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Former Detainee in Tadmur Prison tells his memos

DETAINEES | 2018-01-10 21:18:40
 Former Detainee in Tadmur Prison tells his memos

(Zaman Al Wasl)- A former detainee at Tadmur (Palmyra) Military Prison recounts the stories of several detainees who were held in the famous prison known as the Syrian Bastille. He tells of their tragedies and pains which remained unheard throughout the 1980s. Some of the people whose stories he tells are his relatives who were executed in the desert prison. 

Osama Halaq says to Zaman al-Wasl that three of those killed carried the name Walid Halaq, one of them was his cousin, one his sister's husband, and the third was executed by hanging in Tadmur Prison in 1981. 

Halaq, who now lives in the United States, was arrested by the Foreign Intelligence Branch, the Ramleh al-Beydah branch in Beirut when he was in the 10th grade at the beginning of the 1980s based on charges that he is related to some members of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was to spend 11 years in Tadmur Prison.

In Tadmur prison, he met three detainees carrying the name Walid Halaq. One was Mohammad Walid Bin Hussein Halaq, Osama’s brother-in-law who was a primary teacher. Osama met him three months before Mohammad Walid was executed and even then for only two minutes. The second detainee was named Walid Bin Atta Halaq, and he was also a primary school teacher. 

Osama Halaq says that Walid bin Atta and Walid bin Hussein were in the Directorate of Education in Aleppo to find out to which school they would be assigned. They took the same car to the school and opened a conversation which is how they discovered that a mistake had been made. They had been assigned to the same position in the same school. They returned together to the Directorate to clear up the issue only to be arrested in October 1980 and sent to Tadmur Prison.

The former detainee says he witnessed Walid bin Hussein’s, his sister's husband, execution in June 1981 through a window overlooking the execution yard. He describes the horrible execution method used, where the executioners set up a wooden frame and used a rope to create a noose. The rope was pulled manually suddenly and violently backward after tying the noose around the prisoner’s neck killing the prisoner. 

On the same execution pillars, several of Halaq’s relatives died in the famous prison massacre that was perpetrated on the morning of June 27, 1980. Osama’s brother Muhammad Ali Halaq, his other sister’s husband Mohammed Osman Jamal were executed during the massacre. Three other of his relatives including the brothers Abdul Fattah Idlibi and Ahmed Abu al-Yusr Idilbi were killed in the prison in early 1982, and his mother’s cousin Abdul Karim Mizrab were also executed by hanging in the 6th yard of the prison. As Halaq comments, his entire family were considered terrorists although none of them participated in any military action. 

He recounts the events of the day when a rebellion occurred in the prison. One of the detainees sentenced to death from the Hardan family started it. All those sentenced to death began raising their voices saying ‘Allah Akbar’ and some of the other prisons joined them. After that the torturers increased the torture on all the detainees for six months. 

Many of the detainees died under torture and the prison manager at the time Faisal Ghanem oversaw the torture of detainees himself. Sulaiman al-Khatib, the field judge, was tasked with supervising the torture of detainees who were on trial to extract confessions from them before they were executed. To perform protocol, the judge would read out the sentences against these detainees before they were executed. These are the executive sentences that included at the end the line “ratified by the Minister of Defense Mustafa Tlas.”

Osama Halaq moved around all the courtyards and dormitories of the prison, which amounted to about 20 dormitories. He was able to learn a great deal about the ongoings inside the prison. He explains that of the images that never leave him are the scenes of torture and execution especially of children, and the sounds of detainees crying out for days from torture and illness without anyone responding until they died.

Halaq recounts that of the things he remembers is a whole family men, women and children, who were all detained in Tadmur Prison. One member of the family, Ahmad Abu Khars was barely 13 and held in the juvenile dormitory. Ahmad Abu Khars was actually 14 when he was detained, but he looked younger because of his small frame. 

He was known for his beautiful voice, and he would sing to lessen the burden and loneliness of other prisoners. He was appointed the head of his dormitory, so he was tortured excessively before being released at the end of 1982. He is now one of the most famous reciters of Aleppo.
Zaman A Wasl
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