Voices from Syrian prisons

15 November 2013


“Steadfast” is the name of the latest campaign to make the voices of Syrian prisoners of conscience heard. Launched by the Syrian Nonviolence Movement and the Voice of Detainees groups, the idea came from a former prisoner in Assad´s jails, who decided to recount the stories heard from inmates.

The initiative turns the experiences, fears and dreams of Syrian prisoners into audio and video clips narrated in first person and then uploaded to be shared with the world. “These voices are crucial to understanding what is happening in the country, and we will do what it takes to deliver them as transparently as possible,” one of the campaign’s organizers said to Syria Untold.

The clips are produced based on letters written by the prisoners and leaked by prison officers moved by their suffering. Other sources for the clips are the thoughts shared by former detainees after their release from prison.

One of the clips is an inmate’s letter to his wife, in which he explains how far the regime's sadism extends. One of the stories he recounts is how prison guards give 100 olives to 95 inmates, forcing them to fight over the little food that is available.


“The doctor” is the name of another clip, in which a former prisoner tells the story of an inmate who strongly impacted the life of those who shared jail time with him. At Syria Untold we believe this testimony is worth translating fully:

I don´t know if this letter will ever see the light, but I feel like I will die if I don´t write. I would have died already if it wasn’t for this man who shares my cell. He´s a doctor, and he represents the true meaning of freedom and dignity. He is our psychological therapy in theses inhumane conditions. 

There was this young man in our cell who had just gotten married, and he started talking to each of us as if we were his wife. Everyone told him to stop, except this doctor, who answered as if he was actually his wife, for 12 days. He also kept talking to this kid who had been arrested on his way to school and kept crying for his mother, offering him consolation. When one of the inmates had a fever, he would spend the night changing the cloth on his forehead. He wanted to heal everyone, but he did not have any medicines or medical equipment. 

One day, a prisoner was very sick and needed to be treated at a hospital. The doctor started knocking on the door so that someone would come and help him. A guard then came, and slapped the doctor in front of everyone. “You’re not a doctor here, you’re an animal!”, he screamed at him. “You’re an animal!” When the guard left, he went back to assisting the dying prisoner. I swear I would not have resisted without people like him. 

I wanted to send this letter to my family but I don’t know where they are. I heard everyone in the area is gone and there is nothing left but destruction. I’m afraid something might have happened to them, and when I think of that all the terror I’ve been put through pales in comparison. Argh…. Argh…

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad