Zaman Al Wasl has launched 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 Zaina, a pseudonym, who spoke to Zaman al-Wasl on condition of anonymity, 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:
What have I done wrong to deserve the punishment I got 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?
What kind of custom gives them the right to replace my name with a number?
And what social considerations makes them abandon me in this way?
These questions which are attached to the number 826, which still inhabit my mind from the night of Dec. 27, 2016, the day I was arrested. On that day, I was sent to the prison of the Military Security Division in Hama Governorate under the pretext of demonstrating against the regime and for treating civilians, who were wounded in the random and barbaric shelling of the rebel areas.
They set me up with the help of one of my relatives, who was one of the regime's most powerful officers. 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 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, as if I was the cover star of a famous magazine.
I spent hours in a cell no more than two and a half meters wide, which I shared with twenty three other women. 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 knocked heavily on the door terrorizing the imprisoned women. Abou Ali, the jailer opens the door with his hands on his waist, and calls out the name "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 must have good friends.” They tied my hands with a white tie and covered 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 by the tie that bound my hands and passed through one of the doors where they took off my blindfold. I felt the world freeze, my whole body froze, my feelings were numb. Before me there was a long crypt in which I saw spots of blood cover floor tiles as well as the walls, chains hooked to the walls and others hanging from the ceiling. Young men in torn clothes, hung from their hands, their feet not touching the ground and their fingers stuck to the wall.
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.
Abou 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: “Abou 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, until now.” 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 in hospital, due to the doctor’s suspicion that I had a liver lump, they brought me back to the Hama branch to sign confession papers. 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 15 year old daughter as well. One of the ladies in the next room confirmed his claims to me so I granted their wish and confessed to things I know nothing of and to things I haven’t seen.
In the midst of a world indifferent to our humanity, they tied me and my sister’s hands together and drove us in a car 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 flooded with tears and I finally gave in 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 to my wrists.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.