May 28, 2013
Abo Omar, 23, is from the town of Rankos in Outer Damascus province. He worked as a painter before the revolution and became a citizen journalist after the uprising began. He told Nuha Shabaan about his experience as a kidnapping victim, an account Syria Direct was able to verify through contacts on the ground. What remains unclear is who the kidnappers really are.
Q: Tell us about the circumstances around your kidnapping.
A: Yes, I do know someone; myself. About a month ago, I was kidnapped by those who call themselves FSA and they kept me for 5 day then they released me. I was in a tour with an Italian journalist who was shooting people’s living conditions. He was making a film for his channel. When he finished shooting, we headed back and hoped we’d come back to complete the work on the next day. It was sunset and we were walking.
A large Jeep intercepted us, and two FSA fighters with uniforms got off and took our IDs and then they forced us to ride with them in the car. They tied our eyes and took us to unknown locations. We weren’t able to do anything. I tried to explain to them from the beginning that we were with the opposition and wanted to film a documentary about the regime’s crimes, but they would only ask us to shut up and not to say anything unless we’re asked.
We kept silent on the road. I felt we were heading for mountains because the road was so rugged. After about an hour we arrived to a location that I didn’t know. They left us in a room for I don’t know how long. I was able to hear some people talking, but it wasn’t clear what they were saying. We stayed there for long hours, and then I realized it was noon the second day, when they brought us food. The meal was rice, yogurt and some water. One of them said: “Eat your food quickly now so that you meet our leader.” I was so thirsty and hungry. I asked him to untie my hand so that I could eat, so he said: “Shut up!” And then he untied one of my hands. I felt he did the same to the Italian journalist. I was able to hear him breathing hard because he was afraid they were going to kill him.
I wasn’t able to recognize how I ate or drink; I wasn’t able to recognize the taste of the food. I was feeling hungry until I ate, and that was what mattered. After we finished, someone came and tried my hand and my friend’s hand again. And then someone new with a strong voice came and told us: “I want you to answer [our questions] and don’t you dare lying. We’ve been watching you since you left the village. Now tell me, who are you?” I told him my name and that I was a photographer who documents the regime’s crimes. He told me to shut up and hit me on the face. He said: “I want the truth, and don’t you dare lie to me. You’re a spy, otherwise what is this foreigner doing with you?”
I told him that I didn’t know him, but a friend of mine called me and asked me to take care of him for an amount of money. “He wants to film a documentary and I think he’s Italian. I only met him yesterday.” He slapped me again and left me, [but] he said: “If you were lying with one word, we’ll have you killed.”
After that they took the Italian journalist and I was left alone. Hours felt like years and I was only able to hear some sounds from far and the sounds of shells and firing. Someone would bring me two meals every day, and that was how I recognized day and night. After 3 days, a bunch of people came. I heard the sound of their footsteps like thunder. I thought there were going to kill me, so I started praying to God to make them leave me alone, and that I would not participate in anything and would go home without being involved in the revolution or any other activities.
I was talking to myself when I felt someone was untying my hands. I was told: “We will let you go not because you’re honest, but because you don’t mean anything to us.” I asked them about the Italian journalist, but suddenly I felt something heavy felt on my back and I felt on the ground. I felt there was blood in my throat, and that all my teeth fell. He said: “This is none of your business. He’s not your friend.” I said: “No. I know him but he’s not my friend.”
They tied my hands again when we got on the car. I thought they were going to kill me and dump me on the road, just like in the movies. That was what happened indeed. The car suddenly stopped and I heard the door as they opened it. Someone grabbed me then I wasn’t able to recognize anything. I didn’t know whether I fainted whether because I was so afraid or in a lot of pain. I didn’t know whether it was hungry or happiness.
I heard the car leaving, and I wasn’t able to believe I survived. My hands and eyes were still tied, so I didn’t know what to do. I stayed like this for I don’t know how long, and then I heard a car approaching. It pulled over near me and some people got me in it. It was then when I saw the light. I didn’t know how many days it had been. I was grateful for these people who brought me back home after I showed them the way. I was reborn. The bastards took my camera, laptop and mobile phone. I didn’t dare ask them for that. I just wanted to get out.
Q: What happened to the Italian journalist?
A: They still have him and I don’t think any harm will happen to him so long as he’s not a spy. Because he’s foreigner, they will keep him to get a ransom. And they don’t want to turn the world public opinion against them.
Q: What kinds of people are exposed to kidnapping?
A: Journalists and rich people.
Q: Where do the abductions take place? In the areas dominated by the regime or the FSA?
A: They take place anywhere, whether in the regime or the FSA areas. When they want to do something, they won’t be afraid. Thieves and highway robbers usually operate at night in isolated areas. Most of them claim to be FSA. They steal from people and take the money they have. If they found someone important, they ask for a big ransom for them.