Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Smell of Death, ISIS Torture Hover over Raqqa Stadium

Smell of Death, ISIS Torture Hover over Raqqa Stadium

Friday, 22 December, 2017 - 10:45
Center of Raqqa (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Municipal stadium, Black stadium, or Point 11, multiple names for the same place. It is the Raqqa municipal stadium in the center of the city which ISIS built a large prison under its stands.

For years, screams and loud cries have been heard, but they were not cheers of football fans. They were the pain of people who had been apprehended by the terrorist organization and were being brutally tortured.

Instead of organizing football matches and tournaments, torture dominated the practices in the stadium.

In an unjust match, ISIS militants played against the defenseless citizens without a referee to signal the beginning. It is just a game that expresses the end of life of anyone who opposed the strict laws and regulations of the organization.

The municipal stadium was inaugurated in Raqqa in 2006 for the matches and training of the youth team in the Syrian league. After ISIS took control over the whole city, the stadium had several names such as the Black Stadium, in reference to the black era.

ISIS members also called it Security Point 11 and the residents believe that it is likely there are 10 other secret points for detention all over the city.

In mid-October, backed by US-led international coalition, Syrian Arab Democratic Forces regained control over the area after they pushed the terrorist organization from Raqqa.

Asharq Al-Awsat visited the prison of the municipal stadium, divided into two sections: the northern side included 12 large collective halls, three solitary confinement centers, a small room with six cages that appear to be for more severe sentences, investigation office, safe room, and the "brothers" prison where members of ISIS were imprisoned .

The prison administration was in the southern part of the stadium, in addition to six large dormitories, and solitary prisons at the beginning and the end of the entrance.

According to residents living near the prison, the number of detainees exceeded the number of people in the period between 2015 and mid-2016.

A.A., who was the commander of the northern border area said that executions were carried out in the prison of Point 11 on a daily basis. He added that executions were carried out for civilians and anyone opposing the policies of the organization, especially those who were arrested for treason or espionage with the international coalition.

He pointed out that the organization was known for the severe torture, such as putting the prisoner in cages for days or tying his hands for hours.

A.A. is currently imprisoned by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

An ISIS commander from Morocco revealed that after the liberation of Raqqa in June, and the entry of Syrian Democratic Forces into the outskirts of the city, the organization transported the prisoners to Melh Mine, south of the Euphrates River, which later became under the control of Syrian regime forces.

The commander explained that the majority of the foreign hostages and detainees, held either for ransom or exchange, were transferred to the city of al-Mayadin, and then transferred to the border areas between Syria and Iraq.

The official in charge of the foreigners' was Abu Musallam al-Tawhidi, a Jordanian national, while Abu Luqman al-Raqawi, from Raqqa, was responsible for the Syrians.

On the prison's walls, one of the prisoners engraved numbers indicated his imprisonment duration, which seems to have lasted for three months between July and November 2016.

The prisoner wrote: "If you are reading this know that my charge is having a Twitter account."

ISIS monitored the social media and prohibited any contact with foreigners.

A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter Ismail, 26, was imprisoned for about two months in 2015 in the Black Prison because he smoked in secret.

Ismail described the early stages in the prison as the "worst thing ever" during which the detainee was blindfolded and handcuffed for days, and even week, without water or food. He was given a little amount of food during prayer times only to sustain his life.

Ismail explained that a room was set to torturing prisoners where he remains for a duration ranging from one week to 15 days based on his charge and investigation results, and his hands will be tied the whole time.

He added that the prisoner only had one meal per day consisting of one loaf of bread with two tomatoes or potatoes or boiled egg, and sick prisoners are deprived of any type of medication no matter his condition.

According to military officials of the Syrian Democratic Forces, after ISIS had been expelled from Raqqa, they found no trace of the kidnapped and detainees. The organization repainted the walls of solitary cells to erase the names and memories engraved on its walls.

Faisal, a 38-year old lawyer, remembered his three-months imprisonment at the Black Stadium during the summer of 2016 when he went to an Internet cafe to call his refugee relative in a European country.

Soon after, a unit of ISIS' morality police, Hisbah, took him to the Black Prison on charges of contacting elements against the organization.

Faisal added ISIS usually begins torturing with severe beatings without pity, and even resorted to a method where a piece of iron intended to load the engines of cars is used to lift the prisoner from his hands and he remains in that position for hours until he loses consciousness.

After ISIS had been expelled from the city about two months ago, the lawyer was able to enter the prison in the Black Stadium and reminisce.

"When they brought me into the basement of the stadium, smell of death was everywhere and the only sounds I could hear were the cries of tormented prisoners and screams of jailers," he recalled, adding that his charge was contacting foreigners.

Several of ISIS' writings and graffiti are still on the walls of the Black Prison and other public facilities in Raqqa, to remind the residents of a black era under ISIS, as they claimed. The written phrases preached paradise with false promises, warned women to adhere to their religious dress code, and urge young men to "fight" and join the ranks of the terrorist organization.

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