All we know of the man is that he was journalist living in Aleppo. When the civil war erupted in 2011 and was arrested several times by Syrian government. While in custody he was beaten and tortured. But, each time, he was eventually released.
Then ISIS took over his part of Aleppo.
What follows is testimony from United Nations investigators dispatched to compile evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria. This man’s story (with key identifying features redacted) was released by the UN Human Rights Council’s commission of inquiry. It is profoundly disturbing, but a very important documentation of the human rights catastrophe inside Syria today.
The interviewee is a male citizen journalist from Aleppo who was interviewed on 15 August 2014
The interviewee has been arrested three times by Government forces for being an activist. The fourth time he was arrested and detained by ISIS due to his criticism of them in online newspapers.
From 2011 till 2014, he was coordinating demonstrations, working on social media and a xxxxx xxxxx.. The interviewee xxxxx for online newspapers xxxxx and xxxxx.
The first time the interviewee was detained was in xxxxx 2011. He was arrested by the Shabbiha while participating in a demonstration in Aleppo. He was detained for xxxxx days at the Military Intelligence Branch in Aleppo. He was interrogated, beaten with a wooden stick, received electric shocks on his knees and was hung up by his wrists from the ceiling for xxxxx days.
The second time he was detained was in xxxxx 2011. Again, he was arrested by the Shabbiha while participating in a demonstration in Aleppo. He was detained for xx days at the Military Intelligence Branch in Aleppo. He was interrogated and beaten with a wooden stick during the xxxxx days there.
The third time he was detained was in early 2012. The interviewee was arrested by Government forces while he was taking pictures with his mobile phone of the big clock in Aleppo. He was first detained for xxxxx days in an isolated cell at the Political Intelligence Branch in Suleimania neighbourhood of Aleppo. For xxxxx days he was interrogated, beaten with a wooden stick and hung up by his wrists from the ceiling. Afterwards the interviewee was transferred to the Criminal Security Intelligence Branch in Aleppo. He was detained there for xx days. He was interrogated for one day and beaten with a plastic pipe. After his release, the interviewee went to his family in xxxxx. He continued working as an activist, writing commentary on xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx. Most of his writing criticised the rise of ISIS.
In October 2013, xxxxx was killed by ISIS in xxxxx in Aleppo governorate. He was xx years old. xxxxx was a journalist. He was murdered while xxxxx. Two ISIS members came into xxxxx xxxxx and shot the victim. One ISIS member was waiting outside. Witnesses recognized them as being from ISIS. The interviewee was informed of what happened by friends who witnessed the event. The murder of xxxxx was widely reported. ISIS announced on Twitter that they would continue killing people working for his media outlet. The interviewee saw the Twitter message. (A copy of Twitter message has been retrieved and archived).
On xx November 2013, another friend of the interviewee was kidnapped by ISIS. His name was xxxxx, aged xx years. He was also a journalist.
On xx November 2013, the interviewee was arrested at his house in xxxxx by five members of ISIS. ISIS members handcuffed and blindfolded him and took him away in the presence of his friends. His friends and family were not arrested. ISIS took the interviewee to a former hospital in Qadi Askar. The interviewee was put into in a cell in the basement. There were 12 cells. Each cell contained 40 to 50 people. All detainees were male. Most of the detainees were activists or people who opposed ISIS’s ideology.
The next day, the interviewee was taken out of his cell, blindfolded, and escorted into a room on the first floor. While he lay on the ground, up to four ISIS members beat him with their hands, feet, and a wooden stick. He was beaten because he criticized ISIS on a public page of Facebook.
The interviewee was detained for xx days. He was handcuffed with his hands in front of him. Each time an ISIS member would come, everyone was forced to stand against the wall so nobody would see them. If ISIS needed one of the detainees, he would be blindfolded before being taken away. During the last three days of his detention, the interviewee asked ISIS to remove his handcuffs because he had small insects over his body. Conditions of the cells were very bad. There was no bathroom. Many detainees had long hair. Interviewee did not take a shower for the entirety of his time in custody.
Every day he could hear people being tortured but could not see what was done to them. After xx days they interrogated and beat him again. Then ISIS members started to come into the basement on a daily basis. It became evident to him that his fellow detainees were being executed. The executions followed a pattern: two ISIS members would come into the cell, announce the names of the wanted persons, blindfold them while standing against the wall, escort them out of the cell into the first floor and a few minutes later they would hear gunshots. This occurred once a day, every day.
During the last three days, there were 27 detainees left in the interviewee’s cell. One day, 19 detainees were killed from his cell at the same time. The last day ISIS came into his cell and called his name and another detainee called xxxxx. At that time clashes were taking place outside the building. Just when they were being escorted out of the cell, fighters from another armed group entered the building and started shooting. The interviewee and xxxxx were pushed back into the cell and ISIS locked their cell. Some members of ISIS escaped during the clashes, while others were killed.
Around 150 people were released by the other armed group on 7 or 8 January 2014. The interviewee estimates that before the execution, there were between 400 and 600 detainees. When fighters from the other armed group helped the survivors escape from the backyard of the building, they discovered approximately 45 bodies in the yard of the hospital. They had all recently been shot in the back of their head. The other armed group filmed the discovered bodies. (A copy of video has been retrieved and archived). The interviewee, aided by the other armed groups, escaped on 8 January 2014 and went to his family in xxxxx.
This story was one of twelve testimonies released yesterday by the Human Rights Council’s commission of inquiry. The commission’s chairperson Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, said plainly upon its release, “I have run out of words to depict the gravity of the crimes committed inside Syria.”