Residents of Syria’s rebel-held areas say they’re seeing a rise in robberies, looting and other criminal incidents, often at the hands of rebel groups themselves.
In the Qalamoun area, which is currently under rebel control, 27-year-old Ammar was arrested at the grocery shop where he works by a group believed to be an affiliate of Ahrar al-Sham.
Ammar spoke to Syria Deeply after his release, recounting his ordeal.
Syria Deeply: How were you abducted?
About two months ago, I was in my shop when three men got out of a car and asked for me by name. They asked me to get in the car with them and blindfolded me. We drove for a long time, half of which was on a dirt road. I felt us driving uphill, like up a mountain. When we arrived at our destination they asked me to get out and they placed me in a room by myself.
Syria Deeply:What happened next?
After about an hour one of them came to me and said: “It’s simple. We realize now that you have nothing to do with the matter we brought you here for.”
I felt a bit relieved. But shortly after two men came in and tied my legs up. They whipped the soles of my feet, and I was trying to understand why I was being beaten after they told me they have nothing against me.
After they hit me, one of them shouted in my face saying I was a homosexual and that I will be moved to the headquarters where I will be tried. My punishment would be throwing me off the roof of the building and then stoning me.
Syria Deeply:What was your reaction?
I was in complete shock and I started swearing that I didn’t commit this act, and I asked they provide evidence or at least let me face the person they are accusing me of committing homosexual acts with. They told me that the Sharia court is the one responsible for the matter, and that’s where I can communicate my demands.
They blindfolded me again and sent me to another center, which isn’t very far from the place I was first brought to because the drive there was a short one.
Syria Deeply:What happened there?
After I arrived there, I thought there would be a Sharia judge or something. But the place wasn’t very different from the first building. They put me in a room and told me that’s where I’ll be staying until it’s time to make the verdict.
During this time, my parents were trying to get to me and were able to figure out who were the men who took me. That’s when they started negotiating my release. But one of the Ahrar al-Sham members told my family, “Your son is gay, and there’s a person who accused him.” My parents found that person and talked to him.
The man accompanied my parents to the Ahrar al-Sham members to straighten things out. They wouldn’t listen to reason and told my family, “Your son is an apostate and must be put on trial.”
Meanwhile, I was incarcerated and beaten daily for being a homosexual.
After about 10 days and after my parents threatened to start a war if I was mistreated, they decided to release me. However, they started biding their time. They started making excuses, telling my parents that they have no gas in their car or that the members were busy at the battlefront.
Syria Deeply:How were you released in the end?
One morning a member told me to go wash up and pray what would be my last prayer. He said my time had come and that today was when they would carry out the sentence. I washed and prayed. They blindfolded me and asked me what my will was so they could tell my parents. I told them that I am in debt, about 250,000 Syrian pounds. I asked that they tell my brother to pay the debt after selling my apartment.
But they said this is something they will take care of, adding they would pay my debt as long as I sell them the apartment for that debt amount. Otherwise, they would force me to sell it. Indeed, they got a piece of pen and paper and wrote, “We the undersigned will pay this man all his debt in exchange for taking over his apartment and all his possessions.”
After I signed, they beat me up until I blacked out. Then they transferred me elsewhere where I would be delivered to my family in the village.
After that, my family tried to contact the members to get back the contract and the money they had taken from me as well as my cell phone. But they refused to negotiate. That’s when we tried using our contacts to reach an understanding.
Syria Deeply:Where you able to reach an agreement?
Yes, after a month of negotiations, were able to get back the contract in exchange for 100,000 Syrian pounds ($500). These days, the Syrian people are not only suffering from a tyrannical regime, but also from opposition factions that share the regime’s tyranny. The Syrian people are the ones who are stuck in between, suffering the constant injustice.