I still remember the room. It was very small. The interrogators came and went. There were different men, different faces. I don’t remember all of them because I was so weak by that point. It's not easy to describe the pain and humiliation of torture.First they asked for the names of the people I was working with. Then they asked me to confess that I’d been carrying heavy weapons and that I’d murdered a military officer. I was screaming that I didn’t. I was shouting that I just wanted freedom for them, for myself, for everyone. I just wanted to live in freedom. They looked at me blankly. It was like I was speaking to them from another world. So they continued, and they were merciless.I was still holding out when they hung me from the ceiling by my wrists for an hour, feeling like my body weight was going to break my wrists. When they brought me down, they pulled out a chair and asked me to sit. That was when they pulled down my trousers and held up a sharpened metal pole and a clamp for my penis. When they started to turn the screw, I confessed everything they asked.
As Syrians, you grow up hearing a lot about torture. You hear things you cannot imagine even a psychopath doing. They did all those things to us and more. But in Sednaya they didn't even bother with an interrogation. It was sadism. Our cell was meant for seven men but it held almost 60. We took it in turns to lie down, and if too many of us were too weak to stand, we lay on each other. There was no bathroom, only a hole in the floor that every man had to share. The smell has never left me.I was one of the “service” guys. It meant we had to work for our jailers. Sometimes it was just cleaning; other times it was carrying away the bodies. They made us beat people, too. By the end, I didn't even question it. We'd get beaten for not attacking the inmates hard enough. I saw one man kicked to death because our guards didn’t think he had done a good job.
The police came in the middle of the night to take my three brothers. Two of them were silent as it happened, but Abdulsalam fought like a wild cat. He thought they were going to try to take me, too, but they left me behind in the destruction of my home and all our possessions.We asked everyone where the boys had been taken. My mother stood outside every prison, sometimes waiting so long that the sun was too much for her and we had to come and collect her. She did that outside a different place every day, just in case someone would tell her something. My father spent so much of our money, hoping the bribes would bring news from inside. A lot of people tricked us and said they had information. The wait made me empty. It was like there was a hole inside of me. We waited three years.One day we got a call. They told us they were all dead. They were killed days after they were taken and all that waiting was for nothing. Abdulsalam was my best friend. I still have nightmares about what they did to him. But you know what? Part of me still doesn't believe it. We haven't seen the bodies; we haven't had a death certificate. I still pray for them when I go to sleep, just in case.Zakaria Zakaria in Istanbul and Heba Habib in Cairo contributed to this report.Read more: