Manar Jaber: Confession of an Assad’s prison survivor

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Many of us have heard crazy horror stories around the fire place. Stories about demons and monsters torturing people. But those stories would usually end with the evening, and would only revisit us in our nightmares. I’ve heard many arguments about who is the scariest, ghosts? Demons? or even clowns?  But in the end, we all know that they aren’t real, they are just stories meant to scare us . Well, the funny thing is, that the scariest stories are the ones that are actually real. And the sickest serial killers aren’t the ones we see on the news, but the ones that the news cover up. They feed their sickest desires with torture and humiliation of the innocents. Those are the ones you should really fear. 

 No consequences, no repercussions and no mercy. Those are the three principles that the soldiers stand by when dealing with prisoners. With that in mind, I’ve written this article, dedicated to Manar Jaber.  She is a brave prison survivor,  one of the prisons under the Assad’s regime. While She was one of the lucky ones that lived long enough to tell their story, while many others weren’t. 

The day of the arrest 05/01/2013

Manar Jaber was a simple Syrian housewife, her husband had passed away one year after officially disserting from the pro-government military forces, leaving her alone with 4 kids. A year after his death Manar went to visit her brother in Madaya, the place were she grew up. She was waiting around at the bus station, when a car pulled over and four guys came out of it. “We have been waiting for you Manar Jaber, welcome!” one exclaimed as the  other put up a bag over her head. Next thing she knew, her and 8 others were being forced into a military plane that carried them from Damascus to Tartous. The military prisoners were exchanged,from state to state, this was created in order not to allow any mediation for freedom for any prisoner. 

The Military security department in Tartous serves as a detention and torture center, an illegal one. It is one of the worst notorious centers in the country. Prisoners there usually vary from simple civilians to activists against the Assad’s regime. This center is known for the horrific treatment of the prisoners and the extremity of torture and humiliation that take place on a daily basis. She was brought in and questioned by the Brigadier-General himself. She was asked to name some mountains around the area and to specify the type of guns in the photos.After giving only 6 answers the general ordered for her to be taken down. “You will never get out of here!” those were the last words he said. 

Torture and interrogation

Ten minutes after being arrested, Manar Jaber’ s interrogation began. She was interrogated from dusk till dawn every day, accused of crimes she knew nothing about. They wanted her to confess ridiculous crimes like money laundering, bombing and kidnapping and murdering a head judge who is still alive until now! Although the torture methods that were being used, were unimaginably hard she didn’t have anything to confess. After 35 days of being thrown down the stairs from the 7th floor, being starved, humiliated, beaten and hanged on the wall by her hair. She finally gave up and confessed. She begged and confessed everything they listed in front of a camera, just for a plate of beans. After 19 days without any food she was ready to do anything they wanted. 

After confessing, she was moved to another wing and assigned in the children’s ward. There were 22 kids from Aleppo incarcerated there. Detained kids were assigned as missing after the soldiers picked them up their school bus. During her time there she witnessed a child being molested by one of the guards while the other filmed it. Only to show it to him the next day as the little boy cried his eyes out and relived that moment, scarring him for life. After that,the time was up for her to be transferred again came. Before leaving she told the head of the department what happened to that child, hoping she could save him. But not knowing at what cost.  

The corpse accompaniment torture technique 

As a punishment for ratting out the molesters, Manar Jaber was sent into the black room. A solitary confinement in a dark underground room where corpses were slowly decaying. She was there for 86 days, in darkness and fear she lived day after day not knowing if the time is even passing. “I imagined myself in a beautiful farm or walking around in Damascus’s streets” she said that, the only time she remembered where she was when the door opened.And a boiled potato was thrown for her to eat.

The smell of rotting bodies and blood were the only thing she could smell after that. As the worms were crawling out of the corpses and into her, she forgot that she was even alive. For a moment, there was no life left inside her. She was just a part of that cold, dead cell. They once threw in a body that was still alive, it was her first human contact in weeks. As he was slowly and painfully giving his last breath away, the only thing he could talk about was his mother and how much he missed her. And as he laid his head on the bloody concrete waiting for his body to finally give in, his only wish was to be able to lay on his mom’s knees one last time before finally leaving this cruel world.  

After 86 days a doctor came in and found her, she was suffering from all kinds of skin diseases and infections. After being externalized from the hospital, she was given medicine for her illnesses but she refused to use them. She said that the diseases were her only protection from more ways of torture, like being whipped or raped. No one could get close enough to do it.   

The reality of the prison system

Manar was moved from center to center and from city to city like a lost toy. She faced the cruelest ways of torture. Strangling by plastic bags, plastic bags were shoved down her throat and then pulled out rapidly causing bleeding. Or beaten up till one or two of her legs were broken, the abuser would not stop hitting until the prisoner was begging for mercy. Destroying their pride and dignity brought them joy and amusement.  

The teams who worked in the prisons were in reality just Gangs that profited from the state of their country. And abused their power as much as they could. Not only the torture, humiliation and molestation, they also took advantage of the sick. They would force them to work making rosaries to be able to pay. Pay the huge amounts of money for the so-called medicine they gave them. While the medication was actually provided by outside donations. 

The juridical system for those prisoners was a joke. The judge wouldn’t even open your file, just ask for some cover up papers and an amount of money to set you free. For Manar Jaber ‘s  confession to be deleted the price was 50,000 SYP. For a female prisoner that had been abandoned by her family and left alone that amount was impossible to get. 

The long-awaited liberation 02/02/2017

Manar Jaber’s release was only possible as a result of a prisoners-exchange bargain. Somehow her name was chosen and she was finally set free. But, set free into what world? The world where she was forgotten by all her loved ones? The one where she was homeless, jobless and mentally and physically scarred? She admitted that she felt like a burden in this world and tried to take her own life months after her liberation. Her soul was crushed from what she had experienced in a country, she once called home. By the same ones that were meant to be her people.   

The aftermath of the revolution and the Assad’s regime wasn’t the power he lost, or that the free-army controlled more land. The real aftermath were the people that were left behind, the innocents that were bombed, killed and kidnapped. Monsters were now roaming the empty streets looking for a prey to feast on. No one cares about the poor broken souls that were left behind, that are now trying to survive and build a future.

They run away from this hell that was once their home, only to face a new one outside. One where they are discriminated against, hated and treated like threats. Everybody is pro-life and fights for human rights, until that human is middle-eastern or POC. Manar Jaber’s story is only one out of a million similar ones, for 8 years these stories have been happening and will continue to happen if Bashar Al Assad is going to continue being in charge.

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