The situation in Syria continues to descend into a civil war-like situation, according to people on the ground.
This interesting report, by BBC journalist Paul Wood, offers a disturbing insight into the Assad regime’s desperation and confusion since the beginning of the revolution:
Qutaiba, a 22-year-old engineering student, had never been arrested before Syrian security forces detained him at a checkpoint in a suburb of Damascus and dragged him to a military base. At the time, he didn’t know if he would survive: activists like him were disappearing, sometimes turning up later as mutilated corpses. But he did survive, and what he went through would later lead him to me.
When Qutaiba arrived at the military base, at first he was left to stand outside, hooded, hands cuffed behind his back. It seemed as if everyone walking past gave him a kick, a punch, or a blow from a rifle butt. After maybe 15 minutes, he was taken to see the officer in charge, a colonel. The hood was removed, though not the handcuffs.
The colonel, looking the prisoner up and down, asked, “Who hit this guy?”
“It was Abdullah,” one of the guards answered.
The colonel shouted for Abdullah, who quickly arrived.
“You motherfucker,” the colonel spat at the soldier. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times: No one. Should touch. Any. Citizen.”
On the word “citizen” the colonel’s hand flew out and smacked Qutaiba on the side of the head. The blow sent him crashing to the ground, looking at their boots. The officer had struck him “with the flat of his hand, but it was a strong one,” he later remembered. The colonel remained silent. The guards and Abdullah laughed uproariously.
Then he was taken away to be beaten and tortured over a period of weeks. It was not sophisticated or inventive. Electric shocks while he lay on the floor in a pool of water. Endless kicks and punches that would leave his guards exhausted at the end of each flurry. For the first five days, they didn’t even ask any questions. That came later, the initial pummelling just to soften him up.
Always, he tried to remain standing. “When you are on the ground, they will hit you more,” he said. “They were doing Debke on my body,” he told me, naming the Arabic folk dance that means literally “stamping of the feet.” He laughed at that, and good-naturedly, and as he remembered each taunt from the guards. “This is for Facebook.” Smack. “This is for Twitter.” Punch. “This is for CNN, for the BBC, for Al Jazeera.” A drumming of feet. “Look, we’ve caught the leader of the Syrian revolution.”