The Islamic State announced Saturday that it had destroyed the Palmyra prison, a site infamous for the torture and execution of political detainees and for the regime’s 1980 massacre of hundreds of prisoners following an attempt on then-President Hafez al-Assad’s life.
Here, Nabih Osman, a former 15-year detainee and president of the Free Tadmur Prisoners Association, talks to Syria Direct’s Ammar Hamou about his objections to the Islamic State’s destruction of a building where “every corner was a witness to criminality.”
Q: IS claims that it destroyed a terrorist den when it blew up the prison. How do you respond?
“We’re absolutely against what happened. Every corner in the Palmyra prison was a witness to criminality. The prison told the history of a period of criminal oppression against the prisoners.
I would ask—is the Palmyra prison an idol, or the body of a deity?”
Q: Did the Union of the Free Tadmur Prisoners Association put out an announcement about IS blowing up the prison?
“We’re currently preparing a document that will clarify our stance on what happened.
But I want to point out that we previously published an announcement after IS took control of the prison. We called on them to preserve everything in the prison, including archives, pictures, courtyards and sleeping quarters, in order to show the world the prison’s history of injustice and oppression.
We implored them, if they truly were sincere, to let the prison be their charge, so to speak, so there might come a day when they present the prison as a gift to the thousands who spent decades there.”
Q: Do you have statistics on the number of political prisoners in Palmyra? Are you in contact with international bodies in order to document what happened there?
“Yes, there were approximately 45,000 political prisoners in the Palmyra prison [mostly arrested during the 1980’s]. Of those, 30,000 were killed under torture or through field executions.
As for communication with international bodies that hasn’t occurred yet. We only recently obtained a license for our union in Turkey.”