Assad's Prisons

Elie Chalala


I must admit that I became interested in “prison literature” many years ago. My first reading was of the Italian author Primo Levi’s “Survival In Auschwitz.”  Without establishing any comparisons – moral or political – between Levi’s experience in Auschwitz and the experience of many Arab political prisoners, my interest was focused on the psychological aspects of imprisonment, what this experience does to the prisoners, in and outside the prison.  Levi’s suicide in 1987 summed up his pain. Thus as an editor of Al Jadid magazine I have decided to publish many articles and interviews by and with Arab intellectuals who spent years of their lives in prison, and who were fortunately able to survive and tell their stories. One of those is Farag Bayraqdar, a Syrian poet who spent more than13 years in jail for his beliefs.  His account, in an interview conducted by Mohammed Ali Atassi, himself the son of a political prisoner and a former Syrian president, Dr. Nour Eddin Atassi, offers a rare picture of life inside the Assad prisons. Atassi has alsointerviewed another Syrian prisoner, Dr. Riyadh al-Turk, and has himself written about the Syrian prison system. These were published in past issues of Al Jadid magazine.  The interview posted provides a vivid image of what goes on inside Assad’s prison, and also enables us to appreciate Farag Bayraqdar’s prescient analysis of Syrian politics.


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