Freed Reporter Describes Syria's Secret Prisons

Dorothy Parvaz heard beatings 'almost around the clock'
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2011 7:48 AM CDT
This undated file photo shows Dorothy Parvaz, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter and now Al-Jazeera journalist.   (AP Photo/, Joshua Trujillo, File)

(Newser) – Dorothy Parvaz emerged from her stay in a Syrian detention center more or less unscathed, mostly because the guards there would not beat or torture women—but others weren’t nearly so lucky. When Parvaz first arrived at the prison, she was taken handcuffed and blindfolded to a courtyard, where she heard the savage beatings of two prisoners, who could offer their interrogators nothing but hoarse cries for mercy, Parvaz writes for al-Jazeera.

They wouldn’t be the first such cries she’d hear—the beatings went on “almost around the clock.” She saw one young man handcuffed to a radiator, blindfolded and holding a legal pad, apparently trying to write a confession. There was blood smeared on the walls of one of her cells, sewage in the sink in another. Most prisoners seemed to have no idea why they’d been arrested—like her terrified teenage cellmate, plucked at random from a Damascus suburb “I couldn't help but wonder: what sort of threat does this girl pose to the Syrian state?” she asks. “What are they so afraid of?”

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