Omar Al Jbaai / August 8, 2014

Syrian Security Prisons: Inside The Inside

Omar is a playwright and director, who was detained in several security branches (Palestine Branch and the Area Branch) for three months just for meeting a foreign journalist. He was released exactly one year ago, and he has written this piece to commemorate the anniversary of his release.

The oppressed and hungry are fading away by the piss pit and interrogation files, they’d stand next to death sometimes, and get inside and never go out some other times…Why isn’t language enough to describe…ah, the smell, the yellow colors, the death breath, the laughter after a bloody investigation..and all that words can’t say, I wish no one goes through such an experience.

I will not speak of the skin on the chests and pelvis that became so tight you can see the pancreas and the aorta, nor of dreaming about sugar and lean faces reflecting in the tea bowl*.

I will not speak of despair, in a place where no news could get in, not even governmental TV channels. Imagine, my darling, losing all control over the future you’ve been building carefully with your sweat or ass-kissing (or both). How do you feel now?! How do you feel when you don’t know what’s going to happen? Have you tried swimming till exhaustion? You almost drown, you try to breath, you feel death closing in. No one rescues you, no one is near. It’s only you and the water while death is closing in. Just close your eyes for a while and imagine: do you despair?


This is why I won’t speak of the number 84/9 in Palestine’s branch**. I will not speak of the thousands of numbers waiting to be called after months of being forgotten, even if this call would lead to their execution.

And I definitely don’t want to speak of the incapability. A 13 year old kid screams in the corridors of the area’s branch, what can you do? He comes in with blood flowing from his head, and is ordered to stand up until further notice. I’m monitoring him with my eyes and my heart that are about to explode. What can I offer him? Half a loaf of bread is our  share of food, how do I get another half a loaf to offer him as a gift? A kid with puberty hair hasn’t grown yet, while mine that is eaten by lice seems irrelevant in the face of that.  The only difference between me and the wall, is that the kid can lean on the wall, not on me..

A corpse is thrown in the toilet. I can’t revive it. All I need to know is its owner’s name. I carry it, through the tunnel, then the twenty three steps, then the metal net, and a corridor that leads to the outer door of the branch, where a big car opens to swallow the dead. big car. I can carry the corpse despite its weight and the sound of my cracking bones, but I can’t know its owner’s name…do you have any other definition for incapability?

They tell you: He died under torture. Don’t believe that. No one dies under torture, only the lucky ones die under torture. There you die by torture not under it. To die under torture means that the electricity shot’s voltage is increased so your heart stops, that the stick misses its target and smashes your brain, but no, here you die silently, you see death coming at you and you live it second by second. You die while I’m watching you breathing your last breath, and I can do nothing but use your knees as a pillow to sleep on. Your corpse won’t be taken out to the toilet before sunrise. This is why I will not speak of dying under torture.


Inside the inside, torture is the least painful. The least painful is inability to find enough space for you to stand in, the least painful is staying awake for days on one leg, so the line between sanity and insanity disappears.

In one of his songs, Samih Shoukair tries to console the disappeared, hoping they “go the borderline of death, cross it, and go out full of live”, and I tell him: thanks for your condolences, but it doesn’t work, believe me.

One year ago I came out of detention. Only five months ago, nightmares started to overwhelm me. Just now, I was crying. Scabies marks will stay engraved on my skin for another year, just as someone who has experienced this told me. And until further notice, I’m waiting for Yara Sabri’s bus*** in every station, secretly whispering: “Oh freedom, wash us!”


Photos by Syriallism 

* in security branch cells, sometimes they offer cold tea that is put in plastic bowls

**84/9 is the number of his file that they’d call him with in Palestine branch, which is a security branch located near a Palestinian refugees camp in Damascus.

*** Yara Sabri is a Syrian actress who is known for following up with the detainees stories, and her facebook posts had the theme of “freedom bus”