Has the world heard the appeals of the Hama prison detainees?

The suffering of those detained in the Assad regime’s prisons and camps has gone on for years without any international or Arab action to alleviate its atrocity and horror. Meanwhile, human rights organisations are content with recording and documenting some of the violations and crimes that Al-Assad’s regime still commits against hundreds of thousands of Syrians.

The detainees in Hama Central Prison are currently trying to reach out to the world, through their hunger strike, and to present their demands by means of smuggling out audio recordings calling on the world to stop the death sentences issued against dozens of them. They also call on those with living consciences to end their torture and alleviate their suffering which has gone on for many years in Al-Assad’s prison cells.

It is no secret that those detained inside the Assad regime’s prison cells and basements are being subjected to various forms of physical and psychological torture and are being deprived of food; starved to death as punishment for participating in peaceful demonstrations calling for salvation from the tyrannical regime. They can do nothing more but be patient, bear the most severe forms of torture, and endure the long bitter years of imprisonment in hopes of surviving death in these prisons.

It is known that the Hama Central Prison is a civilian prison that, before the Syrian Revolution, held those convicted of criminal charges, such as murder, robbery, etc. however, Al-Assad’s regime turned it into a prison to hold those belonging to the opposition and who have different political views to the regime, especially those participating in peaceful protests and in the “March of the One Million” in Hama in July 2011.

After the revolution, Hama’s central prison became a concentration camp, in addition to several other concentration camps. However, it is unmatched in its forms of torture and abuse even compared to other infamous concentration camps, such as Tadmor, Sednaya, Mezzeh and Halbouni, where Hafez Al-Assad imprisoned Syrians for expressing an opinion different to his, making the expression “prisoners of conscience” common in Syria. It turned into a complex concept, that is not concrete and unlimited, and includes prisoners of conscience, prisoners of thought, and prisoners of words. It has stretched to include anyone imprisoned for an “opinion crime” or because of a difference in opinion than that of Al-Assad’s regime. It also applies to those imprisoned for not agreeing with or aligning their words with what the regime wants, the head of which has turned into a metaphysical being whose words are above all, receives all wealth and privileges, and whose rule extends from his throne to all of Syria.

The Assad regime is trying to manipulate the prisoners’ issue, a matter that is common in the history and nature of the Assad regime, both in the father and son’s regimes. Such manipulation is occurring in order to suggest their flexible dealing with the Hama central prison inmates in order to cover up their crimes and violations in the other concentration camps. Political arrests and forced disappearances have become a major trademark of this dictatorship, as, especially after the outbreak of the revolutions, the regime detained hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the cells of intelligence agencies and in their secret and public prisons. Their forms of torture and murder rival the Nazi camps. The guards torture prisons in the ugliest and most barbaric means, starving them to death in many instances. Caesar’s photographs exposed only some of what happens in these prisons, while tens of thousands of prisoners are still suffering, and those who survive are granted a new life.

For many years, the Assad regime has prevented human rights and international organisations from entering its prisons, because it does not want to expose the slaughterhouses of its repressive regime, which have turned into nightmares threatening every Syrian who dreams of salvation from its tyranny. These prisons have always violated the sanctity of the human body, a matter all humans agree on regarding mutual humanitarian values. The actions taking place in the regime’s prisons are considered a violation of such sanctity by means of actions that ensure the regime’s physical control over the people. It has also limiting the prisoners’ freedom of movement, keeping them in small cells, no bigger than one square metre in solitary cells.

It has gone as far as to exercise various forms of brutal torture, placing the weak prisoners’ bodies in metal cages thus further humiliating and shaming them. These actions give a new shocking meaning to physical torture that generates a sort of pleasure for the sick regime guards who twistedly enjoy causing pain to various parts of the prisoners’ bodies. This also exposes a great deal of hatred and resentment and reveals an inferiority complex compensated for in the methods of contempt and humiliation.

The prisoners of Hama Central Prison, and the rest of the detainees in the regime’s camps and prisons, are disappointed by the way the international and Arab communities are dealing with their suffering and plight, and with the Syrian catastrophe in general, caused by the way the Assad regime and its Iranian and Russian allies dealt with the revolution. This is despite the smuggling and leaking of thousands of documents and evidence incriminating the regime, documenting torture and systematic killings in the cellars of its agencies, in accordance with the orders of the regime’s leaders, beginning with the president.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 15 November 2018

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.



Has the world heard the appeals of the Hama prison detainees?