dpa/GNA – Ten years ago, Bashir Abazied, who was only 15 years old, was accused by the Syrian intelligence service of spraying graffiti on his school wall in the southern city of Daraa against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We were arrested for the graffiti. But we hadn’t written them,” he told dpa, retracting comments he made in 2013 that he was behind the graffiti.
“It’s your turn, doctor,” was one of the famous graffiti daubed at the time on a school wall in Daraa, referring to al-Assad, who had studied medicine.
Daraa, located near the border with Jordan, is the birthplace of the Syrian uprising that reaches its 10th year on Monday.
Abazeid, who is now living in Turkey, recalls that he and a friend had been detained over the graffiti because they had written their names on the school wall “as souvenirs.”
A handwriting expert was brought in by the Syrian intelligence service and was said to have found similarities in the handwriting of Bashir and his friend Nayef Abazeid.
Consequently, Abazeid said they were taken into custody and tortured until they claimed to have sprayed the graffiti and were coerced into making written confessions.
“Our situation inside the jail was very bad. We were subjected to brutal torture,” Bashir told told dpa via WhatsApp audio and text messages.
“When we got out of jail, fear of security forces was still in our bones. People knew that we were the ones who wrote the graffiti,” he said, stressing that their confessions were extracted under torture.
“We were afraid. That’s why we said: Yes, we wrote it,” he added.
The news of the detention and torture of the two boys shocked the people of Daraa, who had gone to high-ranking Syrian government officials to help them learn about the fate of their children.
According to Bashir, some 24 children were detained along with them in mid-February 2011 for the graffiti, just a month before the start of the uprising against al-Assad.
Ahmad al-Sayasneh, once the imam of the al-Omari Mosque in Daraa, who is now living in Qatar, told dpa that the detained children’s families had anxiously waited for days for a piece of news about them.
Eventually, a delegation of those families, local imams, and other dignitaries went to meet with Syrian government officials.
But, the parents’ pleas for the release of their children were ignored and they were starkly warned to back off, al-Sayasneh remembered.
“My advice to you is that you forget you have ever had these children. Go back home and bring other children into the world,” al-Sayasneh, who was a member of the delegation, quoted a senior security official as telling the devastated families at the time.
“The statement made the people angry, given that the law does not punish children,” he said. “This was what sparked anger of the children’s families and prompted us to start the revolution demanding the release of the children,” al-Sayasneh added.
The parents’ outrage over their children’s confinement made waves across the country, helping to spur on Syria’s anti-government uprising that erupted on March 15, 2011, mirroring widespread protests in the Arab world that eventually toppled dictators in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
Al-Assad, however, remains in power.
“Ten years of revolution were enough to expose the lies and falsehoods of the al-Assad regime,” Bashir said.
“The Syrian people have been killed and displaced under the full eyes of the world without anyone lifting a finger,” he added