Assad regime demands bribe from prisoners in exchange for freedom

Published 09.07.2019 00:16

Besides facing torture, many prisoners in Syrian jails are forced to pay huge bribes in exchange for freedom, according to ex-prisoners.

"My family paid a bribe of 500,000 Syrian liras (about $10,000) to one of the members of the Assad family for my release," Um Hisam, 50, told Anadolu Agency (AA) in an interview.

Recalling the torture and cruelties he witnessed during his imprisonment at various detention centers in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and Idlib, Hisam said he had suffered a heart attack, as he could not bear the severe torture. He was accused of supporting the Syrian military opposition.

"There were cockroaches in the bread, which they gave to the prisoners. I lost 17 pounds in four months," he said.

Detained at border

Um Hisam was forced to take refuge in Turkey with his wife and children in September 2011, due to the civil war in Syria, which had broken out a few months earlier. When he returned to Syria to fetch documents necessary to enroll his children in Turkish schools, he was detained by the regime forces at the border gate in Idlib. A year after his release, he returned to Turkey to live with his family. According to the International Conscience Movement, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), more than 13,500 women have been jailed since the Syrian conflict began, while more than 7,000 women remain in detention, where they are subjected to torture, rape and sexual violence.

The movement is an alliance of individuals, rights groups, NGOs and organizations aiming to secure urgent action for the release of women and children in the prisons of the Syrian regime.

Almost 14,000 people have died in Syrian regime prisons since March 2011, when the civil war first erupted, while about 128,000 others still remain in detention, the U.K.-based Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said in a report released in March.

According to the report, some 127,916 people are currently in detention or have been forcibly disappeared, over the same period.

The SNHR announced last month that over 14,000 civilians have died of torture since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011. "Some 14,227 individuals [including 177 children, 62 women] have died due to torture at the hands of main parties to the conflict in Syria from March 2011 to June 2019," according to the SNHR report, which marked the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26. Torture by the Bashar Assad regime forces made up 14,070 of this number, including 173 children and 45 women.

The report stressed that the figures consisted of only those that can be identified, and that the real death toll is much higher.

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