For many, they are only numbers. Increasing numbers of dead, wounded, tortured, imprisoned, displaced. The figures speak of horrors. Horrors that we could never have imagined when we took to the streets in 2011 to call for freedom in Syria.
Last week, these horrors visited my family as we received a letter from the regime. My son was dead.
Wissam was an ordinary Damascene young man aged 27. He was arrested at a regime checkpoint on his way to see friends. He had no political involvements, no military connections. But his story is one so familiar to Syrians. He was tortured to death inside a regime jail.
It is hard for those reading this in the West to understand this. The regime’s industrial campaign of arbitrary arrests, torture and execution continues with one objective: to force the Syrian people to surrender their fight. In the early days of the revolution, the regime distributed torture videos to warn young activists what would happen if they chose to follow that path. This systematic programme had two primary methods: fear and pain. The terror of regime brutality, whether it is through individual experience of arrest and torture, or on the scale of whole communities through the campaign of barrel bombings. This regime wishes to use pain to force people to give up the goals of the revolution. This is the modus operandi of brutal dictatorships throughout the ages.
For us, Wissam’s death is the biggest tragedy we have ever experienced. The pain of losing a son is beyond words. But Syria’s tragedy is put into context when the world sees that I am just one father of tens of thousands, who have lost sons. And who will continue to lose sons. As this regime is allowed to wage this torturous war on the Syrian people, when all they called for is freedom.
For over 40 years I have been writing about freedom for Syria. I have been in prison twice, for two years. The concepts I wrote helped give birth to the revolution in Syria. Like many others, I told people in my writings that they could be free. I brought these principles to my work for Ahmed Jarba, the President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition. This revolution is still alive, but the price we are paying is higher than I could have ever imagined.
Hearing the regime voicing lies and propaganda about ‘terrorism’ in Geneva, at the same time I was receiving news of Wissam’s death at the hands of their state terror filled me with bitterness. The world must see the irony that the Assad regime continues to wage more pain and terror on the Syrian people than most civilised people could comprehend. My family have testified to this in the most excruciating way, as thousands of Syrian families will continue to do if the world just stands and lets Assad continue these war crimes with impunity.
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