December 15, 2013
On September 25th, 2012, Syrian security forces arrested Bayan Raheen, an opposition activist from the East Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, after their agents hacked a friend’s Skype account. Lured onto Baghdad Street in central Damascus, Bayan and her two companions were arrested and transferred to the Raid Brigade 215 Branch in the capital’s Kafr Souseh neighborhood.
In a video, Bayan Rehan detailed her month-long detention by government forces.
After spending a month in a 2 square meters cell with eight other women between the ages of 16 and 65, she was released in a prisoner exchange for forty-eight rebel-held members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
On Sunday, Raheen described her detention at length for the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), a pro-opposition watchdog organization, whose director, Razan Zeitouneh, was kidnapped last week. In a signal of the shifting dangers for human rights activists, Zeitouneh is believed to have been kidnapped by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham organization, not the Syrian government. In an excerpt of Raheen’s testimony, the 26-year-old activist details her capture and torture by government forces.
The ambush was set after the security forces hacked a friend’s Skype account.
I was arranging a business meeting with him. However, I turned out to be chatting with a security officer who hacked my friend’s account a night before the ambush and then hacked my account as well. We agreed to meet on Baghdad Street. They facilitated the passage at checkpoints leading into Baghdad Street.
So when I passed Baghdad Street, as planned, I got arrested and they directed their weapons at me and the two friends who were with me, one of whom is called Nour Huda Hijazi.
There were a bus, a car and more than 20 armed members, as if they were going to catch some drug dealers or an arms-trafficking gang and not civilian activists.
I was detained at 11:00 am, and was insulted and humiliated badly by the officer in charge.
The young man with us, whose name I would keep anonymous out of respect to his wishes, was exposed to violent beating.
They blindfolded us and drove us to the Raid Brigade 215 in Kafer Souseh. We arrived at the branch within 10 minutes, and then, at the sixth floor we entered an office in which there were three interrogators, several army officers and three technicians (to get into our Facebook and Skype accounts).
They called me again for another interrogation. The interrogator reviewed my confessions and my chats on Skype that they had obtained. He asked me why I had not written the story of my previous detention and that I had been detained in Khateeb Branch. I answered him: ‘I thought you know everything!’
Here, the interrogator cursed me and said, “How dare you?” then brought an iron baton and hit me on my left shoulder. I tried to cover my face in order to protect it. He beat me till I could no longer feel my hands and legs.
I was alone with him in the interrogation room where he plugged in an electric torturing device and electrified me with every question.
I began to lose focus. He threatened that he would kill my friend whom I really liked. The psychological torture was way harder than the physical one. Afterwards, an interrogator came in and asked me to confess; otherwise they would torture me so I told him that I would. He didn’t, however, allow me to speak. He brought me a cup of tea, tore my confession papers and asked me to rewrite again. It was about six in the evening then.
Every time they read my confessions, they tore them and asked me to rewrite them again till I could no longer feel my hand.
The next day around 9:30, they called me for interrogation. For the following six days, I had a 10-12 hour interrogation session every day. The officer got tired but I didn’t.
During those sessions, I was only exposed to psychological torture but not physical.
Torturing male detainees:
Torturing male detainees, especially newcomers, was carried out mostly at night after 11:00pm after closing all the cells.
We were not able to sleep because of the other prisoners’ screams. I remember a young detainee from the Faculty of Engineering, I believe. They kept torturing him near our cell’s door till he lost consciousness. Then, they took him to the bathroom and poured water on him. Next, they brought him back and tortured him with electricity until he fell unconscious again. They kept repeating that till late that night (about 3:00 am) noting that they began torturing him at 10:30. He was being beaten brutally.
I couldn’t know his name, but he is from Western Ghouta; from Babila or Yalda.
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