Children Visiting Adra Prison… Tribulations of Facing Bars

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Enab Baladi Issue # 94 – Sun, Dec. 8, 2013

imagesKT0C5DFFBailasan Omar

Every prisoner in Adra prison is given a specific day when his family can visit him, the latter being allowed to give him clothes (within specific conditions), a capped amount of money, different types of medicine and photos of children under the age of nine. Food and drinks are strictly not allowed.

Children’s reactions during visits to imprisoned fathers vary: some painfully long to hug their dads so that they really feel their presence with them. Sami, six years old, says with tears in his eyes: “I want to get a big knife and cut all the iron bars…I want to see dad without a window between us”.

As for Hala, whose dad was imprisoned while her mum was one month pregnant with her, comes with her mum to visit him at two months of age. The dad is flabbergasted: “Who is this cute child?!!” The subsequent tears of both parents overpowered that moment.

And there, behind the ‘wretched window’ as detainee Khaled (detained two years ago) says choked with tears is his son Rabee (which means spring). Perhaps he will bring back the spring to his dad’s life. What is painful however is that Rabee doesn’t recognize his dad and refuses to greet him. The majority of visitors cry with Rabee’s every scream: “Mum, who is this man??!! I don’t want to see him! Take me home!!”

The detained fathers attempt to reassure their children – from behind the window – that their fatherhood feelings have not decreased despite the long separation; that the pain and harshness of the prison has not stopped them from making unique things for their children – so they have resorted to writing letters to their children and drawing amazing drawings for them, as well as creating different presents from beads with their children’s names on them. Samira, eight years old, is delighted by a bracelet her father made for her with his and her name on it. Khaled, ten years old, is over the moon because of a key ring his father made for him using beads. What is heartbreaking though is when thanking his father he says: “Dad, we don’t have a house – we are sleeping in a park – what I am going to do with a key ring?!”

In another corner stands Salma, nine years old, frightened that one of her schoolmates will see her. She is worried about their reaction if they find out that her dad is detained – they might call her names like “The daughter of the terrorist”. As for Amal who came to the prison to visit her father, grandfather, brother and uncle, laughingly says: “Dad, why don’t you tell them to let us in and we could all live with you in the cell – that way mum would no longer have to worry about paying the rent and we wouldn’t have to endure the difficult journey to get here”.

The children don’t understand the concept of marginalization and torture in prison. As soon as their fathers are transferred to Adra prison, they need to adapt to the idea of seeing their father – only behind a window and for a few moments. Wail’s situation is particularly interesting – he is very angry with his dad because his uncle has been transferred to Adra where he called his children so that they can come and visit him, whereas his own father (who has not been transferred to Adra) does not love him and his siblings – in Wail’s eyes – because he has not called them and doesn’t want to see them.

In front of the iron bars in Adra also – we came across Ali, Raeef and Haneen who all came to visit their fathers who were arrested in the notorious Tartous Ship issue, after the ship was stopped in the port and a group of Syrian Army generals were accused. The small children boast that their dads were the victims of terrorists and militants and swear, in front of the iron bars, by the life of Bashar Al Assad – theirs and their fathers’ hero, that they will get revenge for their fathers as well as renewing their oath to Bashar, despite the difficult conditions of their visit!

Translated by: Tasneem Al-zeer

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