subtitled video | 53 min
Saydnaya military prison, in the Damascus mountains, is known as a death factory.
It’s there that tens of thousands of Syrians are systematically tortured, abused and killed.
The prisoners are able to see only very little, so their most important memories are sounds and noises.
Detainees are blindfolded or are made to face the walls of their cells.
They listen to locate danger, learn to recognise guards by the shoes they wear and know instruments of torture from their sounds alone.
“Saydnaya is a machine that cuts, burns and melts.
It doesn’t only destroy flesh… but also people’s souls,” says one ex-inmate.
The record- ings for this feature take place in a windowless cell in a former Stasi prison in Berlin’s Hohenschönhausen.
Survivors recall their experiences in Saydnaya by reconstructing the sounds of their confinement, noise for noise, bringing back anguishing ordeals diffi- cult to put into words.
The author, Jakob Weingartner, has spent a period of two years documenting the statements from interviewees.
The conclusion: these harrowing nightmares are part of a system which the Bashar al- Assad regime uses to turn Syria into a “Kingdom of Silence” through fear.
Those who are freed are usually left traumatised and are either politically paralysed or religiously radicalised.
Some, after what they have suffered, are themselves prepared to further fuel the vicious cycle of violence, which Assad exploits to present himself as a “lesser evil”.
For years, Amnesty International has been calling for a global investigation into the Syrian trauma machine.
Creating public attention is the survivors’ last hope.
Despite the fact, or perhaps because, there is much to suggest that the Assad regime could one day regain its power over all of Syria.
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