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Survivor from an ‘Islamic State' prison recalls excruciating torture logo 18/09/2016 aa / wd

plain © Reuters/Rodi Said/Files plain According to survivors, prisons run by the extremist group "Islamic State" are unbearable. Detainees stand blindfolded and handcuffed without food or water for days and weeks, being allowed to move only to pray.

A bus carries passengers from the Syrian city of Tel Abyad to the Turkish border city of Akcakale. These Syrian refugees carry with them pain and bitter memories of the past, but also a bit of hope for the future: Entering Turkey as a Syrian refugee is a new lease on life. One of the refugees on that bus, going by the fake name of Khaled, tells his story of escape from an 'Islamic State' (IS) prison.

In an interview with DW, Khaled was tearful as he recalled his past experience, his wife and children sitting across from him. He was arrested this past March by IS in Raqqa, Syria, and remained in their prisons for an excruciating 90 days. "My experiences there are etched in my memory - I've witnessed inconceivable torture.”

Unexpected interrogation

Khalid recalled the day when he went out in the morning to the store - only to be suddenly confronted by his neighbor. His neighbor began to inquire about Khaled's brother, who had fled from Raqqa to Turkey. Khaled said: "He asked about my brother, and then about my brother's wife living with her father. I knew now that we were in danger."

Many families in Raqqa hide their daughters, fearing harassment by IS members, and also to fend off their repeated requests to marry them. Khalid believed that his neighbor had sinister intentions, so he contacted his brother and told him about the conversation. He then informed his brother's wife that she needed to leave immediately. After many vigorous attempts, he paid large sums of money to smuggle his brother's wife and daughter to the Turkish border, where she was then to be taken care of by his brother. Khaled, however, had no idea of the fate that awaited him.

First days of detention

Khalid spent three days and nights standing against a wall, blindfolded and handcuffed with no food or water. The only time he could move was for prayer. "The first phase of the arrest was the introductory stage, one of the toughest stages of the prison, where the prisoner stands up against the wall, blindfolded and handcuffed, without knowing who is next to him or behind him," Khaled said.

Khaled described how he tried to sit down after he became tired, but was whipped for doing so. Some of the detainees remain standing an hour or two, he said, and some of them may be left standing for a whole week. Many of the detainees fainted during this period, and some of them died due to the severity of the punishment, according to Khaled.

Charges and sentencing

There were various interrogators from all over the Arab world: Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia, Iraq and some Syrians. The interrogators implemented orders from the IS leadership. Khaled spent seven days in a single cell that felt as if it were a tomb. The interrogators then took him to the judge. They forbade him to speak. Khaled described the trial: "The judge read out the charges levied against me and I found that I was accused of 'smuggling nationals of the Islamic State to the territory of the infidels' and that my sentence was death."

Khaled was sore and exhausted as a result of the daily whipping and kicking. One of the IS members taunted him by saying: "Breakfast is two hours of Lakhdar Brahimi (former UN envoy to Syria), but lunch must be for you to enjoy a hearty meal of de Mistura (Steffan de Mistura, current UN envoy to Syria)." Khaled explained: "The names of these UN envoys designate the types of pipes that IS members use to whip detainees." The first type ( Lakhdar Brahimi) is a green hosepipe with a diameter of 1.5 cm (.59 inches) – Lakhdar is also the Arabic word for green. The de Mistura is the more painful second type, a cable used in street lighting.

Khalid met many of the detainees inside the prison, some of whom were in fact former IS members who had been charged with spying for foreign intelligence.

Psychological torture

After the first period of physical torture experienced by Khaled, he then entered a phase of psychological torture. Two months after being in solitary confinement, one of the interrogators took him to an isolated room, where he was ordered to wear an orange suit, and then made to sit chained to a chair. He was then forced to read a statement they wrote to him, which was to be recorded.

"As I began to follow the instructions of the interrogator, a surprise came my way," Khaled said: Anti-IS coalition aircraft began to bomb the prison, with everything turning to chaos. "Airstrikes shook the place and members of IS were running around aimlessly. Some of the other prisoners and I agreed to escape by taking one of the unoccupied vehicles outside of the prison.”

Khaled felt relieved and blessed to get out of the prison and that his sentence was only three months. To leave Syria for Turkey, he had to pay a total amount of 300,000 Syrian pounds (1,248 euros, $1,402). But he would have paid anything for his freedom.

Author: aa / wd 

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