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Citizen journalist in Aleppo: ISIS ‘treated us worse than Air Force intelligence’

PRISONER OF ISIS: After 16 days of solitary confinement, torture and harsh conditions in an Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) base at a children’s hospital in Aleppo, media activist Milad al-Shihabi escaped alongside dozens of others Wednesday, thanking the Free Syrian Army and allied Islamist brigades for his release.

“They have no mercy at all. The treatment was worse than the Syrian Air Force’s intelligence,” said Milad in a video posted online Wednesday. He escaped from the prison after the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front’s Liwa a-Tawhid captured the de facto ISIS headquarters in the Qadi Askari neighborhood of Aleppo.

The hospital was ISIS’s chief headquarters in Aleppo, and considered one of ISIS’s most important headquarters in Syria by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Al-Shihabi said most of the other detainees with him in the prison were journalists, and confirmed the existence of fighters from Ahrar a-Sham also under arrest. In describing his arrest, he said seven masked figures had entered his office, stolen his electronic equipment, three cameras, a laptop, an electricity generator and around 15,000 Syrian pounds ($105 USD).

Al-Shihabi said 11 of the rooms in the hospital had been converted into prison cells, adding that he spent 13 days in solitary confinement and was forced to remain handcuffed even as he prayed. “They do not know Islam at all,” said al-Shihabi.

As the FSA, the Islamic Front and others gained control of ISIS’s Aleppo base Wednesday, Islamist rebels also targeted ISIS’s headquarters in the governor’s building and the Political Security office in A-Raqqa with mortar shelling, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A-Raqqa is currently ruled by ISIS.

Video courtesy of Halab News.

Following is a complete translation of al-Shihabi’s remarks, courtesy of Syria Direct:

“On January 8, 2014, I was liberated from ISIS’s jailed in the children’s hospital in the Qadi Askri neighborhood. More than 300 hundred prisoners were liberated. Among the detainees were media activists Ahmad Brimo and myself, Milad Shihabi and also the manager of al-Kifah, Ahmad al-Sabha.

I was detained from my office in the residential area of Hanano at 11PM and spent 16 days in jail. There was very bad treatment in the jail, with 13 days spent in a solitary cell with my eyes covered. I couldn't see anything at all. I did not know what I was accused of.

Also, I was verbally insulted just for being an activist. Food was not well provided. Even prayers: I prayed with handcuffs on and they wouldn't let us wash for prayers at all.

There are many innocent prisoners in there, there was a prisoner who spent three and a half months under the accusation of spitting on a martyr. He did not do that. Abu Ali al-Salaibi is also in there – he was moved two days before we liberated the jail. We don't know where they took him to. They called his name and took him out.

Also Yahya Saloum is there, the brother of a reporter for Orient TV, he had worked as cameraman for his brother Mo’ayad. He was moved on the same day and we don't know where they were taken.

The number of people in the jail is really underestimated. There was a man who had walked past their (ISIS’s) site, and spent three months in jail just for looking at them. The reason: Why are you looking at the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham?

They have no mercy. Their treatment was worse than the (Syrian government’s) Air Force Intelligence. No mercy at all. The Air Force Intelligence were defending the Baath party, now there is this religious cover. They say the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham will remain no Syria no matter what happens. They don’t know what Islam is at all. They made us pray with our handcuffs. They did not let us wash, even though there was water. They didn’t give us food. I spent 13 days in a single cell that was 1.5 by 1 meter, with my eyes covered in darkness, unable to see anything in front of me. 

Q: How did they detain you?

A: They came to my office at 11:30 PM and the door was locked. Someone with me in the office opened the door. Seven men with covered faces entered the office. They entered as thieves, not as members of ISIS or anything else.

They asked about the money that I had. I had a bout 15,000 Syrian  ($105 USD) in my pocket and they took it. They took the equipment I had in my office: three cameras, a laptop, a generator, a battery and electronic equipment. They took everything in the office. While detaining me, they put handcuffs on me and covered my eyes. Then they forced me on to the ground and started to take their military boots to my neck and kick my body. One said, “you activists are dogs, now you want revolution?” He started to say bad things about the revolution. He said it was a thieves’ revolution. They put me in the trunk and then the car moved. I know all the roads, and we reached the al-Haidareyeh Roundabout. They started making circles in the roundabout, so I lost my sense of direction. After that I was dropped at the site and did not know where I was for two or three days. I knew that I was in the children’s hospital when warplanes targeted the place.

Last thing I knew, I was in the children’s hospital in a small place. There was aerial shelling, and we were calling on God to deliver a shell to the prison to relieve us from the torture and misery...we are the rebels who went out in the beginning of the revolution this what happens to us like this. There were a lot of rebels inside and we were all praying that the hospital would be hit.  There is no mercy in their hearts. I was telling them, I had two brothers detained, please call my family and let them know. They told me they wanted to teach me how to say Da’ish (ISIS).

The released us from prison one day before the prison was liberated. A man named Abu Maria entered each of the prison’s 14 rooms. One room is a kitchen, one room is for interrogation, one for imports and 11 for detainees. Each room has between 20 and 35 prisoners.

All the rooms were full. He entered each room and said in an Iraqi accent, “Is there any one here who wants to rebel? We are the Iraqi state, we have been in Iraq for 10 years and they could not get rid of us. Is there any one of you who wants to rebel in this prison? I’ll step on him with my boot.” That was his language. When we asked for water in the prison we knocked on the door, and almost broke it, asking for water.

We spent five days eating just bread and two days without water. There wasn’t enough water to do ablutions. There was no electricity at all for five days. We were actually planning to escape the prison, and started thinking of all the ways we could escape, through a window or any place. Thank God we were able to get out.

How was the liberation operation of the prison?

The prison was liberated by the detainees themselves.

Prisoners were able to liberate other prisoners, and they were able to open the  rooms because they had wooden doors and normal locks, which we were able to open. We tried to escape the prison using the window, but it was dangerous because there were snipers for a-Tawhid (Islamic Front-affiliated Liwa a-Tawhid) and snipers for the State (ISIS). That was the last thing we knew, because once we got out there was no sound at all.

There were many clashes, because they shot someone from the military policy (a part of Liwa a-Tawhid) in the head. So they (from a-Tawhid) went to talk with them, and told them, "our brothers from the State (ISIS), we are Liwa a-Tawhid's military police and you are shooting us.” The guy (from a-Tawhid) told him that one of his men had been shot in the head, and the other guy (from ISIS) told him, “we are not shooting at you.”

After a while another guy was shot from Liwa al-Tawhid by the military police, but this time it was in his shoulder. We heard gunfire from 23 mm and heavy weapons.

Between Liwa al-Tawhid’s headquarters and ISIS’s headquarters we knew there were heavy clashes, and we couldn’t get out to the street once we escaped. We took a look; bullets would hit our building and we couldn’t even leave using the window. Thank God the prisoners were able to open the doors, and they went to treasury box and only found their IDs, because they didn’t leave anything valuable.

There were military prisoners, like detainees from Ahrar al-Sham They were detained just because they are from Ahrar al-Sham. There were also two people from Abu Ammara Brigades who were arrested for just 26 hours, as they are trying to eliminate the Abu Ammara Brigades. They are trying to eliminate the FSA brigade by brigade and battalion by battalion. It was only a matter of time. I mean, mean without this unification that has occurred, all of Aleppo, or all of Syria, would have been in their hands.

Thank God for the unification of FSA. Just like they said, it is the will of God and the will of the FSA’s youth, who pressured them until we were able to leave the prison.

Thank you so much.” 

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