By Waging Peace (CCD Special Contributor)
Editor’s Note: Warning – some may find the violence mentioned an accompanying photo disturbing.
My guide and I were going to meet a refugee. “One you need to meet”, he said. We walked quickly through dim, narrow, trash-filled streets. Meeting in the dark, our introduction was brief. I extended my hand to shake his, I was surprised when R (not using his name for obvious security reasons) offered me his wrist to shake. I wondered if this was some remote Syrian custom. Following my guide, who looked around several times, we quickly walked inside. In the light I could see why he offered his wrist, his hands seemed paralyzed, contorted, and clinched. He was young, maybe 25, not very tall, longish hair, with a boyish smile, yet on a troubled face.
My guide asked if I had seen hands like his before. I said no, he started to explain. Before becoming a refugee R was a member of the Syrian opposition forces, the Free Syrian Army, fighting Assad’s forces and ISIS. One night while raising a Free Syrian Army flag he was captured by the Syrian military, taken into a detainment facility where he was tortured – for information, and as punishment.
My guide pulled up R’s sleeves, huge wide scars run the length of both forearms. His hands drawn, unmovable. My face revealed my shock as I listened. The guards cut his arms open, inserted metal electrodes which were connected to an electrical source. They switched on the electricity, leaving it on until the muscles in R’s hands and arms were permanently constricted and rendered unusable. After the torture was finished, he was released, eventually able to sneak out of the country, into Jordan.
I didn’t know what to say, I searched for words, they wouldn’t come. I keep staring at his arms, trying to process it all. R talks while my guide translates. I listen to his experiences of fighting for freedom, for a better life for him and his family. I wonder how he feeds himself. I don’t ask. It seems insignificant in all he speaks of, his cause is larger than himself. Simultaneously I cringe, aching for him and his family, while also admiring his courage and unselfishness.
He asks me to share his story, the story of refugees, to tell people what’s happening, to not forget. I promised him I won’t.
You can read Waging Peace Thanksgiving dispatch from the Syrian border HERE.