Lest we forget what's going on in Syria; Al-Qaeda’s horrifying rule

Lest we forget what's going on in Syria; Al-Qaeda’s horrifying rule
Fri Jan 17, 2014 19:07:12

Syrians detained by the al Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), have endured torture, floggings and summary killings in the armed group’s secret prisons.

ISIL, also referred as ISIS, entered Syria as al-Qaeda’s main branch to fight against the Syrian army and topple the government. It now controls large areas of northern Syria, where the war has raged for nearly three years.

Between November 20 and December 5 2013, the Amnesty International’s researcher for Syria, Cilina Nasser, interviewed ten Syrian former detainees in neighboring Turkey, where they had sought refuge.

The former detainees told her that anyone criticizing ISIS or appearing to oppose them could be abducted by masked men, blindfolded and taken into detention.

“Some (prisoners) are released, others die in custody and others are referred to court,” Nasser told Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

The report “Rule of fear: ISIS abuses in detention in northern Syria”, based on Nasser’s research, was released last month and details abuses suffered by civilians at the hands of the radical Islamist group.

The detainees described sham trials in areas controlled by ISIS fighters. Typically, a ‘judge’, who hides his identity, issues a sentence after a trial which lasts a couple of minutes, in which the accused are not able to defend themselves.

“He accused me of being a collaborator of the regime… He started flogging me with the scourge... He flogged me eight times and then I hid behind another detainee who received the rest of the lashes,” said the former detainee interviewed by Amnesty.

Some detainees died during the torture, which involved a variety of abuses, including hanging a person by the wrists, electric shocks and forcing them into demeaning sexual behavior.

“My hands were still cuffed behind my back. They then put a rope through my cuffs and pulled me up while tightening the rope to the pipes on the ceiling. I was pulled so high up that my toes could hardly touch the floor,” another former detainee told the human rights group.

“My shoulder could not bear the weight of my body and it broke… So my body fell a little bit closer to the floor and I was able to stand on one leg. Then they started hitting me using the cable.”

The conflict in Syria which began as a peaceful protests in March 2011 and evolved into a war following interventions from foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has driven a quarter of Syrians from their homes and killed more than 130,000 people.

In militant-held areas, other groups have turned against the al Qaeda-linked ISIL which aims to construct a caliphate of its own straddling the border separating Syria and Iraq.

“We don’t recognize anything called revolution. This is a revolution by kafirs [non-believers],” an ISIL torturer told a prisoner, according to a former detainee’s account. 

Children were not spared from torture either, the detainees told Amnesty.

“The first child, aged 13 to 14, was accused of stealing a motorcycle. He was detained for around four days and each day he was flogged up to 40 times. After admitting to stealing the motorcycle, (the Sharia court judge) told him he’d send him the following day to bring the motorcycle from its hiding place,” a former prisoner said.

When the boy insisted that he would return the motorcycle that day, the judge “shouted at the boy to come forward, ordered him to lie on the ground and he whipped him with a cable around 30 to 40 times,” the prisoner added.

ISIL claims to enforce strict law in the areas it controls. “People are targeted because they are suspected of committing religiously forbidden acts, such as zina (sex out of wedlock) or for consumption of alcohol or even for smoking, which (ISIL) says is prohibited,” Nasser said. 

The former detainees said that on release, the ISIL militants usually blindfolded prisoners and drove them around in circles so that they won’t be able to locate the facility. Eventually, the detainee would be released and ordered not look back and identify the car.

After regaining their freedom, some of the former hostages interviewed by Amnesty wanted to remain in Syria, but they received new threats.
Some of their acquaintances were also abducted and they fled to Syria rather than run the risk of another detention. Some could afford to take their families with them, but others had to leave relatives behind.


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