By Mohamad Misto and Adham Kako
ISTANBUL (AA) - "I thought I was dead when they pulled out my toe nails and put my feet in iced water," said a Syrian man, recounting the excruciating torture he endured imprisoned by the Syrian regime for over three years after completing his military service.
Muhammad Ahmad Ammar, 29, surrendered to regime forces in 2010 to serve his compulsory military service, but was not given his discharge papers when he reached the end of his service in October 2011, a few months after the start of civil war.
Thinking of desertion, Ammar asked his family for help, he told Anadolu Agency.
"In April 2012, someone from my village called me. 'We’ll take you from there and bring back to your village,' [he said]," Ammar remembered, noting that he accepted the offer, even though he thought it was impossible.
"Because the area I served in, Jabal al-Sheikh, was near Israeli border, it was almost impossible to escape there," he added.
Ammar said he was brought to the colonel’s room within 12 hours of the phone call, adding that he understood then that the phone call had been recorded.
"I never thought they would record the phone call," he said, underlining that he and the colonel did not even know each other.
Ammar said he accepted the accusations in order to avoid torture, but the soldiers nonetheless bound his arms behind his back before he was beaten and questioned.
"They pulled out my nails and whipped [my feet] more than 2,000 times. I thought I was dead when they put my feet into iced water," he recounted.
- Days in Damascus
Ammar said he was sent to a security unit in Sa’sa town southwest of the capital Damascus, where he was asked about his planned escape and would-be partner.
He said: "They tortured me so much that I confessed a crime I had not committed."
Telling him of the recorded phone call against him, they assured Ammar he would be set free in a few months.
He said he was forced to run errands in the security unit and witnessed the torture of other detainees.
"They gave people electric shocks from their sexual organs. They brought a youth to our room. He was fine when he came," Ammar said, adding that by the next day, he had been beaten so badly that his whole body was swollen.
"They told us not to talk to him," he said.
- Torture in numerous security units
Ammar said he was transferred to a new security unit when one of its former occupants was tortured to death.
After that, he said, he was relocated again to a cell so small and narrow that a youth from Aleppo had died there due to suffocation.
"Hanging from the ceiling, electric shocks, solitary confinement, wheel torture… We had seen everything," Ammar said, adding that torture victims were blindfolded in some cases.
- Tortures in Saydnaya Prison
Sent to Saydnaya Prison 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the Lebanese borders, Ammar stayed for 14 months in one of the most well-known torture centers of the Syrian regime before appearing in military court.
"We saw torture with electric [shocks], wheels and other tools. They would hit brutally and randomly. We would get exhausted," he recalled.
"I was released after a decision to be awarded amnesty in July 2014. Actually, the judge had accused me of false charges, including conspiracy against the state," he said, adding that he was sent to a disciplinary unit in Tadmur in western Homs province, since he was a soldier.
He also noted that they were sent back to Damascus when Daesh terrorists attacked Tadmur. They were then sent to an area in Homs, and to Deir ez-Zor from there.
"I escaped after I was sent to Deir ez-Zor by paying a $2,200 bribe to regime officers with the help of my relatives," Ammar said, noting that it was how he reunited with his family in the northwestern Idlib province.
*Writing by Sena Guler