It is 9 a.m. in the morning in Harasta, one of the suburbs of Damascus, and there is loud banging at the door. It is only a few seconds until the door opens up and I face the dreaded Syrian security forces, whose atrocities I have been listening to, documenting and reporting on while I have been in Syria.
Harasta is only a 15-minute drive from Damascus’ city center and was in the hands of the Free Syrian Army militias in previous days. During the night of Jan. 25, heavy clashes between the Syrian regime and the free army lasted the whole night until the dawn when the sound of the muezzin’s voice calling the faithful for morning prayers blended with the continuing sound of Kalashnikovs shooting. Only when we saw the regime soldiers at the doorstep did we realize who had won the fight.
Mohammad Abood, 23, whom I met over the Internet and asked to stay at his house for a couple of days for reasons that have nothing to do with my undercover journalism, is now at the door, getting a heavy beating from the soldiers who trade turns insulting him. One shabiha, who appears to be the leader of the four-to-five squad of soldiers, is directing them to search the house, while giving other orders and questioning me at the same time.
The two-bedroom apartment is turned upside down by the soldiers, but for the time being, they seem undecided what to do with me, though they dutifully confiscated all my personal belongings, including my computer, camera, phone and whatever they deemed necessary into plastic bags. The belongings were never returned.
Now we are in the narrow streets of Harasta but not alone. Every corner has a few soldiers guarding the city as if they are an occupying army in a foreign land. A few other groups of arrested Harasta residents coming from the muddy, steep streets appear to share the same faith as we do. After a couple-minute walk to a larger road, I see a few other arrested groups joining us to be taken to one of the security complexes in the city, knowing that the worst yet to come.
In only 14 days, in a half-dozen suburbs of Damascus, I have seen the viciousness of the security forces every single day in different forms and shapes. I have witnessed unarmed protesters being attacked twice, one of which was a funeral crowd who were joyfully praising their “martyr” on Jan. 21 in the city of Douma. After I arrived in this city on Jan. 19 to leave the next night, my plans had to change because the Syrian Army would be laying siege in eastern Ghouta for the next four days.
In central Damascus, I saw individuals getting arrested in broad daylight for no apparent reason.
And finally I was arrested, along with over a thousand people in a single morning in Harasta, in which I witnessed scores of old and young locals receiving their first heavy whippings in the front yard of the Harasta Police Hospital. Surely what awaited them in the coming days and weeks will be the most horrifying.
I talked with a much respected local doctor who had been jailed twice and tortured since the Syrian revolution began just because he insisted on treating wounded protestors who came to his hospital.
Doctors are prohibited from carrying any kind of first-aid kit under this evil regime, and if found, even mere pain killers in their cars constitute a crime warranting arrest because it shows their intention of helping injured people in some other place.
The horror stories I have heard from scores of local people were beyond any imagination.
When Col. Moammar Gadhafi said he would do house-to-house raids to hunt down the rebels like rats, the international community moved immediately to stop the pending slaughter, invoking the much-discussed “right to protect” civilians in Libya.
The Syrian regime’s regular and irregular forces search houses every single day for months, one of which I was also victim of. The regime sends dozens of its tanks into the streets, hits the cities with mortar shells and terrifies its people day in, day out.
This regime deserves to be demolished.