book “Sednaya Prison During The Syrian Revolution:Testimony of Khaldoun Mansour

In another round of torture, they broke one of my ribs, then one of the soldiers advanced and hit me on my left limb, result of which I became sick for 45 days, during which they did not save me of torture.

August 6, 2020

book “Sednaya Prison During The Syrian Revolution:Testimony of Khaldoun Mansour

Source: The Association of Detainees and The Missing in Sednaya Prison

Arrest and Interrogation

At 07.00 a.m. the fifth of December 2011, I was arrested in the military unit where I was serving. I was led to “branch 293” where I was brought in front of the chief interrogator at 11.00 P.M. of the same day. They brought a civilian person whom they said my mobile phone number was listed in his cellular phone. They asked him what does he know about the First Lieutenant Khaldoun. He said that I used to deal with them, meet with them and help them in planning operations against officers from the Alawite sect who participated in storming Qatana and committed atrocities against its population.

I denied all the charges. At 02.00 P.M. they led me to a room where there were fifteen persons from the military intelligence. A few minutes later, the interrogator entered the room and told me that he received orders from the chief of the military intelligence to detain me.  They took the rank epaulets off my shoulders, hand cuffed me, blinded my eyes and led me down into a solitary prison cell. A week later, they interrogated me again and used a wheel to torture me. Again, I denied all their charges.

After 15 days in the solitary cell, they transferred me into a collective dormitory, then to “branch 248” where I spent one week in a solitary cell. On January 20, 2012, I was transferred to Sednayah prison. There, a horror movie was played in reality. I realized that all what was taking place in the prisons of the security branches is a game compared with what I will see in Sednayah prison.

To Sednayah Prison

When they moved us from “branch 248” they gave us all our personal items which we had when we were arrested. They call them “deposits.” They hand cuffed us, blinded our eyes and put us in a big closed truck (known as the fridge). Naturally we did not know our destination, but when we arrived, I had a short quick look around to realize that we were in Sednayah prison, where I had been detained in 2008, but this time in the “White Building.”

Elements of the military police opened the door of the truck near where I had been seated. There was no ladder or stairs to get down, so they held us one after another and threw us on the ground as if we were sheep. During that we heard all kinds of naughty curses harming the honor of our mothers, sisters and wives. When on the ground, they ordered us to lay down procumbent, hands cuffed behind us and our eyes blinded. They took our names while beating us. They led us one or two floors underground in the “Red Building,” took away the handcuffs and kept the blinds on our eyes, and ordered us to take off our clothes. We did not expect to take off the under wear but we were ordered to do that.

They distributed us on totally miserable solitary cells where there were taps with no water, and obsolete toiletry. After 30-35 days there, they led us up to dormitories, 35-40 persons each with three military blankets for each prisoner. There, I spent about two years and a half.

In the Dormitory

When distributing meals, they mix all kinds of food together. They put the breakfast, the lunch and the dinner, all together, in one bowl. Many times, they put the foods on the floor, and some times in the toilet in order not to allow us eat them.

During distributing meals, the staff sergeant or the sergeant, responsible of the dormitories, would ask prefects of dormitories to take out any one who violates orders in the wards. Prefect of the ward, a prisoner himself, would find himself in a dilemma, either point to those who violated and by so he saves himself, or denies occurrence of any violation and be beaten on behalf of all the prisoners in the dormitory.

Beating was executed with all the means available in the hands of jailors, wheels, electric sticks, blackjacks or the red plastic hoses. In the final days of my imprisonment they added iron pipes dubbed “Umm Kamel,” the name of a comic character of an old traditional Syrian TV series. To use it, jailers would order the prisoner to put his hands on his eyes and to lower his head down.

Once, the jailer used it against me. He called me…, of course I responded immediately. He asked: “Do you know Umm Kamel?” I said: “NO.” “Now you will know it.” he said. He directed one blow to my head, I, unintendedly, opened my eyes to see total blackness. I ran inside the ward and hid among my colleagues. He cursed and followed me to beat me again on my backbone. I fell down, lower part of my body paralyzed for 10-20 seconds. I started crying and spontaneously said: “My God, I did nothing to deserve this punishment.”  He shouted: “You’re calling your God? He is already down in the basement cells,” and struck me again on my right shoulder. My friends were standing, faces to the wall as usual, because it is prohibited to see jailers. If jailers notice that anyone had seen their faces, they would take him, poke his eyes and return him back. I ran towards my mates, fell down unconscious and the jailer left the ward. I remained so for about fifteen minutes. When I woke up, I asked my colleagues to help me stand on my feet, to be sure I am not paralyzed. I started sobbing, they joined me, helped me stand and, thank God, I stood stand.

In another round of torture, they broke one of my ribs, then one of the soldiers advanced and hit me on my left limb, result of which I became sick for 45 days, during which they did not save me of torture. Even though one has a broken bone, he wouldn’t be saved from slapping, kicking or cursing.

During our stay in the prison we all, excluding very few of us, kept hoping that the revolution will be victorious and that we will be liberated from this tyranny. For example, one of us used to sit in the corner of the ward and repeat: “It’s over…we are finished. We will have the same destiny of the Moslem Brothers, never be free forever. Tomorrow they will liquidate us …and then they will execute us.” That was really frustrating.

Death or Execution:

One of those who deceased in the prison was a colleague of mine in the military academy, Ayham Qanzoua, from Latakia countryside. He died of illness. One day we woke up to find him suffering from fever, reddish eyes with blood dropping from his nose. Another one, Khodr al-Qasem, from Talkalakh, died of the same illness. The judge, captain Faysal al-Rifaie, from Daraa, also died from torture.

I loved al-Rifaie because he was optimist. He always said: “We will be set free and we will get rid of this criminal,” he means Bashar al-Assad. After the last visit his wife made to him, he knelt down in front of the jailer covering his eyes with his palms, as usual, a soldier kicked him on the stomach. When he returned to the dormitory, he was totally exhausted. He sat on the floor weeping: “Sons of the bitch killed me.” He uttered. Three days later, we were having breakfast when he asked us help him go to the toilet. I tried to help him up but he fell down between my hands. A fellow with little knowledge of medicine examined him and said: “May God bless his soul” declaring his death.

We washed his body and wrapped him with a blanket. When the jailer came the next day, he looked at the dormitory prefect and asked: “You pimp, what about this?” (Jailers used to dub dormitory prefects “dormitory pimps.” The man said “He died.” “He died or fatas?” (A slang expression of humiliation to the dead) the jailer asked. “fatas” the prefect answered. “Hope you didn’t kill him” the jailer commented joking. The prefect said: “No sir, he died by himself.” “OK…pull him and throw him out.” The jailer ordered.

 Hellfire Ward

We were in ward C, known as the hellfire ward. This title was not far from the truth. For example, it was not allowed to have any clothes other the ones we wear. Once, three months passed with no water in the tank, it was perforated. Every day they brought us forty liters of water to be used by forty prisoners.

Psychological torture was even harder than body torture. For example, one of the jailers might come and open the door window, in this case, the regulations say that all prisoners should immediately run to the end of the dormitory, turn their faces to the wall, kneel down and cover their eyes and faces with their hands. It was totally forbidden to look back and see the jailer. He used to open the door window whenever he wants and to curse our mothers, sisters and wives with the meanest and ugliest descriptions. Every time we wished he would come and beat us instead of hearing his dirty glossary.

One of the dirtiest punishments they used to practice on us is selecting any two of us, order them to stand face to face and slap each other on the faces with their slippers. This punishment was meant to humiliate the prisoners who are no more than numbers in this prison.

In the final stage of our imprisonment they executed prisoners indirectly by beating them on sensitive organs, the spinal cord, the head or the stomach. In mid-June 2014, we were released from prison in two groups. after which no more prisoners were set free collectively from Sednayah prison, prisoners were released singly.



Prelude the book

Part 1

Part 2