In 2014, days passed after Eid Al-Fitr, a friend of mine and I were walking down the streets in the city of Al-Mayadin by night, suddenly, as people were coming out of a mosque, Daesh patrols approached me and my friend after surrounding us. Then, we were arrested, which was the beginning of my tragedy and the beginning of my story of surviving the inescapable death.
The organization had already imposed a curfew in the city of Al-Mayadin after the majority of the areas in Deir Ezzor fell into its hands in the battles against the FSA and Nusra in late 2014. Then, it carried out series of executions against all the affiliates of the factions before the locals to terrorize and subjugate them.
We were blindfolded and handcuffed, with our heart rate largely increased, they threw us in a building, which seemed as if it was a school, but then it turned out to be one of the most disgusting security offices operated by the group in the region.
Then, a person came up to us and said in a loud voice, “who among you is the brother of that guy?” Which led me to understand that the reason of our arrest was the searching for my brother who was blacklisted by them. After an intense interrogation, they started to torture me. After being subjected to severe torture, they accused me of trumped up charges, which would be sufficient for them to sentence me to death later.
I was transported to another prison where I waited the whole day for my turn to be interrogated. As I was waiting, terrific and horror sounds belonging to people who were being tortured were coming out from every corner in the building. The most audible sound was that of the ball and chain which most of the prisoners had it attached to their legs.
I was brought to the interrogating room where they began asking me several questions, all of which revolved about the issue of my brother for some minutes. Then, they changed the questions and accused me of new charges by claiming that I was affiliated with some sleeper cells and I had coordinated with foreign powers. The interrogation continued after they hanged me on a pillar and resumed beating me in almost every part of my body. One of them was interrogating me while the others were tasked with torturing me psychologically and physically.
After four hours of torture and interrogation, I was threatened with the cutting off of my head in one of the public parks in the city. When I almost lost my conscious, they took me downstairs on order of the interrogator who emphasized to me that I would be interrogated for yet another day.
In two days, I was summoned again but it was different this time. They did not either hang me or beat me, and the interrogator mood changed that he spoke to me in a different tone as he was trying to comfort me. He said, while handing me a sweet and a cup of cold water, “If you break ties with the Nusra front, everything will be solved and you will be permitted to return home”. I was not able to respond to his answer due to torture, which led him to deploy his previous tactics by subjecting me to severe torture once again. I told him “you can do whatever you want”, which led him to accuse me of anything he wanted.
During the disappointment I went through in the prison, the interrogator decided to transfer me to the judge after ending the interrogation with me. I entered and sat down blindfolded and handcuffed in front of the judge, and before any answer or questions he slapped me on my face for several times. Then, he began asking me questions based on what was mentioned in file that was written by the interrogator.
He asked me, “Did you say these statements willingly or you were forced to?, which was a question I did not answer. Then he ordered some guards to transport me to my cell. As I was with the judge, I could still hear from the neighboring rooms the sound of people being subjected to torture, it was such a nightmare and horrific feeling to be in that position.
After one week of arrest and interrogation, I did not confess to any of the accusations, I already knew that I had been sentenced to death and that’s it.
I began thinking of ways to escape since the first moments I was arrested. The cells I moved between were locked firmly and they had two small holes in the roof. The cells were humid while the sunrays would befall on them vertically, increasing their temperature which led to the suffocation of several detainees.
We were not allowed to take a shower, which worsened our situation, as the boiling atmosphere and the prevention from cleaning caused several diseases, as well as the emergence of physical disorder among more than 20 detainees, who were thrown in the same cell under the unbearable conditions.
During my last days in prison, the amir of the prison entered the room and was shocked at the miserable conditions of the room that he even did not enter inside it. Then, he ordered some people to bring a hammer and told them to break the upper part of the wall to open a 25 cm hole for us to breath.
The upper part was removed and we noticed that the wall was not well fortified, as it was not made up of iron, which pushed us to think seriously about a way to escape to breathe life once again.
One time I was allowed to get out of my cell as I was ordered to serve the detainees by providing them with food. However, one of the officials in the prison issued orders about replacing me with another detainee. On my way to the cell, I saw in some basic instruments in the corner of the kitchen , including an iron cutter.
A 14-years-old child was among the detainees at the time, he would go out from the cell regularly. Therefore, an idea came to my mind telling me to use the child in order to obtain the iron cutter. After two days passed, he brought me the tool. I and a Nusra member, who was also sentenced to death, had already planned to escape by cutting off the part of the netting, which was not made up of iron.
We hide the cutter for four days so that no one would feel suspicious about us. On Thursday night, our chance of escaping hell in the prison came and we rushed to escape hours before being executed, as the execution was going to take place on Friday.
At 1.30 am, we were done with the cutting off of the netting. After 30 minutes passed, more than 14 young male detainees managed to flee from the prison, apart from two young men from the Shaitat tribe who preferred not to attempt to escape as they were not charged with anything, however, the organization would execute them in a short period after our prison escape.
One of the distressing situation, which I witnessed and caused me to shed my tears enormously, was an overweight guy attempting to flee with us, but due to his fatness, he did not manage to make it. He was executed in two months later.
After escaping from the prison, every one of us went on different directions to confuse the security patrols searching for us, and in case one of us was caught, the rest would still be able to flee. This was the end and how a new life for us was written after surviving death.
Written by Yasser Alawi
Translated by D24