Children in Assad’s Dungeons
“Please sir, I beg you, open the door for me to go home, please” this was three-year-old Rasha’s daily plea in hope the prison’s doors would be opened so that she returns to play with her siblings who only saw her across two layers of mesh in Adra Central Prison. Her entreaties were to no avail. Every time, she is taken back to her cell where she has been imprisoned with her mother deprived of her most basic rights for three months.
In al-Khateeb intelligence branch in Damascus, Yahya, 5, was imprisoned with his pregnant mother for two months. He spent this time in a blank-walled underground cell out of the reach of sunshine. His mother says that wardens would give Yahya a whip and demand that he lashes detainees.
“Hit them! Hit them all, they are all thieves and criminals”, they would say and then burst into laughter.
Eventually, his mother says, Yahya started laughing with them and usesd their dirty language when he is upset with any woman detainee in the same cell.
Further, his mother says, Yahya was sexually harassed by the wardens. He told his mother that they stripped him and fiddled with his private parts after taking him from her by force. Yahya continued to be imprisoned with his mother for eight months. During this time, women detainees would complain about his ‘dirty language and violence’. In the meanwhile, his mother had to give birth to her second daughter in confinement in Adra Prison.
In the air force intelligence branch and near the torture zone, Samera would try to distract her six-year-old son, Ahmad, from the sounds of torture audible all night. He would sleep on the ground sharing the ‘lice and scab’ with the other women detainees. He would always ask for a piece of sweets. Each time the warden opens the cell, Ahmad would say “Please sir, give me a biscuit”. Eventually the warden pitied the little kid and brought him one little piece of sweets. The mother fed him a tiny fragment every day for a whole week!
Samera, who spent four months in confinement with her son, says they were detained to put pressure on her husband and his brothers who have joined the Free Syrian Army in the town of Sbeineh.
Wardens of military intelligence branch 227, on the other hand, separated an FSA commander’s wife from her two daughters the elder of whom is four years old while the other is only two. The mother all but lost her sanity as she begged the investigator and wardens to give her her daughters. The investigator told her her daughters were ‘in good hands’ while negotiations with FSA commanders continued to swap the mother and her daughters with Assad officers captured by FSA. Somehow, the little girls were treated on equal footing with prisoners of war!
Another baby, Omar, opened his eyes for the first time in Adra Prison. Omar was then deprived of milk by virtue of a decision by the brigadier-general because ‘his father was an FSA commander’. Due to her psychological distress, the mother was not able to breastfeed her newborn so she had to feed him water and sugar for a whole week while the brigadier-general mocked her saying ‘Why don’t you feed him bread and water?’ Then a warden took pity on her and brought her some milk secretly.
Violations committed against children in Syria are not confined to prisons. The examples of Hamza al-Khateeb, Thamer al-Sharei and the massacre of al-Houla children among others have become daily occurrences. Eight children are killed every day in Syria making the death toll reach 7181 child since the beginning of the revolution according to a statistic by the Solidarity Network for the Syrian Revolution published on 31 July 2013.
It was the thundering chants of Syrian children that sparked a revolution whose flames continue to blaze two and half years later. The continuation of this fire, however, changed the freedom spark into screams of pain and deprivation.