SYRIA/ Mastou (Al Arabiya): My experience of the horror of Assad’s jails
He was locked up for two months in Assad’s prison after being arrested for having reported on the demonstrations in Syria as a journalist. Mohamad Zaid Mastou is a star of the Al Arabiya TV satellite channel, and he was on vacation in Damascus when, a year and a half ago, the revolution broke out. Interviewed by Ilsussidiario.net in his apartment in Amman, Jordan, where he returned after being released from prison, he talks about everything he observed on the scenes. He explains why the West should not fear the new model of democracy that is emerging in the Arab countries, based on secularism and religious freedom like in Europe, but in which the various faiths are not excluded from public life as they are on the Old Continent.
How much time did you spend in Syria since the beginning of the revolt?
When the revolution started, I was on holiday in Syria, and I stayed there from mid-February to July. Once I got out of jail I had to leave the country.
What did you see in the Syrian prisons?
I spent a month in solitary confinement in a tiny room with no light, and another month with the other prisoners. What I know is that they moved people from the hospital to the prison in order to interrogate and beat them.
How do you know?
I met people with wounds and large bandages who told me these things. Also, every night I was suddenly awakened by the voices of people screaming as they were being beaten during interrogation. I never personally witnessed any executions because, since I am a journalist, the prison authorities gave orders that I not be allowed to see certain things.
Were you present at the demonstrations against Assad?
Yes, I was in Douma (near Damascus) when the security forces fired on the peaceful demonstrators. Thirty people were killed, and they shot at me too. They asked me what I was doing and I replied that I lived there. I was lucky because the officer did not know English. When he opened my wallet, he found my press card but was not able to read it, so he let me go. I was with my brother and my cousin, and the latter was killed two weeks ago.
How was he killed?
Government forces attacked the area where my family lives. The Free Syrian Army intervened to defend the neighborhood and suffered 15 losses by snipers. My cousin died from gunshot wounds.
Who are the people in the Free Syrian Army, the armed group of rebels?