Mohammad Ali Saleh: Imprisoned on Charges of Freedom

18 November 2015

Omar Youssef Souleimane

Syrian writer and poet.

Translated by: Lilah Khoja

In October 2011, one of the armed opposition groups in Homs issued a warning against activist Mohammad Ali Saleh. The warning told him to either leave the Homs neighborhood of al-Shammas on his own or be forcibly expelled. The reason for this warning was due to Saleh being a former communist and a member of the "Alewife minority". “Abu Ali,” as Saleh was nicknamed, asked activists in Homs, like Firas al-Saroot, to intervene and prevent his expulsion.

Mohammad Ali Saleh spent 22 years of his live imprisoned in Sednaya prison as a result of his membership in the Communist Labour Party. These years spent in prison did not save him from the new Shabiha, who perpetuate the same acts as the regime. However, despite the pressure on him to identify as a member of the opposition or a regime loyalist, Saleh continued his hard work delivering aid to families affected by fighting in Homs and Damascus. From the start, he stood against the Opposition that adhered to foreign agendas, calling them, “the worst [sides] driving the Syrian Revolution.” He stated, in one interview, that “unfortunately, there was no Syrian program but the agenda to fracture; the Opposition did not build the goals of the Syrian revolution or the discourse of the revolution, but built on the foundation for the regional agendas, which are far and distant from the goals of the revolution.”

Mohammad Ali Saleh was arrested in his home, in 1988 by agents belonging to the “Palestine Branch” of the Syrian intelligence and security apparatus. He was held there for three years before he was prosecuted and transferred to cell number 9. He remained there until 2000, when he was released as part of the so-called reforms implemented by then-new president Bashar al-Assad. The scenes of his detention were replayed on October 23, 2015 at 3 PM in the afternoon when Air Force intelligence agents raided his home in the al-Shammas neighborhood of Homs. They arrested him and confiscated his computer and cellphone.

Nothing has changed for Abu Ali Saleh: the same nickname, the same scene, the same detainees even. We do not ask whether his cell number has changed, because really, the only thing that changed is a war sweeping through the country. Saleh never carried weapons; he never dealt with foreign governments; he stood against those that called for international intervention, including the regime. Perhaps the only real charge against him is that he aspired to freedom -- freedom, the same charge that the regime has made against all of its prisoners. We wonder, though, about the regime’s lack of humanity. Millions homeless and hundreds of thousands killed were not enough to satisfy its monstrous appetite, so they resorted to arresting a fighter, who has always been peaceful, Mohammad Abu Saleh.

As we have learned, the power of intellect is a greater threat to the regime than that of arms, for intellect confuses and confounds the oppressor into a dark corner with no exits; the oppressor has no weapons to fight the truly liberated man. And so, we wait for Mohammad Ali Saleh to tell us about his experiences in our new country, one with no victims.


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