A Syrian Turkmen commander said the Assad regime has kept at least 500,000 people in prisons.
Turkmen Mountain region's 3rd Coastal Armed Division Commander Tarik Solak recalled his two-and-a-half-year ordeal of captivity in the regime’s notorious Saydnaya Prison in capital Damascus.
“Around 4,000 people are held hostage at Saydnaya Military Prison. There are at least half a million prisoners nationwide,” Solak said.
“They have even turned schools into prisons. There are prisons that we are not even aware of.”
Amnesty International has termed Saydnaya a “human slaughterhouse”, known for its systematic murder, torture, enforced disappearance and extermination carried out since 2011.
“Our division was at the Israeli border. We were 270 people. We wanted to leave the military and join the opposition. There was no opposition back then, we wanted to join the civilians,” Solak said.
He said they were held by the regime after their secret was leaked from within their own ranks.
Solak added that they faced immense torture in prison.
“After getting to the ward [following captivity in a cell for 33 days], torture continued in different ways. We were 20 people. They beat us at every meal. They electrocuted us. They would empty our food into the toilet. 'Eat there', they would say. They would violently beat us with water pipes.”
He added: “It was forbidden to see the military doing these things. When he heard the sound of footsteps, we had to put our hands on our heads and face the wall.”
Solak was “pardoned” and released for an unknown reason in June 2014.
“In the last three months in prison, they were starved, they began to vomit, then got diarrhea and died. I've experienced it all too. I got out in the last phase. I could no longer stand on my feet. I expected to die. One day they pulled me out,” Solak said.
He came out weighing only 40 kilograms and had to undergo five surgeries on his stomach and intestines.
On the recent military buildup in the region, Solak said: “There is Turkey’s presence at the de-escalation zone. The Turkish soldiers say they will not withdraw and the regime will not attack. We take strength from them.”
He emphasized that the buildup was done by Iran-backed terrorist groups, and that Iran wants to seize all of Syrian territory and settle in.
Last week, the regime began a military buildup in southwestern Idlib in a bid to attack Syria’s northwestern Turkmen Mountain region, which is located within the de-escalation zones.
Idlib was a top issue during the Astana meeting, as the Turkish delegation stressed the importance of maintaining the cease-fire regime in the region.
Solak said that Russia assured the opposition in Daraa during the 9th round of Astana talks, but seized it at the first opportunity.
“That is why we have made our preparations of defense [in Idlib]. But we are committed to our guarantor Turkey's strategy. The first stage is the dissolution of radical groups,” Solak said.
He said: “We have Turkmen Mountains, but with 5 million people staying in Idlib, it would not be worthy for us. The priority is Idlib. If Idlib is lost, neither Al-Bab nor Afrin can be protected.”
“When the time comes, I do not believe Turkey will leave Turkmen Mountain to its fate. I believe they will not leave,” Solak added.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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