Life, Middle East

Syrian torture victim recounts cruelty in Hafez al-Assad's regime prison

'It seems as if Assad regime is formatted only to kill and destroy Syrian people,’ says ex-prisoner

Esref Musa   | 26.06.2022
Syrian torture victim recounts cruelty in Hafez al-Assad's regime prison


A former Syrian prisoner recalled the torture and cruelty he suffered in detention during the rule of Hafez al-Assad, the father of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26, Turkmen Ismail Mustafa from Tal Abyad recounted the torture and violence he had to endure during his 13-year incarceration.

Mustafa, who spent 13 years in the “worst” Tadmur prison after being detained by the forces of Hafez al-Assad regime in 1987, said: “13 years of death, anxiety, and fear every day. Inside (the prison), I was just thinking when will I die and be saved?”

He said that prisoners paid a heavy price for the conflicts between the Hafez al-Assad regime and neighboring countries such as Lebanon.

He was shaken by the events of 1989 when clashes took place between the Hafez al-Assad regime's army and the military of Michel Aoun in Lebanon.

Another year of severe torture was the year when Hafez al-Assad 's son Bassel died, Mustafa said, adding: “Those in Tadmur (prison) in 1994 know this history very well. We were held responsible, and tortured and abused as if we had killed him.”

‘I ate dead mouse’

Recalling a moment of sheer pain, Mustafa said that once a guard marked him for night torture. “He was hitting my bare chest and back. He fed me a dead mouse. I didn't know what was in my mouth because of fear. I ate it. This is one of the moments I will never forget.”

Mustafa also narrated the story of a young prisoner who volunteered for torture when the guards marked an elderly prisoner for night torture.

The victim recalled that the torture stopped abruptly in June 2000.

“We couldn't figure out what happened. But we knew that something big had happened in the country.”

Mustafa added: “When they announced that 'Bashar Hafez al-Assad has forgiven you,' we learned that the father al-Assad died.”

He pointed out that the tradition of "torture and death in prison" started by Hafez al-Assad is being carried forward by Bashar al-Assad. “It seems as if the Assad regime was formatted only to kill and destroy the Syrian people.”

Noting that he was deprived of civil rights until 2007 after his release, Mustafa said: “I couldn't get married, get an identity card, or get a driver's license. I couldn't even shop. I couldn't do anything."

Mustafa called on international human rights organizations to take notice of the situation and demanded the Assad regime be tried in the International Criminal Court.

*Writing by Seda Sevencan​​​​​​​

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