times. She also worked for the “Committee to Protect Journalists/Middle East and North Africa Program”. Today, she is based in Lebanon, in Beirut.
You can follow Rima on Twitter and write her under @RimaMarr.
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