The Five Syrians Who Fled From Father Death

Posted by Admin On Tuesday, 17 September 2013 0 comments

Razan Zaytouneh : Lebanon Now
Translated by: Teyama Alkamli

Of all the horrors and atrocities that I have documented as part of my practice of human rights law, the 'Escape From Hell' tale with its five heroic protagonists, and the character of the monster Lt. Col. "Father Death" who supervised the torture and execution of their prison mates, remains among the stories I recall every day, despite the abundance of other violations and the level of their brutality, such as the latest wholesale murder of families in Eastern Ghouta by Sarin gas.

Despite the harshness of the testimonies told by the five fugitives to us regarding what happened, meeting them triggered a sense of salvation. Seeing them alive, trying to explain what happened - which can only be classified as a miracle - they became a manifestation of the desire for life in the face of "Father Death", of what the Assad regime had represented to Syrians for decades and recently during two and a half years of revolution.

Of all the torturers who abused the five detainees and hundreds of others in the Harsta Air Force Intelligence complex, Lt. Col. "Father Death" was the one to stand as symbol of a hell that Syrians have lost more than one hundred thousand souls to in their attempt to break its gates and escape. Lt. Col. Ma'an, who goes by the alias "Father Death", is Azrael personified. He wields absolute power, distributing death in its most egregious forms. "Father Death" stands as the antithesis of all that is humane, and has no relation to the world of the living whatsoever.

"Father Death" routinely picked out detainees that had been held for more than a year in the Harasta complex, and assigned them to the hard labor of digging trenches and building barricades for the regime's army. This went on until they physically broke down from the burden of hard labor and continued torture, at which point he executed them, but not before soldiers tortured them one last time for 'entertainment'.

This was all carried out within the confines of odd rituals, where "Father Death" would summon a detainee who had been selected for death, forces him to kneel and kiss his hand, then wraps his hands around the detainee's throat for several minutes. It is as if the detainee is receiving training for the death to come, while "Father Death" cements himself as the authority over life as entrusted to him by the regime.

One survivor recalls in his testimony his first meeting with "Father Death": "A short and bearded officer named Lt. Col Ma'an, nicknamed "Father Death", appeared and asked us: How are you guys? We replied: fine, thanks to God. He told us: I would love to introduce myself, I am Azrael - or why Azrael? I am God, you will come with me to the house of righteousness, but as I am God I will grant you a few more days to live."

The five detainees managed to escape during Laylat al-Qadr in Ramadan of last September, while working in hard labor near the branch. One of them told us: "no sensible person would attempt what we did; it was madness in the first degree, with guard points surrounding us and bullets raining on us. But what we saw in detention made us lose our minds. Otherwise, we would not have attempted this insane escape."

Are these five former detainees not the same as all revolutionary Syrians who dared to rebel against "Father Death" two and a half years ago? No sane person would have attempted a rebellion against one of the most notoriously brutal regimes, and continued in this rebellion against the apparent desire of the entire world, amidst objections to the support of the rebels and the general disregard of the suffering of an entire people.

Western media has been recently publishing photographs of Jihadist groups carrying out executions with knives or swords, and sees these images as the epitome of barbarism, displaying hurt feelings in the face of such cruelty. But no one has pictures of Lt. Col. "Father Death" attaching a bag full of water to the genitalia of a detainee during routine torture. No one has pictures of Lt. Col. "Father Death" emptying the gunpowder of a bullet on a detainee's chest and setting it on fire. No one has pictures of Lt. Col. "Father Death" burning nylon bags and distributing the flaming drippings on a detainee's body. No one has pictures that document the smell of burning flesh when "Father Death" unleashes his electric stick onto the body of a detainee. There are also no pictures of the detainee pleading for a drink of water before his execution; all those executed die thirsty.

The world prefers to deal with Bashar al-Assad, Father Death's role model and provider of the authority that robs innocents of life, prolonging his survival and turning a blind eye to the thousands of copies of Lt. Col. "Father Death" that have become well versed in the torture and killing of Syrians for two and a half years. All while simultaneously seeming astonished - its delicate feelings hurt - at the sight of groups linked to Al Qaeda strengthening their hold over liberated areas and openly practicing their execution performances.

Ahmed Hamada, Louay Ballour, Fawaz Badran, Hassan Nasrallah , and Muwafaq Jandaly managed to escape from the hell of Lt. Col. "Father Death". It was nothing short of a miracle. The men put logic aside and risked death, albeit one less severe than dying of thirst, with frail bodies ripped by torture and the bullets of Lt. Col. Ma'an . Whenever I feel despair I recall the story of these five survivors, hoping that perhaps we still have time to witness the miracle of our collective escape from the hell of "Father Death" one day soon


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