Syria Eyewitness: Beaten and burnt... a family's tale of torture


Ahmed blinks away the tears as he recounts his family's ordeal. His hands, frail and trembling, roll up his trousers to show the bruises on his knees where they first beat him with sticks. Then he lifts his shirt to reveal the deep burns on his back.

"An 80-year-old man," he says, his voice rising. "What can they want with an 80-year-old man? I've worked hard all my life, I've done nothing wrong, and this is how my wife and I are treated in our old age."

It was Friday 23 March when Ahmed and his wife Maha, in her late seventies, and their 44-year-old son Yousef were taken from their home and tortured at the hands of President Bashar al-Assad's soldiers. Ahmed was at the mosque when he heard his house in the Bab Sbaa district of Homs had been shelled and rushed home with his son to pull his wife from the rubble. But his relief that she had escaped relatively unscathed soon faded.

"That's when they came and took us," he said. "They were armed and in uniform and they ordered us to follow them to one of our neighbours homes which was abandoned."

It was there that they were led to separate darkened rooms for interrogation. As he was being beaten, Ahmed could hear his son and wife's cries echoing through the building.

"It was absolute misery," he says. "They just asked over and over again who was working with the Free Syrian Army in the area. Then they brought out the blowtorch, like the kind you use for welding metal. I thought we were all going to die."

The hellish questioning lasted three hours. Yousef's back and arms are littered with dozens of burn marks, some deep gouges as the blowtorch was held to his skin for longer and longer. The fact that the family weren't detained for longer, Ahmed says, is evidence that the soldiers knew that they had nothing to do with the opposition and were just fishing for information.

His wife is now in hospital recovering after the family fled to Lebanon. She escaped the blowtorch but the beating took its toll. Yousef barely speaks, staring blankly around him. His right arm constantly twitches, a result, his father says, of nerve damage when he was hit by a bullet last year. Even after escaping, the family don't feel safe, and they have all given false names for fear of reprisals. Like thousands of Syrian refugees, they are staying in one of the few Sunni villages in the Hezbollah ruled and Shia-dominated Bekaa valley. In the streets of Baalbek, just down the road, pictures of Assad shoulder to shoulder with the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah adorn the streets, showing local support for the regime across the border.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam