Because of a cup of tea.. Khaled Al-Agha spends 22 years of torture in Syrian prisons
Northern Syria Because he drank a cup of tea with a Turkish merchant driver in Aleppo, Syrian Khaled Al-Agha paid more than 22 years of age in prison for this session, which led to his arrest in the basements of the Syrian regime’s intelligence and his being subjected to torture and humiliation, moving between prisons and security branches in Syria.
Khaled Al-Agha, 57, who was released a few months ago from prison, did not realize that the driver would be arrested by the security services on charges of promoting a secret organization, and confessed under torture to everyone he met during the period prior to his arrest, and then all of them are thrown in Imprisonment on the same charge during the rule of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.
Al-Agha remembers the night he was arrested in 1999 by security men, and how they came to his house on the pretext that they were from a merchant and wanted him to come with them to talk about a commercial issue for a few “minutes”, especially since he was working in a real estate brokerage in the city of Aleppo.
Agha says – fighting tears – that he did not trust the men’s words, especially since he did not recognize them or the merchant they talked about, then he told his wife to call his brother and tell him that he might have been arrested by the security men for an unknown reason.
Al-Agha adds – in an interview with Al-Jazeera – that those “minutes” extended to more than 22 years in prison, which he spent between heartbreak, pain and psychological and physical torment, leaving his wife and 6 children to an unknown fate.
Torture and disobedience
From the moment he arrived at one of the security branches in Aleppo, Al-Agha was beaten and tortured with electricity without being allowed to speak, and the interrogators were asking him to confess to belonging to the secret organization in coordination with the arrested driver, which he strongly denied, stressing that he met him in one of the sessions that gathered traders in his office .
Al-Agha recounts how he confessed to himself after being exhausted by torture, beatings with sticks and exposure to electricity in sensitive places. He told them that he confessed to everything, begging them to stop his torture only.
Al-Agha was later transferred from the city of Aleppo to the notorious Sednaya prison in Damascus. He confirms that the judge in the field court used to beat him during the investigation so as not to change his previous statements and confessions.
In Sednaya prison, Agha witnessed the events of the famous insurrection by prisoners in 2008, and he does not forget how the jailers killed dozens of detainees during the dispersal of the rebellion, stressing that a massacre occurred in which nearly 100 prisoners were killed, for refusing to insult and mistreat the prison director.
Revolution and freedom
With the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011, news reached Agha and detainees about the demonstrators taking to the streets, at that time feelings of hope were seeping in him that a change would occur in the country, at a time when the former detainee met dozens of Syrian youths arrested for protesting, with blood covering their faces from beatings and abuse. .
In 2014, the man ended his 15-year rule, but the shock was when the jailers told him that he had a problem in the “National Security” branch, which delayed his release for an additional 7 years of his life.
About 3 months ago, the Agha came out in disbelief after the prison director told him that he had obtained a pardon and a “honor” from President Bashar al-Assad, but the magnitude of the shock was greater when he discovered that his only son, who had left him as a child, became the father of two young children!
The former detainee Khaled Al-Agha is trying to adapt to his new reality despite the huge effects that dug into him from his imprisonment of nearly 23 years for a charge he did not commit, trying to return to his life and compensate his family for the years of deprivation.
Thousands of detainees and disappeared
If the story of the former detainee, Khaled Al-Agha, was told, tens of thousands of Syrian detainees did not tell their stories and remained trapped in walls until the moment, as the Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates the number of detainees at more than 130 thousand people since 2011 until today.
According to SNHR reports, 14,537 people, including 180 children and 92 women, were killed under torture in Syria between March 2011 and June 2021, the majority of whom were killed in the prisons of the Syrian regime.