Mariam Alhallak of the Caesar Families Association remembers her son, Ayham Ghazoul
Ayham was the joy of our household and family. He was a quiet, handsome son and a devoted dentistry student. He had many hobbies – he loved going to the gym with his brothers, and he was very talented at origami.
As soon as the Syrian uprising began, Ayham participated at every opportunity. He felt so proud to be in the streets with the protesters, singing and calling for freedom. I used to worry so much about him and the other young people – I always asked God to protect them. I once helped him hide flyers he wanted to bring with him to the university by sewing a secret pouch into his bag so that no one could see them if the bag was searched. When he came back from a demonstration, his eyes would be shining bright and his face filled with happiness and joy.
At that time, Ayham joined the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. He was arrested for the first time in February 2012, along with his colleagues. He was detained for 86 days. Despite suffering extensive torture, he came out of prison smiling, hopeful that the revolution would defeat the unjust, corrupt regime.
He continued to juggle his study for a Masters degree and his work at a dental clinic while working to document the violations of the Assad regime. He participated in several workshops in Beirut on transitional justice. He was arrested just one day after his return from his last workshop in Beirut, on November 5th 2012. That was exactly seven years ago. He was with colleagues and students at the Dentistry Department of the University of Damascus when he was arrested.
During his arrest in the administrative hall of the university, Ayham was brutally tortured. Other students watched from afar, refusing to leave, as his nails were pulled, his ears were punctured, and his head was beaten viciously with a stick, resulting in complete loss of consciousness.
Ayham was then taken to Military Intelligence Branch 215. The other detainees, seeing that Ayham was unconscious and needed urgent medical attention, begged the guards to take him to a hospital, but one of the guards simply responded: “When he dies, call me.”
Ayham never regained consciousness. One of his friends who was held with him would check on him every few hours to see that he was still breathing. But five days later, the friend woke up to find Ayham’s body completely blue and cold. That was the morning of 11 November 2012.