Witness Reports  ::   The Testimony of the Detainee: Mazen Besais Hamada On Air Force Branch-Mazzeh Military Airport

The Testimony of the Detainee: Mazen Besais Hamada

On Air Force Branch-Mazzeh Military Airport

And Military Hospital 601 in Mazzeh, Damascus

Violation Documentation Center in Syria

October 2013


A lot of stories have been told about the atrocities and crimes committed in military hospitals to where sick detainees are being transferred; such as torture, beatings, humiliation and dozens of extrajudicial killings. The most notable of these hospitals in Damascus is Teshreen Military Hospital in Barzeh and MilitaryHospital601 in Mazzeh, Damascus.

VDC in Syria is seeking to gather the greatest number of testimonies on the crimes committed by the Syrian security forces. The importance of Besais' testimony lies in the fact that he has been subjected to the cruelest torture on one hand, and that he has been an eyewitness to the many atrocities that took place in the "slaughterhouse hospital" as he put it to describe Military Hospital 601 in Mazzeh to which he was transferred from the Air Force Branch, Mazzeh Military Airport.

Mazen Besais Hamada was born in DeirEzzor, Mohassan city. He is 36 years old; a graduate of the Institute of oil industries, and was an employee in "Chembrgear" French company for oil exploration in Deir Ezzor as a technician. He has been arrested for three times since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution ; the first arrest was on 24-4-2011by the State Security Branch in Deir Ezzor and lasted for about a week , the second arrest was on 29-12-2011 by the same branch during his return from Damascus as they arrested him on a military checkpoint at the entrance of Deir Ezzor , and lasted about two weeks , and the third arrest, which was the longest and the fiercest, was on 1-3-2012 by the Air Force Intelligence in Damascus that arrested him in Saruja cafe in Damascus. Mazen says:

It was only a few minutes after the doctor in Mujtahid Hospital- who was having tea with us in Saruja café- left when a number of security agents came in and made us show them our IDs. Then they guided us-I and my two nephews- to an unknown destination by a civil "Hyundai" car after they covered our heads by flipping our shirts over. Later, we knew that we were taken to the Air Force Branch in Mazzeh Military Airport in Damascus.

1-In Mazzeh Military Airport:

When we arrived to Mazzeh Airport, specifically to "the studies building", the agents received us with brutal beatings by "a green plastic tube". They were beating us directly on our heads and backs, and then they put us in a collective cell that was about 12 m2. We were about 70 detainees, mostly from Daryya in Damascus Suburbs. Next to us was another cell in which they imprisoned about 70 detainees, more than 40 of whom where soldiers in the Syrian Army detained on many charges such as "considering desertion".

I stayed there for 15 days, then they transferred me to the dormitories called "planes security dormitories" where I stayed for 25 days. Afterwards, I was transferred to the "old" Interrogation Section where I stayed for about two months when they called me for interrogation.

They handcuffed and blindfolded me, then took me to the "breathing courtyard' where I could hear the screams of the tortured detainees. When I arrived to the interrogator's office, he asked me about my political status and accused me of collaborating with Islamic organizations which I immediately denied saying that I was a member of the Marxist Communist Party. Thus, he cursed me and all the Party's members and ordered the agents to take me back to the cell.

Thus, they took me to the "collective" cell no.15 in the old interrogation building. We were about 14 prisoners in a no more space than 1*80*2 m2. Two hours later, they called my name again to be interrogated by another interrogator who asked me immediately to admit that I had killed some soldiers, attacked some military checkpoints and possessed weapons. He told me that he was going out to smoke a cigarette and that he wanted me to confess those charges as soon as he got back.

A satellite image showing the location of the Air Force Intelligence – Investigation Branch-Mazzeh Military Airport.

Five minutes later, he came back and asked me: "Are you going to sign down this confession or should i make you sign by force?" I answered that I had never had or used any weapon before, and that I had never killed any soldiers nor attacked any checkpoints. At once, he called some agents; Somar, Sulaiman and Haitham Murhej who was from Mesyaf in Hama. He was born in 1985, bearded blond, about 170 cm tall, and about 70kg weight, he was known as "Abu Saleh". The fourth agent was Mustafa Azar from Mitras Village near Safita city in Tartous. He was a giant man, brown, bearded with short hair. He was about 120 kg weight, 190 cm tall. He was the cruelest and he tortured me the most.

I could see most of their appearance while they were beating me and later while we were out to the toilets or while they were distributing food.

They first punched me, kicked me and beat me with a thick cable and a hose, yet that did not satisfy them, so they put me n the floor and treaded me and stepped on my chest till four of my ribs were broken that i could not breathe properly for the next two months. Then they tied my hands to the ceiling, "hanging" me more than 45 cm above the floor. I started screaming out of pain so one of them put his boot in my mouth and threatened me not to scream again. Due to the extreme pain I felt, i asked them- after fifteen minutes- to take me to the interrogator's office to confess whatever they wanted. Indeed, I confessed that I possessed weapons and protected the demonstrations, yet I refused to admit murdering the army soldiers so they took me back to the second interrogation room where they made me take off my clothes and brought a metal tool which consisted of a metal circle with a handle on the side like "a wrench". They put my "organ" in the circle and started pulling the handle. The more they pulled the more the circle tightened and squeezed my "organ" causing me an unbearable pain. They threatened to cut my "male organ" unless I confess everything they wanted. Consequently, I did confess, especially after they brought "The pole" which is a metal spear with a pointed sharp head that was put in detainees' butts to force them to confess. After I had admitted everything, they actually took me back to the dormitory, and I was not interrogated afterwards but once, nominally, a week after.

Imaginary picture of the machine that used to squeeze on the male organ

After that, they took me to the "planes' security" again where I stayed from July 2012 till December 2012. Then, at the beginning of 2013, they transferred me, with another 50 detainees to the "new building" where thirteen of us were put in Cell 11 that was only 1.10*1.10 cm2. Among the detainees were Tarek Sheikh from Rastan city in Homs, and Tarek Qaseedeh who was a doctor in Mujtahid Hospital.

Few days later, I was late in the bathroom because I was suffering from constipation, so five guards started beating me severely by a "tube" on my stomach, waist and head for more than 10 minutes till I started losing conscious when they took me back to the cell.

At midnight, I felt a terrible pain in my waist, and when I went out to the toilet I was peeing "blood" and the pain increased little by little, especially that we were not allowed to use the bathroom but twice a day i.e. once every 12 hours. I remained in pain for ten days till the prison commander; Lieutenant Colonel "Suhail"came and checked if any of the detainees was sick or needed anything. I told him about my condition so he ordered one of the agents to write down my name in order to transfer me to the hospital. Indeed, on the next day, at about 9 in the morning, they called my name to take me to Military Hospital 601 as I heard the agents whispering.

Mazen wants to relate some incidents about Military Hospital 601 before he resumed his testimony. He says:

In July 2012, they took me to dormitory no.15 in the "old investigation building" whose head was Muthanna Ahmad from Karnaz in Hama, who was an employer in the Post Institution and was charged of tapping calls in favor of the rebels. When I entered, I was surprised that one of the detainees was on the floor. He was a tall, thin, blond man wearing shorts. He was hallucinating, and when I approached him I noticed that he was peeing and defecating in his pants. There was also a lot of blood on his clothes, and when I asked the other detainees about the reason, they said:

He was accused of killing people of the Alwite sect, and when interrogated, they put him on a pole which tore his anus causing an involuntary defecation of the feces.

Once, we took him to the bathroom to help him clean himself. He was half conscious. I looked at his injury; it was a circle full of blood and stool. It was a real eyesore.

Imaginary picture showing "the pole" which is used in the Air Force Intelligence branch in Damascus:

Mazen speaks about another horrific incident saying:

The agents in the branch used to beat severely all the detainees who went to sign their confessions. One day, one of the detainees named Muhammad Azab from Darayya city in Damascus Suburbs went out to sign his confessions. He was only 17. Despite he was a kid, they made him- under severe torture- confess that he was a murderer.

When he finished, the agents started beating him, headed by Assistant Hafez Sulaiman with other agents such as: agent Shahoud, Mustafa Azar and Daniel who was from Lattakia. They all beat him on his head with "an iron tube", then they burned his face, especially his cheeks, and his neck with a "straw lighter" that is a special tool used normally to weld and mend refrigerators, which caused him many serious burnings.

2-In the "slaughterhouse Hospital", Military Hospital 601, Mazzeh, Damascus:

One day between mid-January and the beginning of February, about eight in the morning, the agents called me, then they blindfolded me and asked me to climb up a bed. When I did, they pushed the bed very violently that I fell down in an ambulance. On the way to the hospital, the agents kept hitting me severely with the bottoms of their guns. They also kicked me with their feet on my stomach and head. One of the agents said in a vernacular accent "I wish he's dead before we get to the hospital".

Having arrived at the hospital, I was surprised by seven nurses carrying their shoes by which they beat me and insulted me in a non-human way. They hit me mostly on my face shouting: "he is a terrorist, he killed our sons and families", then a doctor said to me "you must forget your name because here you are just a number". I was patient (1858). After that, he took me to one of the rooms and asked one of the nurses to give me "a serum", yet the nurse wounded my hand and

gave me " a used serum". Then they took me downstairs where there were two rooms; one for the Air Force Intelligence and the other for the Military Security, particularly the Military Intelligence Division.

There, they tied me to the bed with other four detainees and ordered me to carry the serum myself instead on hanging it as a way of punishment. And when the serum run out, I called the nurse to undo it, yet he pull it roughly which caused my hand to bleed heavily. He told me then "when you die we will throw you in the garbage".

The sick detainees there were not allowed to talk to each other, yet I could see the other detainees from under the piece of clothe by which they blindfolded me. One of them was unconscious as he had a fracture in his skull "his brain was seeming" as he had been beaten brutally on the head which caused him that big fracture that left him on the verge of death. Another detainee was whipped harshly on his feet that they became like "an elephant feet" because they were very swollen that each foot weighed about 40 kg. There were traces of torture all over his body.

At midnight of the same day, i asked one of the guards to take me to the bathroom so he ordered one of "the hard laborers"-who was from Daryya city- to do so. The bathrooms reeked so much. They consisted of a toilet, a bathroom and a third place where there was a small sink.

As soon as I opened the door of the toilet, I was freaked out for there was three bluish bodied lying there with their underwear. Those bodies had long hair and beards. It seemed that they had spent a long-term detention. Their eyes were pulled out during torture, and they were piled above each other.

I immediately shut the door and went to the bathroom to pee, however I saw two other bodies, fully dressed with long hair and beards too, yet these bodies seemed to have died not very long time before. They seemed to have died recently.

I closed the door again and headed to the small room where the small sink is. There, I saw a young man's body; he was about 17, with white complex and blond hair. He only wore underwear, and traces of torture were all over his tiny body with other traces of burnings caused either by boiling water, boiling oil or other substance.

Scared to death, I went back to the room. The guard asked if anything was wrong with me. I replied that I saw bodies of dead men in the bathroom, yet he did not pay any attention to my words. That guard nicknamed himself as "Ezra'eel/The Angel of Death"

"Ezra'eel" as he wanted to be called was a jailor from Shahoud family from Tartous Governorate. His task was to kill those who were at the verge of death.

As for the way the killing was carried out, Mazen says:

Ezra'eel usually came-late night- carrying a "metal tube" in his hand after he got really drunk. He shouted at the sick detainees saying " The divine court has sentenced you to salvation", then he chose his victims of the elderly whom he beat severely on their heads till they die, as one of the "hard Laborers" from Daryya said adding that each week between 15 to 20 bodies are being taken to an unknown destination by a huge "refrigerator"

Two days after that, they brought one of the detainees-from Shb'aa in Damascus countryside- whom I had met earlier in Mazzeh Military Airport. He was suffering chronic skin infections resulted from the poor hygienic condition inside the detention, in addition to being infected with leprosy "Vitiligo" and scabies as well.

I can vividly remember who were in charge of torturing him in Mazzeh Military Airport.one of them was Fawaz Zabea' from Occupied Golan (Special Tasks),the other one was Fayez from Mahkan Village in Deir Ezzor, and the thirds one was Yousef, a Kurdish from Malkieh (Derek) whose father worked in Rmeilan oil fields. He was a recruit in Aqraba Airport, then he defected and fled to Erbil in Kurdistan, Iraq.

When that detainee arrived, he was "detached", that is, he was hallucinating. The guards put him in the same bed I was occupying. And as "the hard laborer" told me exactly, Ezra'eel came after midnight carrying his "metal tube" and smelling like drinking. He beat the detainee on his head till he was completely unconscious and his blood was over the whole place. Few hours later, he died so i called the "hard laborer" who took his body to the bathroom.

On the fourth day in Hospital 601, I begged the doctor to allow me back to the branch. He said "but you have not recovered yet" so I answered him that I was "much better" and that I wanted to go back to the detention. Consequently, he wrote down my name and on the next day a car from the Air Force Intelligence came and took me to Mazzeh Military Airport. And when I arrived, an agent named "Hafez Sulaiman" from Banyas in Tartous asked " how come this dog has not died yet?", then he ordered to hang my hands to the ceiling and they beat me by batons and boots for about half an hour....that was the last time I got beaten there, for I stayed in the "Breathing" dormitory for a month and a half where a detainee doctor named Tarek Qaseedeh took care of me before I was transferred to the Military Police in Qaboun on 1-6-2013 then to Adraa Central Prison on 5-6-2013 where I stayed for about two months. After that I was transferred to the Court of Terrorism in Damascus, from which I was released.

There was still a search order against me by the Department of Criminal Security in Bab Mosala to which I was transferred before Fayhaa Branch- a subordinate of the Political Security- where i stayed for 8 days. Finally, I was transferred again to stand before the judge, then I was released on 3-9-2013.

A copy of the "request to approve the existence” of the detainee while he is in Adraa Central prison in Damascus

Interviewer: Bassam Al-Ahmad

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