While detainees struggle inhuman, degrading circumstances that put their life on the verge of death during the Covid-19 pandemic, though, despite their release, survivors’ of detention centers struggle continues to exacerbate during the time of the health pandemic.
A lack of water, food, and medical care are standard torture methods applied in Syrian detention facilities, a reality of which the 32-year-old Nazir Abbas from Idlib province have experienced, spending 27 consecutive months in Tadmor prison in 2011.
Since the pandemic’s outbreak and lockdown, everyone has been following the news worldwide and fears of looming, inevitable perhaps, a crisis that could kicks-off in our North-Western Syria. Abbas explains that his current anxiety lies beyond the explicit scope of the rest of the people.
“Although it had been overwhelming and uneasy to cope with the new routine during the lockdown, having to think of my detainees’ friends in Tadmor detention centre and what I experienced in 2011, gives me depression and goosebumps.”
“Recalling Tadmor and the rest of the detaıneesacross Syria, where almost a full absence of any health care that anyone can imagine because of constant fear about the destiny of thousands of detaınees and enforced dısappers.
I can imagine how cruel their situation could turn. Having to be amongst those who have survived and now living under the lockdown, safely while my friends are still in detaıntıon, brings me a lot of distress and helplessness.” Abbas said
In addition to the daily torture sessions, detaıneessuffer from the worst inhuman detaining conditions. The Syrian authorities deliberately dismiss the health consideration that would prevent the Covid-19’s proliferation, such as the lack of necessary hygienic measures, let alone clean water or food aimed at.
Human Rights Groups expressed their rising fears for tens of thousands of detainees in Assad’s authority slaughter detention centres as the Coronavirus widespread through the war-torn country, with staggering conditions and a history of ill-treatment exacerbating concerns.
The Syrian intelligence holds over 130,000 detainees, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), with most arbitrary detained since the beginning of the Syrian uprising against the Ba’ath authoritarian regime in March 2011.
Following the lockdown, many people obeyed the lockdown recommendations and stayed indoors. Accor, people, are obliged to remain indoors amid limiting the risks of the virus’s outbreak. Those who adhered to the restrictions, like Abbas, describe it as a negative experience that influenced both his temper and mental well-being.
“The linkages between prison and the lockdown circumstances where I am battling with the loneliness that made me helplessly overthinking about the past and present situation of detainees intrigued the trauma and horror I witnessed in Assad’s prisons. Since the Coronavirus’s outbreak, I stay most of my day at home, seeing the same faces, in the same room,” he said
Abbas spends the prolonged hours of silence and flashbacks of the imprisonment arouse the feelings of despair, pain, and inability to help detainees who are struggling every single moment.
The United Nations rapporteur for Syria, Geir Pedersen, pointed out to the Covid-19 risks, the significantly contagious respiratory illness caused by the Coronavirus, racing and potentially breaking, through the country’s prisons and urged quick action to free detainees.
Although the Syrian authority announced a new amnesty decree last March, However, human rights groups said that only a few hundred people jailed for common crimes had been released, while disappeared and political prisoners remain in captivity. SNHR said it documented 665 arbitrary arrests, 116 deaths under torture, and 232 releases since the September amnesty.
Accordingly, the Syrian regime seeks to manoeuvre the pressures it is facing from organizations and states that fear the spread of the virus in the ranks of detainees. Meanwhile, Thousands of political prisoners detained since the outbreak of Syria’s conflict remain held captive exposed to increased risks of death.
Coping mechanisms with the lockdown
Laila, 25-years old survivor from the air-force secret service detantıon centre in Damascus, explains that although the new routine becomes very slow and alike in activities and faces. “It reminds me somewhat with the prison atmosphere, but it is nothing like,” the survivor said
The extra free time gives moments we can spend with family members bring both gratitude to being open, “at least we are here without a daily humiliation or torture or fears,” she said
Laila asserts that, nowadays, it is evident to go through depression, anxiety, and loneliness, which perhaps looks like solitary confinement, sometimes I cannot help it. However, unlike prisons, with books, internet, and phones, life is incomparable to how it is like in Assad’s detention death centres, this makes life pass by at ease.
“In prison, we can see no one, we barely eat, sleep and wake up on the sounds of torture, but now we are quarantined with our families or at least we can talk to them online,” Laila added.