Syrian prisoners take control of Hama jail

Syrian prisoners take control of Hama jail
Riots have broken out in a Hama jail after the transfer of five men on death row to a notorious military detention centre in Damascus, with prisoners taking control.
2 min read
02 May, 2016
Last year, prisoners in Hama demanded an end to solidarity confinement [Getty]
Prisoners in the Syrian city of Hama took control of a prison on Monday and held several guards hostage, activists said.

Security forces surrounded the prison firing tear gas at the men, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, after riots broke out at the detention centre.

The detainees had been on strike after the transfer of five political prisoners - who were held on death row - from the Hama jail to an "unknown location".

"The problem started on Sunday, when the prison authorities transferred five political prisoners to Sidnaya military prison in Damascus," Director of the Media Centre in Hama, Yazan Shadawi told The New Arab.

The Syrian regime has denied the reports.

"News circulated by some media outlets on the Hama prison incident are baseless," a source at the interior ministry said.

However, activists on social media used the hashtag #Hama_prison and shared footage showing the prisoners detaining guards as they took control of the prison.

Dozens of detainees - some of them covering their faces - stood in the corridors shouting "God is great", one of the slogans of the Syrian revolution.

We have decided not to include the video, to protect the identities of those filmed.

Last year, 1,200 inmates inside Hama prison staged a sit-in protest to demonstrate against the brutality of guards and solitary confinement.

They also demanded the removal of the prison director and an end to solidarity confinement.

Torture and death

Syrian prisons have a notorious reputation with torture, starvation and overcrowding routine.

Most detainees are also political prisoners with protests against the regime starting five years ago seeing a wave of arrests against activists and those suspected of opposing the regime.

There is no reliable figure on the number of people who have died under torture in Syrian prisoners, but thought to be in the tens of thousands.

One former regime prison worker - named "Caesar" - smuggled out of the country 28,000 photographs showing deaths of detainees who had been horribly tortured and starved.

Other prisons which have been liberated - or prisoners who have escaped or been released - have also spoken of the horrors of Syrian jails, and the regime's systematic brutality is widely seen as a catalyst for the unrest.

One 13-year-old Syrian boy, Hamza al-Khatib, was arrested in Daraa and died under torture, in 2011. His death sparked wider protests across Syria which were brutally oppressed by the regime, leading to armed revolt.