Surviving Assad’s Jails
The number of deaths caused by the Syrian conflict are staggering, nearly a quarter million are listed as casualties with millions more fleeing the country they call home. We have reported on the dwindling support from the global community, Syria’s crumbling economy and the constant battles that spring up on a near daily basis. To many, the conflict in Syria is an afterthought and some describe it as a ‘struggle to keep it in the public agenda’.
A few weeks ago, in the atrium of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, a shocking exhibit was set up graphically depicting the brutality of the Assad regime and their torture tactics used on peaceful activists and innocent civilians. The thousands of authentic photos smuggled out of Syria by a defector named ‘Caesar’ (an alias to help protect him and his family) show the plight of thousands of Syrians in Assad’s jails.
The State Department has described Assad’s actions as the “worst systematic and institutionalized mass murder by a government against its people since the Nazis”. The numbers are astonishing and the pictures gut wrenching, but they don’t compare to hearing a first hand account from a survivor who was put through Assad’s ‘machinery of death’…twice.
Qutaiba Idlbi, co-founder and director of operations here at People Demand Change, addressed the hundreds in attendance at the Capitol on the afternoon of July 15th. He describes how peaceful demonstrations lead to the arrest and subsequent torture of many who, much like him, just wanted to be heard by the government. Qutaiba’s first time in Assad’s jail led to hours of beating, but his determination was too strong even for a group of seven Assad soldiers. His second arrest was much more demoralizing- nearly three weeks spent in solitary confinement, stepping over the bodies of those who succumbed to the torture as he was dragged to nightly interrogation sessions.
Qutaiba’s emotional and honest description of survival truly makes you wonder why the global community allows Assad to remain in power and why a more proactive approach isn’t being implemented. He described the senseless arrest, torture and subsequent death of his friend (whose picture was among those being displayed for Congress) simply because they were neighbors. As Josh Rogin of BloombergView said, “there’s no good excuse for letting mass torture and murder to continue”.
Please follow the link to watch Qutaiba Idlbi address those in attendance at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center’s Congressional Auditorium.