As you may have noticed, Syria is not a nice place to be of late. But this has been true for a long time, and you can trace the latest effects of the Arab Spring back to Hafez al-Assad crushing a rebellion in the city of Hama back in the 80s. Of course, once you've set out to commit gross violations of human rights, you need somewhere to put all the people you're detaining and torturing and so forth. In Syria, as often as not, that place is Tadmor Military Prison. It's a largeish facility run by the army, in Palmyra, way out in the desert in Eastern Syria (or Assyria, if you're into your antiquated Middle Eastern naming conventions). In its own way, it's a neat metaphor for the way the Assad regime has evolved; Palmyra is the site of an ancient city. Built on top of that were colonial barracks, that used to house French soldiers. And since the 70s, they've been holding largely political prisoners. Violence and repression breed violence and repression, yeah? Not a new idea, but worth repeating.
So what exactly goes on in Tadmor? Well, by all accounts it makes Guantanamo Bay look like a branch of Butlin's. Not that that's any excuse for Guantanamo Bay, and I'd hardly be surprised if it had seen some outsourcing from the West in its time. You're talking about 40 to 50 dormitories, and about 40 smaller cells for solitary confinement. You can imagine, a headcount of inmates is not forthcoming, but you get a sense of the scale of the place. And reading the reports from Amnesty International and the like, the chief impression you get is that the Syrian military police really, really like beating people. I guess when all you have is a club, everything looks like someone's head. Inmates are beaten and whipped when they arrive, every day when they're forced to exercise (while being beaten and whipped), and for committing such grave offences as moving at all during the night. If they really cross the line, like by making eye contact with a guard, the de rigeur method of summary execution is an iron bar to the head.
Prisoners are typically disappeared, sentenced summarily by a Field Military Court, sometimes without knowing the sentence, and thrown into the general population (after a welcoming beating-and-whipping session, naturally). while waiting a few months to find out if they're going to be dragged off to be executed on any given day, with no warning. As far as the population goes, it's a fairly even mix of people the government have cause to dislike. Leftists, dissidents, intellectuals, protesters. Of course, many of them happen to be Islamists. It's worth noting that any good fundamentalist ideology thrives on persecution, and the repressive Middle Eastern regimes that the Arab Spring has targeted have unquestionably persecuted Islamists, often in the most brutal ways. Of course, we in the West love to see Arab governments taking a hard line on extremism, so long as the precise meaning of 'hard line' isn't made too obvious to us. This is just one of many, many factors that make 'Why do they hate us?' such a naive question.
DesperationQuest. 6/20. 1 hour 10.