Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dorothy Parvaz on Syrian Detention: "I Was Standing in Two Fist-Sized Pools of Smeared, Sticky Blood..."

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Dorothy Parvaz, who earned a master's degree in journalism at the UA in 1997, talks about her recent detention while working for Al Jazeera in Syria:

I was standing in two fist-sized pools of smeared, sticky blood, trying to sort out why there were seven angry Syrians yelling at me. Only one of them - who I came to know as Mr Shut Up during my three days in a detention center, where so many Syrians 'disappeared' are being kept - spoke English.

Watching them searching my bags, and observing the set of handcuffs hanging from the bunk bed wedged behind the desk in the middle of the room, I guessed that I was being arrested - or, at the very least, processed for detention.

"Why are you doing this?" I asked.

"Shut up! SHUT UP!" said Mr Shut Up.

I'd arrived there moments before, dragged by a handful of hair from a car where I'd been wedged between two armed men. They'd tried to convince me that they were taking me to my hotel, but, of course, I knew that there was no way plain-clothed security personnel would be kind enough to escort me to my accommodation.

I did, however, manage to resist being forced to wear a blindfold, figuring that if they were going to shoot me, they really didn't need a reason to do so.

After about 20 minutes, we pulled off the highway and through two checkpoints. By this point, the rather handsy security guard to my left had pulled my scarf over my eyes.

Armed guards opened a gate to what seemed like a military compound, filled with dozens of men, all plain-clothed, lurking in an atmosphere suited only to cracking skulls - so heightened was the sense of impending violence.

Welcome to mini-Guantanamo; perhaps one of many in Syria where protesters and bystanders alike have been swept up in the wide net cast by an increasingly paranoid government since the start of anti-government protests several weeks ago.

Story and an interview with Parvaz here.

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