12 Apr 2023

Seven or eight soldiers carrying weapons and machine guns stormed my office

I never thought I would be arrested, perhaps because I was a lawyer with a PhD in private law, or perhaps because I was careful to stay away from anything suspicious. I was not politically active in any form, and I had no public stance against the government whatsoever. 

In September 2016, I was in my office in Aleppo, in an area that was under the control of the Syrian government, when I was arbitrarily arrested from my office, without an arrest warrant, without a judicial order, and without any charges. Seven or eight soldiers carrying weapons and machine guns stormed my office and took me to the Political Security Branch, where I was interrogated and accused of being a judge for the armed opposition groups. I was accused of this while I was blindfolded. It felt like a nightmare that I could not wake up from. I tried telling them the truth, that I could not have been a judge for any terrorist groups as they claim while I lived and worked in areas controlled by the Syrian government.

I was interrogated about books I owned that had been confiscated. Reading some books in Syria is considered a political crime. Despite my conviction that no one has the right to prevent a person from reading any kind of books, I only bought the books allowed and licensed by the competent ministry, which were displayed and sold in an exhibition called Al-Assad Book Exhibition.

I reassured myself that I would be released after realised that all the charges against me were false. I knew I did nothing. I did not even come close to any of the Regime's red lines, and I had not demanded any of my rights. At the end of the investigation, however, I signed a 15-page “confession” report that was completely different from my statement after a pro forma court attended by a representative of the Bar Association, who was loyal to Al-Assad Regime. The lawyer could not say a word in my defence, and I was transferred with a few detainees to Al-Faihaa prison in Damascus. It may be strange to say this, but somehow I consider myself one of the luckiest detainees!  I was not treated as harshly as the other detainees. I was not placed in a small metal box for several days, whipped, or hanged at the wall like my inmates (who were hanged by their hands or feet). For reasons I do not know, my torture was of a different kind, and I was in great psychological pain for those innocent people who came to this place on flimsy charges. I was always afraid that I would also be tortured soon, and I panicked or almost collapsed whenever I thought about my family and what happened to them. Therefore, I decided to keep my thinking just within the confines of the prison, and I was trying to be a source of strength and support for the detainees with me. The food was little, often inedible, and it tasted bad and was void of any salt.

I was released at the end of 2017 after paying a large sum of money, but I left behind many innocent detainees who must be rescued and released as soon as possible, at least those who are still alive.  The international community must intervene to release them and hold the criminals accountable. There are huge numbers behind bars who are completely innocent. They deserve to enjoy freedom and to live in peace.