DAMASCUS– (Editorial) In this installment of “Syrians Speak Out,” we will hear the story of Shadi, a man who was tortured for 33 days after being kidnapped and held hostage by the “Free Syrian Army,” a terrorist group that has received CIA funding and training. MintPress News has previously reported on the group, breaking down the Syrian opposition that took part in peace talks that would’ve put an end to the years-long Syrian crisis.
The report also reveals the part that intelligence officials from NATO member states have played in the conflict, noting that they were on the ground “training so-called ‘moderate’ rebels months before the Syrian revolt erupted.”
The U.S. and its allies have referred to these terrorists as “moderate rebels.” However, in this leaked audio recording, former Secretary of State John Kerry reveals that the U.S. knowingly armed jihadist groups.
As a result of this telling revelation, Senator Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) created the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. In this video taken on the Senate floor, Gabbard introduces the law and explains why it is needed to stop the U.S. government from arming terrorist groups like the FSA that seek to overthrow the Syrian government.
How I Met Shadi
I previously wrote about a horrific massacre that occurred in Damascus in 2013. This was a massacre that targeted religious minorities. The terrorists ranged from al-Qaeda to members of the “Free Syrian Army” to foreign mercenaries armed by NATO and Arab Gulf states.
A man named Shadi saw my article and contacted me, saying he had a full-length video recording of the massacre that he could share with me, hoping that I could help to spread the truth about a massacre that went virtually ignored by the media. But I would soon find that Shadi had more to talk about than just the massacre. When I asked him what his own experience of the war was like, he gave a shocking answer – telling me that he had been kidnapped and tortured around the end of 2011.
I had to know more of his story. We scheduled our first interview, conducted via Skype, for Sunday, March 19. Just as we concluded the first part of our talk, there was a massive explosion and his building began to shake. He simply said, “don’t worry, they will never take Damascus. It is impossible. But the suicide bombers do as much damage as they can.”
I posted about the attack on my Facebook account before it was even in the news. The attack turned out to be the start of an intense surprise offensive by al-Qaeda that would last six days. It ended with the Syrian Army finally pushing the terrorists out of the area on the same day that Shadi and I conducted our second and final interview.
In the background I could hear planes and mortars while he told me his story. Hearing about Shadi’s experience in Syria over the last six years of war was truly surreal when I could also hear the Syrian Army’s counter-offensive in the background at the same time.
Con Artists, Kidnappers And Torturers
Shadi was born in Safita, a scenic mountain town in Syria where he lived until traveling to Europe to study computer science. He returned to Syria in 2005, working as a consultant and traveling back and forth between his home country and Europe before finally settling in Syria in 2011. With the onset of war, he couldn’t find work his field in Syria, so he started working remotely as a freelance programmer, making a considerable amount of money.
Things were going well for him until he crossed paths online with a woman named Diane C in 2011. Shadi learned that she was a U.S. citizen who lived in Turkey, and that her husband had passed away. Through their online conversations, she told him about a school in Turkey that was situated close to the Syrian border. She convinced him that he could go to the school, further his education and lead a happier life away from war-torn Syria.
At the time, there were no flights from Syria to Turkey, so Shadi had to get there by way of Beirut. From Beirut, Shadi took a flight to meet Diane, who lived in the city of Gaziantep. After living with her for a month and getting to know her, what he found was quite shocking – her story about the school and her own background had been entirely fabricated. In reality, she was heavily in debt and planned to ensnare Shadi and get him to pay her debts for her.
Shadi started to make plans to escape. It was then that he found that Conti had already laid claim to his remaining financial resources, as well as taken his personal documents. He had to wait until the right time to take them back and escape. Once he was able to do so, he realized he didn’t have enough funds to fly to Beirut, so he decided to take his chances by entering Syria through the city of Manbij, despite being aware that the terrorist group Al-Nusra Front had infiltrated the area.
It was while traveling between Aleppo and Damascus that things fell apart. Shadi was taking a bus, and the driver collected everyone’s personal ID at the beginning of the trip, holding them upfront. It was later found that the driver worked with terrorist organizations in the area and that he had tipped off the terrorists earlier that Shadi was from Safita, which would indicate that he was Alawite (member of a specific branch of Islam) and therefore an enemy to them.
The driver took a detour into a village area near the city of Hama, delivering Shadi into the hands of those who would become his tormentors.
33 Days Of Torture
The armed terrorists who were waiting for him did a mock checkpoint search in order to hide their true intent from the other passengers. After asking Shadi to get off the bus, they swiftly blindfolded him and took him to a house that had been converted into a jail, complete with metal rods on the windows.
Shadi said his captors, who were four in number, were abusive from the very beginning of the kidnapping, hurling sectarian insults at him frequently. He learned during his captivity that the four were Syrian men with a deep-seated hatred toward religious minorities. Shadi also recalled that they were heavily armed – likely with U.S. weaponry, as they were among the terrorists who were trained and funded by the U.S.
Their abuse took many forms. Though he pleaded that he was not religious nor had he ever been in the military, his captors used insults that are commonly directed at those who support the Syrian military and government. He received frequent beatings with heavy electric cable – it was thick and abrasive, tearing gashes in his shoulders that were so deep that the bone became visible.
They would even call his parents so they could hear him screaming from the pain of their torture. At first they asked for a ransom, which his family agreed to, but after discovering through some of the documents in his briefcase that he had relatives in high-ranking political positions, their demands changed. They said they would free him in exchange for one of their own men being freed from prison, a demand that his family was unable to accommodate.
Though they did feed him dry bread, they would put dirt and other objectionable things on it so that he would be too repulsed to eat. They gave him barely enough water to survive. He was allowed to go outside to go to the bathroom once every day or two, with a guard making sure he wouldn’t run away. He was kidnapped toward the end of the year when it was very cold – his captors eventually agreed to give him a blanket to use when he slept, as they didn’t want him to get sick.
Rescue Comes For Shadi
At this point in the interview, we both were feeling quite emotional and I didn’t want to continue asking questions if it would make him upset. I could only imagine how traumatizing that experience was for him and I was amazed at how he was able and willing to go back into his recollection and discuss this with me. He said it was difficult to talk about, but insisted that I go on.
So I asked him: what kept him sane during such a traumatic experience?
He said he began to pray. He prayed to every god he could think of. He prayed and hoped that he would be rescued by the Syrian Army. He said he never lost hope, believing it was only a matter of time before he would be rescued.
I was shocked by his response and had to stop for a minute to collect my thoughts. I asked him if he heard anything back when he prayed. He said “yes. [God] told me not to be scared, that he would get me out.” He admitted that this is the only part of his story that he still has a lot of difficulty discussing.
Shadi’s prayers, as it turned out, were answered. He was rescued on Christmas Day of 2011, when Syrian military forces were tipped off to his location and came to his rescue as they liberated the area he was captured in.
I had to ask Shadi if he felt that his experience had changed him following his rescue, to which he replied that it hadn’t. It was almost mind-boggling how relaxed and calm he seemed during our final interview, knowing that armed terrorists were in his backyard. We’d already ventured into a dark place in his memory and I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, as he had already shared with me so many intimate and honest details.
Shadi’s story is the story of Damascus. Both has shown to be strong and resilient in the face of terrorists; neither have allowed the threat of death to deter them. Shadi married a few years ago and is carrying on with his life more happily than one would imagine, given the horrific experience he endured.
Shadi and Damascus are warriors who have stood up in the face of oppression, humiliation and destruction. Both will prosper because the blood that runs in their veins dates back thousands of years and is mixed with the blood of many warriors before them. They represent a country that is truly the bleeding heart of the resistance axis and will overcome whatever comes their way.