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When a gaggle of plainclothes Syrian regime safety forces stormed the medical observe the place I labored as a health care provider outdoors Damascus, blindfolded me, and took me to a regime detention facility in September 2011, I used to be plunged right into a world of struggling.
At the government-run Al-Khatib detention centre in Damascus — probably the most notoriously brutal jails within the nation – a high-ranking officer in Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate, Anwar Raslan, led the part liable for interrogation.
The interrogators accused me of supporting the favored rebellion towards the federal government of Bashar Al-Assad and used totally different bodily and psychological strategies to torture me.
This went on for 40 days. While I used to be at Al-Khatib, for a complete of 70 days, and listening to the fixed cries of fellow detainees being tortured, my distraught household and pals didn’t have any indication of my whereabouts.
I used to be focused as a result of I had participated in peaceable demonstrations and labored in “field hospitals” the place pro-revolution medical doctors handled injured protestors who feared arrest in the event that they attended authorities or personal hospitals.
Punishing perpetrators can function a warning to would-be conflict criminals. In 2020, Anwar Raslan was charged with crimes towards humanity in a German Higher Regional Court.
German prosecutors gave Raslan’s victims a uncommon probability to acquire a measure of justice by using the authorized precept of “universal jurisdiction”, which permits such crimes to be prosecuted in home courts.
He was accused of 4,000 counts of torture, 58 counts of homicide, in addition to rape and sexual coercion. This is the primary time a court docket has heard and issued findings on the crimes towards humanity utilized by the Assad regime to suppress the peaceable demonstrations that occurred in 2011.
[Editor’s note: On Thursday, Raslan was found guilty of crimes against humanity and given a life prison term]
Syrians took to the streets that March to demand a peaceable transition to democracy: But the Assad regime used each conceivable type of brutality to cling to energy, bombing colleges, hospitals, shelters and displacement camps, and utilizing chemical weapons. Assad additionally established a sprawling system of detention centres for systematic torture.
I used to be ultimately launched to face trial however managed to flee from Syria. The atrocities proceed right this moment: greater than 130,000 Syrians are believed to have been detained and forcibly disappeared since 2011.
For those that do survive Assad’s torture centres, together with me, the psychological wounds are often deeper than the bodily.
Having offered psychological well being providers to girls who skilled sexual violence in detention centres I noticed first-hand the fact of rape in detention. The trauma of the assault was made worse by the social stigma connected to sexual violence. Women survivors usually undergo deeper penalties than males.
Some girls survivors have been rejected by their very own households. One I met was so traumatised that she considered committing suicide and killing her youngsters, after being for simply two hours, throughout which she was assaulted. The brutality unleashed in Assad’s Syria has introduced on trauma affecting our complete society. The ache will reverberate for generations to come back.
But on the identical time, whereas I used to be held in detention, I by no means suspected that justice for the crimes dedicated towards me and my fellow prisoners would come to supply that means for me – and a supply of hope for Syria’s future.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who survived torture in the course of the Holocaust, wrote of discovering existential that means by way of his imprisonment and struggling.
In the same method, the trial of Anwar Raslan gave me an opportunity to share my expertise with the court docket so as to construct proof towards him and expose the crimes of the Syrian regime. This has helped me to search out that means in my very own struggling.
My testimony and that of different Syrian survivors additionally serves to remind the world of the character of the Syrian regime and its ongoing crimes. The very discussion board for the trial — an unbiased court docket with strong defence for the accused — stands in sharp distinction to the Syrian regime’s corrupt establishments.
The day of my arrest in 2011 was Eid al-Adha, crucial holy day in Islam. Standing in ache with fellow medical doctors on the detention centre, I might hear the celebrations and prayers outdoors. I prayed to Allah for the power to forgive.
I imagine Allah has granted me this. If the crimes towards humanity being carried out by the Syrian authorities cease, Syrians can come collectively to reckon with the ache they’ve prompted. We can construct a brand new state on a basis of justice, accountability, and humanity. The trial of a single perpetrator in Germany is inadequate, however it’s a begin that helps to point out us the best way.
The author is a Syrian physician who served as a witness within the trial of Anwar Raslan, a former Syrian official who led interrogation at certainly one of Bashar al-Assad’s most infamous detention centres. The Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany, handed down a call on the case on January 13.