The torture of Mohammed

Amman, Jordan | 15.03.2021

Text & photo BY martin thaulow

In early March 2011 the Arabic Spring protests reached Syria. On March 23 Mohammed was part of the large crowd walking the streets of Daraa in an attempt to end the besiege of the city. A nightmare unfolded when regime soldiers painted the streets red with the blood of the peaceful protestors.

When the uprising sparkled in Syria in 2011 Daraa became one of the essential hotspots the situation escalated from. Back then Mohammed was a heavy machinery operator, living in an area close to Daraa. On March 23 he had followed the crowd from the surrounding areas into the city. Daraa had been besieged by the regime, but that specific day checkpoints allowed people to enter the city to join the protests.


People were carrying olive branches in their hands to show their peaceful intentions. They were walking towards the main square of the city, but soon they would realise the open gates were an ambush. The city was cut off again and gunshots from soldiers and snipers would make one after the other fall to the ground. Mohammed recalls how it was a rainy day. When the shooting started he looked down and saw the wet road colored in red. Dead people, endless sounds of gunshots and people screaming. Mohammed ran for his life.

Mohammed recalls the horrors of the massacre at the peaceful protests in Daraa on March 23, 2011. Alledgly hundreds of people were killed and thousands were injured by the the security forces of the Syrian regime.

the arrest

Mohammed was lucky. He survived the massacre in Daraa. He even joined more protests later on as he still believed in a positive change of the future. One day in early 2012 he was walking with his oldest son outside theri village. Soldiers at a nearby checkpoint started shooting randomly. Mohammed was unlucky and took a hit in his neck by a loose bullet. It was buried four centimetres deep next to his nerve cord. He went through surgery and was in bed for a month.


After this Mohammed was afraid. The soldiers of the regime did raids and anyone injured would be at risk as they would be considered part of the uprising. One early morning in April 2012 Mohammed’s home was invaded by intelligence. He was slapped around, blindfolded and forced into a vehicle. He was taken to a nearby military facility in Daraa.


Once you are inside the facility you meet the professionals. Everyone is crying out of pain.

The torture

As soon as Mohammed got out of the car at the military facility some of the soldiers comforted him, assuring his arrest was nothing and that he would be going home any time soon. He felt hope, but only for a few minutes. Soldiers passing by addressed him: You are going to wish you were never born. When arriving at a place like this, one can be charged for anything and usually charges are in place already, Mohammed explains. He lits another cigaret as he describes how scared he was, when entering the dark cells of Bashar al-Assad's regime on the day of his arrest.


His clothes were stripped off leaving him in his underpants, his eye cover was pulled off and he was pushed into an overcrowded cell. People were piled together only with space to stand. A few prisoners could place themselves in a sitting position when being in the corner.


Mohammed remembers the first time he was tortured. It was shortly after his arrival. He was pulled out of the cell, handcuffed with hands on his back, blindfolded and standing in line with the others. There seemed to be a new guy with a metal rod and he started beating the prisoners severely one by one. When the one next to him started screaming from pain, Mohammed knew it was his turn next.


There is a specific cell for the dead bodies. If they want you to die they will put you there.

Lights in the cell were switched on for one or two hours every day and nobody could sleep. Mohammed heard people screaming all day long and he got the impression there was a daily number of people they wanted to die. Some were tortured, others were just shot dead. He recalls how the places had a specific cell for the dead bodies.


The prisoners were being fed and given water once a day. The meal consisted of an egg with one piece of arabic bread to be shared by three people, a lentil soup or sometimes olives and halva for the bread instead of the egg. In the cell they would speak to each other, but mostly they would speculate about who would be the next they would torture.


At times torture was carried out just to pass time. Mohammed explains how everyone would be pulled out of the cell and dropped on the ground in the corridor. Soldiers would walk and stand on their heads and bodies with their military boots.

The release

To make sure the prisoners don’t know where they are, they are being moved around. Mohammed was moved 3 times and he remembers it as short drives of 10-15 minutes, so he believes he was held in the area of Daraa or close by. Being kept in captivity under these conditions Mohammed lost track of time and place.


The torture of Mohammed culminated when the executioners pourd acid in the wounds on his feet. His feet were already in a bad condition from previous torture. He had been beaten with cables, metal rods and wooden sticks on his feet. It all ended suddenly after 40 days in captivity. Mohammed was released together with others in the main square of Daraa. He was still in the same underwear as when he was taken, swept in a blanket. Some people recognised him and took him to his wife at home. Mohammed was in urgent need of treatment of his wounds and needed transplants of skin.

Mohammed, his wife and four children live in extreme poverty in Jordan after they fled the war in Syria. Photo by Martin Thaulow.

After the release Mohammed was afraid of being captured again. He left the family in Syria and went to Jordan. After two months he returned to Daraa as he was told things were getting better. It turned out things got even worse and on January 4 in 2013 the family crossed the border to Jordan, where they live today.


As most Syrian refugees Mohammed, his wife and four children live in extreme poverty. Mohammed is unable to work due to the torture he went through. At the same time the economic crisis in Jordan and COVID-19 affects everyone for the worse. However he feels lucky to be alive. He explains how he feels the prison guards treated him nicely as he could have been in an even worse state. One of his friends was tortured with a piece of concrete for a whole day until both his feet were cut off. Mohammed still has his feet.


Syria is completely destroyed. I would never go back there, even if I could.

Note: Mohammed is not his real name. It has been changed. We are aware of Mohamed’s true identity. Martin Thaulow has met and interviewed Mohammed and his family in Jordan in relation to this article.

About Victims of Torture / War Crimes

At Refugee.Today we want to address the ongoing and growing problem of torture and war crimes committed in the global society of today. As you read this text people are being tortured, violated, oppressed, sexual assaulted and killed in prisons and torture chambers.

We aim to bring attention to these dark matters by telling the stories of those who experienced it and survived. We believe their voices are important to address these unacceptable acts and war crimes. Thanks for reading along, for sharing and for your support. We are All connected let’s Unite!

A special and deep-felt THANKS to all who have chosen to share their stories and by that addressing this important matter!

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