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We told you about Saydnaya... More than eight years ago!
February 9, 2017

On December 18, 2008, SKeyes published a story about shootings at and a military deployment around the Saydnaya prison in Syria. What Amnesty International revealed earlier this week shows the scale of the massacre that has been taking place in the infamous prison long before the 2011 uprising.

The story mentions Firas Saad, who had served prison time in Saydnaya. After his release, he wrote extensively about his experience, and about how the Assad regime used Saydnaya as a lab to test how radical Islamist groups would behave if involved in the Syrian conflict.

A sad memory refresher:

SKeyes reports shooting, fire and military deployment in Saydnaya Syrian Prison

The Samir Kassir Foundation's SKeyes Center reported on Thursday, December 18, 2008 that eye witnesses confirmed a shooting and a fire in Saydnaya prison in Syria on Saturday December 13. Military deployment was seen in the prison, and reports said they were still there, which indicated that there might be new tensions inside the prison.

None of SKeyes' reporters was able to reach the Saydnaya prison to take pictures of the scene, because Syrian security forces had surrounded the area around the prison and prohibited visits since the incident.

Similar incidents occurred in the prison on July 5, 2007 when 25 prisoners died after the Syrian police shot them as reported by the Human Rights Watch. The Syrian authority at the time published only one story in SANA News Agency, in which it said that a number of prisoners, convicted of extremist and terrorist actions, instigated chaos and attacked other prisoners.

SKeyes published the profiles of some authors and journalists imprisoned in Saydnaya.

Firas Saad, 30, was a Syrian poet arrested on July 30, 2006 for posting an article on a website titled "Where is the Syrian army from the Israeli War on Lebanon?" in which he criticized the Syrian army's indifference during the 2006 July War. He was sentenced to four years in prison in April 2008.

Tarek al-Biyassi, 23, was a Syrian blogger arrested on July 7, 2007 by the Syrian intelligence for criticizing the conduct of the security services through comments he had posted on website forums. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Karim Antoine Arbaji, 30, was a blogger and held a BS in accounting. He was arrested on June 7, 2007 by the Palestine subdivision of the Syrian intelligence. He was jailed in Saydnaya prison on September 18, 2007 and was convicted of spreading false news and for writing and posting articles on websites criticizing the Syrian authorities.

The eight bloggers were men aging from 25 and 30 in the period between December 2005 and March 2006. They were jailed in single cells and were tortured and severely beaten until their bones broke. One blogger, Hussam Melhem, was traumatized and was rendered deaf and mute. The men were convicted for trying to form a young political gathering and for publishing articles on the internet in which they criticized the absence of democracy and freedom in Syria.