Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS)

Syrian student tells of torture ordeal in mass stadium detention

Syrian student tells of torture ordeal in mass stadium

Syrian security forces cracked down on Banias residents
after pro-reform protests

24 May 2011

A 25-year-old university student tells Amnesty International
of the beatings and torture he and other detainees suffered while held in a
sports stadium after he was seized with his 73- year-old father by security
forces from their home in the coastal town of Banias on 8 May.

“Several soldiers knocked at the door, asked us to come with
them for five minutes because the officer wanted to see our IDs. We went with
them and there were many other men and boys being taken from their homes like
us. They gathered us under Ras al-Naba’ Bridge, which is at the Ras al-Naba’
neighbourhood where armed clashes between the army and a few armed men had
taken place last month [April].

“There were five Toyota buses, each accommodating 24
passengers, and a Mazda bus that accommodates 31 passengers, as well as
military vehicles. I stayed away from my father because if they had hit my father
in front of me, we would both have felt very bad.

“On the bus, three soldiers accompanying us started hitting
men who were sitting in the front seats. I was sitting in the back. Then, the
bus stopped in al-Qooz [an Alawite part of Banias] for a few minutes. We were
led out of the bus and a soldier was passing by with scissors cutting off
detainees’ locks of hair randomly. He cut off a lock of my hair at the back of
my head for no reason.

“Then they took us to the sports stadium at the end of
Corniche Street in Banias. When I stepped down off the bus, they blindfolded me
and tied my hands in front of me with plastic wires. Some had their hands tied
behind their back. Then they started hitting us. They made us all sit on our
knees in the stadium’s open parking space. There were hundreds of us, so we
were sitting close to each other.

“Soldiers wearing green camouflage uniforms and security
people wearing green uniforms would walk around slapping us hard in the face,
kicking us with their military boots all over our bodies, especially our backs,
and beating us with coshes, batons and clubs.

“Then they would choose certain detainees randomly and drag
them a bit away from the others so that they have enough space to beat them
hard. One came to me as I was sitting on my knees, placed his shoe on my head
and forced it down until my face touched the floor. He asked me: ‘Who is your
master?’ I said: ‘Bashar al-Assad.’ He left me. The same thing happened to my
friend, but the soldier banged my friend’s head on the floor with his shoe
until he bled from his nose and mouth. He kept asking him, ‘Who is your God?’
and did not leave him until he said: ‘Bashar al-Assad.’

“If the blindfold slipped down, one of them would hit me and
tie it up. When anyone of us asked for water, a soldier would throw some on our
head and prevent us from drinking. If anyone asked to go to the toilet, they
would say: ‘Pee in your pants.’ And some later told me that they peed in their
trousers. You could see the big stains.

“I remember hearing a man pleading with them as he cried,
saying that he had asthma, but they didn’t care.

“We all stayed like that, sitting on our knees, beaten badly
and sworn at from around 2pm until 5.30pm. Then they ordered us to stand up and
wait to register our names. As we were waiting, three soldiers came and asked
me, a cousin, a neighbour and a friend to step out of the queue. One at a time,
we were beaten with a long thick piece of wood that is usually used in
construction. Two soldiers held me tight and the third struck me with all his
strength with this piece of wood on the back of my legs. He hit me that way
three times and I fell down. It was so terrible.

“Then after one hour of waiting to register our names, we
were taken to the athletes’ dormitory, which consists of a long corridor with
large rooms. They packed each room with dozens of us. As I sat on my knees, my
body became stuck to those sitting next to me. Then the security asked that we
move to make passageways. Of course they needed these passageways so that they
could pass between us and reach and hit all of us.

“I was on the edge of one of these ‘passageways’, which
meant that I was easily reachable and was beaten badly. One slapped me so hard
on my ear that I kept hearing buzzing for over two hours.

“They were particularly targeting those men with long beards
[possibly perceived as Islamists opposed to the state] in their beatings. There
was one man with a long beard who was a sailor, not an Islamist. They beat him
so badly on his face, he bled a lot. My blindfold was set up a bit and when I
tilted my head back, I could see.

“After several hours, they gave us a bit of water in the
dormitory and allowed us to go to the toilet, only for peeing.

“Two incidents during detention made me feel very bad. One
related to my cousin. He is also my friend and was among the detainees. His
eyesight is so weak that he is almost blind. He told the security: ‘I can’t
see. I have a card that shows I have disabilities.’ They came to him and
started beating him hard. I saw blood had run down from behind his ears on both

“The other incident is related to a boy of possibly 15 years
old or less. He had blisters on the back of one of his hands… I asked fellow
detainees what had happened to his hand and they told me the blisters were
caused by the security personnel burning him using a lighter.

“A doctor, who is around 32 and works at the Jam’iyat
al-Birr wa al-Khadamat Hospital was beaten so badly that his hand was broken.
The security said the hospital treated what they called ‘terrorists’.

“My friend told me that he was sitting near a schoolteacher
we know well, who is in his sixties. He was beaten badly despite his age. My
friend told me that the schoolteacher addressed two of those who were beating
him and reminded them that he had taught them in the past when they were
younger. They just didn’t care.

“When it was around 11pm, a senior officer came in and
ordered the beatings to stop, and they did. When it was time to sleep, one
detainee put his head on my thigh, another put his head on my stomach and I had
to place my head on the belly of a detainee. It was hard to sleep that way. I
just couldn’t.

“The following day, we were not beaten up. Many of us were
told that we were going to be released, but others remain held there until
today. We had to pass by representatives of several security agencies, give our
names and if our name was not on any of the lists, we were allowed to leave.”