Story of fear… of the corners of rooms and of her memories

2016 was a pivotal year in my life. In a single moment, everything was turned upside down. It was the moment I was arrested by the Syrian regime’s security services. 

Nothing was the same after that. Before 2016, I was a strong, happy girl and I was proud of my accomplishments. I got married while I was still at university, then I got a job and gave birth to my first son. By the time I graduated from university, the revolution had already begun in Syria. 

My husband, his brothers and his relatives all participated directly in the demonstrations and sit-ins, even though we lived in an area that was almost completely pro-regime. When Bashar al-Assad delivered his first speech after the start of the revolution, tensions arose and the streets and alleys in our area were surrounded by armed people affiliated with the regime. We didn’t know at the time whether they were police, security officers, or Shabiha thugs. It was the first frightening warning we had of the danger that was coming to us.

Terrifying things soon followed. Checkpoints were set up where civilians were arrested. The Shabiha ambushed our protests and sit-ins, and left behind piles of dead bodies in the streets. Then bulldozers would come and collect them as if they were garbage. 

My husband was labeled by the regime forces as a “terrorist” and became a wanted man. And I became the “terrorist’s wife” in the regime’s view, then “the wife of a fugitive terrorist” when he traveled to Turkey. I couldn’t even go with him to Turkey, because a travel ban was imposed on me. Then my husband came back and I got my first label back: “The wife of a terrorist”. 

A few weeks after my husband returned, he was ambushed and arrested. After an agonising wait, we got news that someone had seen him in Sednaya prison – where we were only allowed to visit him once every three months. My husband had never even met our daughter, who was born six days after he was detained, so I took her with me for the visitation. However I did not want my son to see his father in prison. 

Sednaya prison was like a camp isolated from the outside world. As soon as we were inside, insults were thrown at us and we had to ride a worn-out bus that took 20 minutes to reach the compounds. Then we had to stand in a long queue waiting impatiently for our loved one’s name to be called. 

I heard someone calling my name and looked around searchingly for my husband, but I couldn’t see him. At first, I didn’t even recognise him in between the two soldiers at his sides, he looked so similar to them: skinny, shaven, small in stature with defeated and miserable features. The only difference was the prison uniform he wore.

Warning: this story contains distressing details about war
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