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Former female detainee tells stories of rape, torture in security chambers

Aida al-Haj Yousif

(Zaman Al Wasl)- Zaman Al Wasl launches a new series called "Syrian Women in Assad's Prisons" which is concerned with the prisoners, the released and the missing women. The series begins with the story of Aida al-Haj Yousif, she was known as Zaina, where she recounts dozens of stories about the death, rape, and torture that take place inside the Syrian regime’s prisons. 

This is how she starts her account: 

In the midst of a universe that disregards our humanity, they tied my hand to my sister’s hand
What have I done wrong to deserve what I received in Assad’s prisons?

What kind of law allows for the exclusion of my being and the stripping of my humanity?

What kind of religious law condones depriving a mother of her children?

And what kind of custom gives them the right to replace my name with a number? 

And what social considerations make them abandon me in this way? 

These questions which are attached to the number 826 still inhabit my mind from the night of 27 December 2016, the first day of my arrest. On that day I have been put in the prison of the Military Security Division in Hama Governorate under the pretext of demonstrating against what they call in their criminal world "the regime" and for treating the wounded civilians, who were wounded due to the random and barbaric shelling of the rebellious areas.  

After a trap they set up for me with the help of one of my relatives, who was one of the regime's most powerful officers and users, Bashar’s officers arrested me declaring their victory. They confiscated my handbag, took my phone and then they took off my clothes for inspection purposes, which is a custom that they follow whenever they decide to give someone an extraordinary accommodation in their Hollywood hotels and when they decide to give the horror movies a tint of reality. I was handled as if I were a dangerous criminal devoid of the slightest bit of humanity. 

Blindfolded, they took me down several underground floors. Their insults distracted me and I lost my focus. They put my stuff in a transparent nylon bag that said “the Secretaries”. And they stuck a new name on my chest, "Number 826"; then they took many pictures of me from all sides as if to put them in the cover of a famous magazine. 

I spent hours in a cell no more than two and a half meters, and which I shared with twenty three women charged for the same reason. There were women in the prime of their youth, middle aged women and a mother with her three children. It’s a nightmare! No, it’s the apocalypse. No, no, it must be a nightmare that will bring the end of the world.

In the middle of my bewilderment, the jailer knocks on the door so heavily that the imprisoned women got terrorized. Abu Ali, the jailer opens the door with his hands on his waist, calling "Zaina", the name with which I’m known in my social surroundings, “come with us, the head of the branch wants you, they instructed us not to bother you, you seem to be well supported.” They tied my hands with a white tie and unfolded my eyes with a black tissue that kept away the daylight. It didn’t occur to me to ask where he was taking me. 

I was dragged up from the ties in my hand and passed through one of the doors where they took off my dark blindfold. I felt the world freeze, my whole body froze, my feelings were numb; there was before me a long crypt in which I saw spots of blood cover floor tiles as well as the wall paint, chains hooked to the walls and others hanging from the ceiling, and young men in their torn inner clothes, hung from their hands, their feet not touching the ground and their fingers stuck to the wall like a planted needle. 

My blindfold was put back in place and they continued to drag me to the head of their branch, "Lt. Col. Muhammad al-Miqdad" I knew that from the desk painting I found on his table. We reached the office. 

Abu Ali said, "Sir, this is Zaina " I screamed uncontrollably without having planned it: “What have I done to deserve this treatment?” The head of the branch responds, “Why are you so nervous? Did anyone rape you?” I stopped talking when I heard footsteps heading toward me. He said: “Abu Ali, remove her blindfold”, “why are trembling? Are you scared?” 

“No, why would I be? I’m just cold”, I responded
“Why is your skin so yellow then?”

“I get this way when my blood pressure is low” 

“Why did you take part in demonstrations against the President? Why did you help treat the militants?” 

“I’ve heard about the contempt and the injustice done here in the branches of security, but I didn’t believe it was entirely true until now, after I’ve seen it with my bear eyes” As soon as I said these words I passed out and woke up later to find my body attached to an iron bed in the Department of Ophthalmology in Hama National Hospital. 

After a comfortable 21 days I spent in hospital due to the doctor’s suspicion that I have a liver lump, they brought me back to the Hama branch to sign confession papers that they did not try to extract from me. I refused to sign anything. One of the interrogators told me that my sister had been in solitary confinement for 15 days and that they have no problem arresting my fifteen year old daughter as well. One of the ladies in the next room confirmed his claims to me so I granted their wish and signed to confessions I know nothing of and to things I haven’t seen. 

In the midst of a world indifferent to our humanity, they tied my hands to my sister’s hands and drove us in a car to transport the obligatory soldiers to an unknown destination in the capital Damascus. The driver with yellow teeth did not try to hide his desire to terminate every one of us, all along the way. I kept listening to the sad songs playing until I lost my nerves, my eyes started to water until they got flooded with tears and I finally gave up to an uncontrollable sobbing. I am no longer as strong as people used to think; and I have lost my composure and strength, breaking under the feeling of shame that grew inside of me over the sight of my sister being tied up to my wrists.  

Zaman Al Wasl
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