Here we are in Northern Syria with the “Globalo Youth Peacemaker Tour 2016”.
War is a system in Syria. A machinery. Sometimes even a profitable business for a few, but painful for most.
We have to ask: “Why?”, once we take a look at the beginning of war as in Syria. What are the reasons? What are the facts?
Take a look at the reality of war that we block out so often. Because blocking out, ignoring and even denying is much more comfortable than taking a closer look. This war began because a regime is just what it is – a regime, regardless of the influence of various players. A state that rules its people with an iron fist; tortures with an iron fist; thousands and thousands of people.
And yet it is not up to me to judge a regime; to condemn its security forces or intelligence; to evaluate the methods of extracting confessions or maltreating people. My job is to listen. To give a (tortured) human at least a few hours of my time. To give him the dignity that has been taken away from him. Despite the pain and the tears that touched my face as I heard about his boundless anguish, suffered in the turmoil of this civil war. Worn down and forgotten between the frontlines.
Musa, 27, shares: “We demonstrated for the right to vote. To be allowed to teach our language, not only to be tolerated in churches. Even we should have the right to be nominated for president, regardless of whether we are Christians or Muslims. We demonstrated for the right to be accepted as a nation. To see us just as Christians would have made us a pawn in the hand of those who seek power – therefore we demonstrated. Therefore I demonstrated. It wasn´t any more. I haven´t done any more.”
“They broke into our house at night. I slept in a room with my brother. The whole house was surrounded. They searched specifically for me and my siblings. They asked me for my ID and I gave it to them. They took everything: my laptop, my personal effects, just everything. They led me off, and just after I stepped into our yard I saw that more security forces had positioned. Snipers were on the roof pointing on me with their guns. Heavily armed vehicles took me to inquisition. I spent five hours there initially …”
During the questioning.
“Yes, I´ve been in Turkey. Visiting relatives there, nothing else. That was several years ago. Even before the war. They don´t want to believe me. I’m accused of being a terrorist. Having connections to those who want to harm Syria. They just did not believe me. Extorted me. I should confess. But why? For something I have not done? Allegedly I talked to freedom fighters, swapped ideas, got in contact. I objected. I objected again and again. I just had not done anything.”
Musa tries to keep countenance and doesn’t look into my eyes any longer.
“And consistently blows. Blindfolded. These questions: Who we are. Where we come from. What we are planning to do.
I never knew from which direction the blows would come. At first the feet, then the legs, then the back. Half-clad, we suffered this torture again and again. And consistently, the demand for a confession. And the question, what is our plan? What is our aim?”
“Our aim is nothing more than being treated equal. Nothing else!”
I visualize all these things in my mind: the prison sector he is in, the physical punishment. It is evident that Musa goes through all this again while speaking.
“After nine days of torture we were taken to Damascus by plane. Once we got off the plane and entered the bus that would take us to another prison, we were kicked. After we had left the bus, we were crowded into several vehicles nude and blindfolded. Blindly we entered something like a cellar. It was only then that the blindfolds were removed. And now cussed out. Blows on the bare skin. Going around naked in a circuit. And blows and insults consistently. Confined in a small room, hands bound together closely, we only could stand. We had to stand the whole night without water, without something to eat, until the first collapsed. Finally we got some water to drink, something to eat. The bread was rotten. Those who could not do otherwise ate it. Others could not. It was simply inedible.”
Musa describes how some nearly died of thirst and how they were tortured by their tormentors. Even without looking at the wounds on his body it is enough to look in his with pain contorted face to see an immense agony therein.
“Only twice a day we were allowed to relieve ourselves dressed in underwear and almost naked. Those who were not fast enough were beaten. Those who attracted attention were beaten. Everyday one of the group members had to choose others for being tortured. If he did not do so he was tortured for the others. With special cruelty.”
“We were a group of fourteen. In a room of 2 by 2 meters. We could only sleep when we pressed our legs into the face of the others while we were sitting. It was unbearable. And unbearable was the torture. Naked, kneeling, we should confess. With a hose we have been maltreated. Then we have been pushed against a wall naked. The last ones were whipped with the hose again. We should be humbled further by this torture. Our genitals should touch each other. So it went on for weeks.”
Musa looks at the floor and folds his hands as if he is praying.
“One day I could not stand it any longer. I did not want to be jailed in this room any longer, to sleep while sitting, with the feet of a fellow captive in the face. I had no more will – I just stood there the whole night until one of the guards saw me. He took me along in order to punish me for my disobedience.”
Musa looks at me and indicates that at that moment he was expecting death.
“My hands were tied together. I was hung up on the ceiling naked, in a chamber, completely alone for hours, maybe days – I do not know anymore. I was ready, ready to die. I just wanted to escape the torture and get it over and done. I didn´t feel the pain anymore. I had settled my affairs.”
Musa looks up. Tending his head upwards. So as if he would speak to God. I can see tears in his eyes.
“The room had a small window. Small and inconspicuous. It was open. Light came inside – and with the light a cool breeze. The light hit my face. The cold air made me breathe. A benevolent feeling diffused in me. I closed my eyes. Letting the cool air touching my maltreated body. Receiving the warmth of the sun rays. And I smiled.”
And indeed Musa smiles at this moment. He cries and smiles at the same time.
“I saw Him. When he was crucified. With all His pain. He sacrificed himself for us. Light poured out of him. It hit me. Into my heart. Into my soul. It called me up. Approved joy. And gratitude. Gratitude for the sacrifice he rendered. Because his sacrifice is for all of us. And I knew that my faith is my hope. Because the breeze cooled me. The light warmed me.”
At this moment I can not do otherwise: I imagine him hanging from the ceiling and smiling. And I notice a tear hitting my cheek and dropping down.
“My faith is my hope. The light my salvation.”
Musa was imprisoned for over a year. Tortured again and again. Sometimes he would be pressured to confess that he cooperates with Israel. Another time he was accused of cooperating with Turkey.
The atrocities that happened to him are unimaginable. Many captives among them, Christians or Suryoye – that would be the right ethnic name – and also Alawites, Sunnis, Kurds, etc ., fell victim to the cruel methods of torture. Musa also met Sunni captives here who had a one-sided picture of the Suryoye before. Thousands did not survive the torture. Thousands died in the prisons. And the prisons become breeding chambers for those who radicalize even more afterwards.
Many of the survivors contain deep hate for the regime and the war within themselves. But also for all those who apparently are on the side of the regime. Regardless of whether they are forced to or just doing so because of the perspective to enjoy more efficient protection under it.
It is far for me to pass judgment on what is more brutal: the methods of torture displayed by the regime or the methods of the jihadists who flaunt murder and maltreat publicly.
I’m just glad that Musa has survived due to the support of good friends.
Nowadays he is rather safe – if you can speak of safety anyway. Young men like him are not only victims of a one-sided policy but also the epitome of the enemy for extremist groups such as IS, which would like to wipe out all Christian, Shiite, Sunni and Yezidi life if this does not match their own ideology.
Due to my German identity card I am safe again. Musa does not have a German passport.
He does not even want to go to Europe. He wants security in his home country.