Tags / Detention
February 22, 2015
Swedish journalist Joakim Medin talks about his four-day detention in a Syrian government prison in the vicinity of Qamishli, a town in Kurdish Syria he was covering as a freelancer. Arrested at a government checkpoint when he failed to produce a visa, he explains that very few journalists travel to Syria with the necessary legal documentation. Despite the relatively harsh conditions of his confinement - his cell was cold, dark and dirty - Medin says he was treated much better than other prisoners. He finishes by stressing the broader context of the battle of ideas - in addition to the brutal physical struggle - that is still being waged for the future Syria and Iraq - the right of people to live and work their land; the right of religious minorities to practice their faith. This is why journalists must continue to cover these areas in person, even if at times that means doing so without a visa.
TRANSCRIPT AND SHOTLIST
SOUNDBITE (English, Man) Joakim Medin, Swedish Reporter Detained by Syrian Government Forces
“We were walking down the street down in central Qamishli, on the 15th of February. On this day a lot of people stay away from, from their jobs and closed down their shops and so on, because it was a special memorial day, because of the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan on the same day in 1999. There was not so much people and movement, but this same day soldiers of the Syrian government also, for some reason put up a temporary roadblock or checkpoint just outside the government post office of Qamishli. They were stopping cars and checking people. When we passed this checkpoint on the sidewalk, they immediately arrested us and… and in a prisoners’ car and drove us to the local police station nearby. They accused me of not having a visa, a Syrian visa despite being there. “They put us in prison and I was told that they had to investigate this thing out. I explained that yes, this is correct I did not have a visa because this is the way journalists get into this area; an area of Syria that’s been heavily transformed and affected by the war with Daesh [ISIS] erasing the borders. So of course I didn’t have a visa unfortunately. I was told that in a matter of hours – one hour, five hours, ten hours – this matter would be resolved. “You have to stay in prison for this period of time.” However, these hours turned into days.
“I was treated much differently and better than the other inmates – the other prisoners – they accused the others of being sympathisers with Daesh. They were treated well at all. The situation with them was really bad. But I was locked in a tiny isolation cell. I was isolated from the other prisoners. There was no light, no access to fresh water. It was dirty and I had to sleep on the concrete floor. It was difficult. It was very different from the conditions of prisons in my country. Still, I was better treated. I was not seen as the other prisoners. I could go… I had access to the toilet. After four days, things suddenly changed. They drove an ambulance to the front of the building and we had to get in…”
Interviewer: “Why did they use an ambulance and not a normal car?”
“To get to the airport and not to be seen… I don’t know. We were handcuffed and blindfolded and they drove to the airport where we took a plane to Damascus under other identities. We did not fly under our real name but under false names. I was a 25-year-old man from Spain. Then we came to Damascus and I was imprisoned in the center of one the branches of Syrian intelligence.”
Interviewer: “And what about the situation in Damascus?”
“In Damascus the situation was sometimes similar. For example, there were also very small cells. [I was] locked in isolation. I wasn’t able to speak to anyone. I had access to nothing, no possessions.” Interviewer: “Did you see any ambassador as they promised you?”
“No, there was no ambassador. When I asked there was no response, really.” Interviewer: “What was the kind of questions?”
“Soon the interrogation…. It was about the cells… We were blindfolded and taken to different rooms where there people asking questions or reading information from a laptop for example. The questions were about why I came. The questions were targeting mainly why I came to Syria without a visa, and I explained to them that this was the only way I thought [I could] this area to be able to report. There were three subjects that I was here to report about: the situation of women, the situation of Christians, and the Kurds and the Yezidis fighting Daseh six months after the massacre in Shingal. “But soon these questions turned into more focus on whether I had some sort of assistance from Turkey and Israel to enter Syria. I explained that this was not the case. I was helped by these foreign countries.” Interviewer: “Have you been threatened in prison, that they will kill you?”
“No, but I felt unconformable. The days kept going and there was no information about… if my embassy was contacted, or if I can contact my family. They specifically said: “No, you cannot contact your family.”
Interviewer: And then what happened?
“Well, until yesterday at lunchtime, still… at least I thought it was very uncertain about what will happen. Still, there was no information. Still, a lot of questions, especially about Israel. Still kept in cells… and suddenly in the afternoon something happened. We were again told that we will fly away from Damascus using, again, false identities. We had to repeat these names over and over. We were told that will go back to Qamishli to be imprisoned there. That afternoon we were blindfolded again and driven in some sort of van with black windows to the airport, where we took a [civilian] plane again and came back to Qamishli. “First we were taken to the same regime prison in Qamishli, and the treatment somehow changed. They were acting different, more hospitable in a way. It was obvious that something had happened. They were very nice and polite. Interviewer: “In your opinion, what happened?”
“Well, we found out a bit later when we were taken to different offices to meet with a lot of people [whose] names we didn’t get, really. I don’t remember them. Suddenly we came to an office where the flag on the wall changed from the Syrian one [to that] of the YPG. That’s when at least I suddenly realized, “Ah! Suddenly we’re safe.” Just like this. Up until the last minute, I had no idea what was going to happen at all. I had no assurance at all about what was happening. “So we were told… we met with Redor Khalil, the spokesperson of the YPG, who told us that the Kurdish forces and the Kurdish administration in the region have been deploying forces and putting pressure on the Syrian government basically from the very beginning to let us go, and when this diplomacy – if you can call it [as such] – failed because of continued misinformation, I guess, then one or several high-ranking officers in the Syrian army – Syrian government army – were arrested by the YPG. Then there was a question of exchanging prisoners. And also, there was the threat of how the YPG would eventually intervene against the government-controlled airport outside Qamishli and basically stop all traffic unless we got released. This pressure eventually… well we got taken back from Damascus to Qamishli, which is not a normal process to happen this fast. And we got released.
“I and many others still think that this is something… what’s happening here with the… the social situation changes in Syria… the fight against Daesh, the fight to make people stay on their own land, in their own homes, the fight for minorities to stay in their own homes and not be ethnically cleansed by Daesh, the fight for many ideas and things and the war on that… I mean if we want anyone in the world to know about this, any people, we must be able to go. Sometimes it means that you come without a visa, unfortunately. “This is one of the few areas in Syria where we see social mobilization to protect the society in… in… it could stay the way it is not to make it collapse, but at the same time transform it into something better in the meantime. So I think if we want to see the region to be safe to report from and inside, and also see maybe an example of what Syria can like with stability, then this is one of these regions. I think it’s very important to keep coming here to report for the sake of all of Syria.”
Various of Joachim Medin with Sabri Omar, the interpreter who was arrested with him
Various of Joachim Medin indoors
May 26, 2014
On 22 May 2014, 34-year-old Alevi-Turkish protester Ugur Kurt, cleaner and father of one, was killed by Turkish police. He was shot in the head by a stray bullet as the police dispersed a group of demonstrators expressing their grief over the Soma mining distaster that had taken the lives of 301 miners on 13 May 2014. The demonstrators were also protesting the shooting death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, killed by a police-fired gas canister during protests in March of that year. Kurt, for his part, was killed outside an Alevi worship sight in the impoverished neighborhood of Okmaydani in Istanbul.
Following these events, the Chepesi Party, an unrecognized political party comprised mostly of young people, clashed with the police. Members of the party shouted "Katil" (Criminals) at authorities. On the morning of 23 May, a police bus was hit by a Molotov cocktail, causing panic among policemen and leading one of them to fire in the air to disperse protesters. As the day continued, clashes in the neighborhood continued. By nightfall, protesters were taking aim at security cameras. More than 38 were arrested during the night of 26 May.
Yop's life (random name), a Christian woman aged 45, changed when she refused the marriage proposal from a Muslim man working with her. Since that moment, he started threatening her and her family and he turned their lives into hell when she decided to marry another man. Thanks to his contacts, her harasser made her and her husband to be imprisoned and her nephew killed. The whole family left the country in December 2011 and traveled to Bangkok where they got the refugee status.
The iconic image of refugees that we usually have in mind is a row of tents in a sprawling emergency camp. But reality tells us that refugees are increasingly moving to large towns and cities. More than over half the world’s refugees live in large towns and cities where they suffer from harsh living conditions, with a lack of security and an increasing poverty.
Thailand is a hot spot for urban refugees. One of the reasons why the number keeps increasing is the relative easinness to enter the country. But the conditions of life awaiting them are far from the idilic idea that some displaced people may build in their minds. Urban refugees in Thailand face a harsh reality, without any legal right to work and a lack of access to basic services, such as healthcare and education.
Bangkok hosts around 2,600 refugees and asylum seekers from more than 40 countries. They hope to find a sense of community, safety and economic independence, but what they find is fear of detention and deportation, exploitation and abuse.
Among them, we find a specially vulnerable group: single-mother refugees who came to Thailand either with their family or alone. They are often denied the necessary legal rights to participate in the mainstream economy and are thus pushed underground, into informal jobs. There, they face extortion, exploitation, abuse (risk of sexual and gender-based violence) and arrest.
Abida, 53, belongs to the Ahmadiyya minority, an Islamic reformist movement persecuted in Pakistan. She left her country in 2009 with her three children after being attacked in their home-town, Gujrat. She is now waiting in Bangkok to travel to Canada, where she will be resettled.
Pendeza (random name), 31, was detained and tortured in Democratic Republic of Congo because of the tie of her husband with a tribal guerrilla. She arrived in Bangkok in November 2012 after having travelled through Rwanda and Kenya. She lives with her baby son as an asylum seeker, waiting to be recognized as refugee.
Maria Teresa (random name), 36, fled Angola in 2009 escaping from local authorities who threatened her life. In 2008, the government expropriated her house and detained her during a demonstration. Now she lives in Bangkok with her 2 years-old daughter, where she has initiated the process to get the refugee status.
Shoba (random name), 35, left Sri Lanka in August 2009, two months after the end of the civil war with the Tamil guerrilla. Her husband disappeared in July 2009 after being accused of helping the guerrilla. Already recognized as a refugee, she lives now in Bangkok with her children, while waiting to be resettled.
Andrea (random name) was married with a member of the Intelligence Service of the Tamil guerrilla during the civil war in Sri Lanka. When the civil war finished in 2009 her family was targeted by the government and they fled after her husband disappeared. She lives in Bangkok with two of her three children. She has been rejected as refugee and she is preparing the appeal against the UNHCR decision.
Sania (random name), 33, left Pakistan in 2012, one year after the escape of her husband, a member of an opposition organization. She lives with her three children in Bangkok, while her husband is hold in an Immigration Detention Center located in the same city. Both have been recognized as refugees.da, where she will be resettled.
Rachel (random name) fled Sri Lanka in 2009 after being arrested by the authorities of her country for belonging to the Tamil community. She arrived first in Malaysia and traveled after to Bangkok, where she is waiting to get the refugee status. She has a 9 months old daughter who was born in Thailand.
The parents of Austin Tice, the 31-year-old freelance journalist missing in Syria, spoke to reporters in a press conference on Monday, November 12, in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut, pleading for his release before Christmas.
Debra and Mark Tice asked that whoever was holding their son treat him well. They stated that their presence in Lebanon was to contact officials for help locating, and bringing their son home.
Debra and Mark said they were ready to cooperate and meet with any person or authority that could lead to information about their son.
SOUNDBITE 1 (English) – Mark, Austin’s father:
“We’re the parents of Austin Tice, a journalist working in Syria, and with whom we’ve had no contact since August 13th. We’re here today to appeal for information about Austin. Is he well? How can we contact him? And how can we return him to our family? If anyone who hears this has any information about Austin, and especially what we can do to bring him home, please contact us. We have a website where you can send us an email. It’s www.austinticefamily.com.”
The parents reaffirmed that they had direct and indirect contact with officials in the Syrian government who said they did not know Tice's whereabouts.
Debra sent a touching message to her missing son during the press conference.
SOUNDBITE 2 (English) – Debra Tice, Austin’s mother:
“My precious Austin, I love you dearly. I hold you tenderly in my heart, and I pray for you constantly. Your brothers and sisters love you, and think of you every minute. Be assured we’ll do all we can to bring you safely home.”
Tice was a US Marine before heading to Syria as a freelance journalist.
Tice has been missing since mid-August, and a US State Department spokesman said they believed he was in custody of the Syrian government.
Local News Agency: Middle East Bureau / VCS
Shooting Dateline: November 12, 2012
Shooting Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Publishing Time: November 12, 2012
Video Size: 90.4 MB
1. Wide shot of the press conference that was held in Beirut Austin Tice’s parents
2. Various shots of video cameras shooting the conference, and photographers taking snapshots during the conference
3. Various, large shots of reporters and journalists attending the conference and taking notes
4. SOUNDBITE 1 (English) – Mark, Austin’s father:
“We’re the parents of Austin Tice, a journalist who was last working in Syria, and with whom we’ve had not contact since August 13th. We’re here today to appeal of information about Austin, is he well?! How can we contact him?! And how can we return him to our family?! If anyone who hears this; has any information about Austin; and especially what we can do to bring him home, please contact us. We’ve a website where you can send us an email. It’s www.austinticefamily.com.” 5. Close shot of Austin’s mother, Debra while she was talking during the conference
6. SOUNDBITE 2 (English) – Debra Tice, Austin’s mother:
“My precious Austin, I love you dearly. I hold you tenderly in my heart, and I pray for you constantly. Your brothers and sisters love you, and think of you every minute. Be assured we’ll do all we can to bring you safely home.” 7. Wide shot of the press conference, while the presenter is thanking the attendees for coming
Thousands of Bahraini people participated in the funeral of the young man Mohammed Ali Mushaima (23 years old) in Aldaih village, west of the capital Manama on Tuesday, October 2, 2012. Mushaima passed away in detention after his deteriorated medical condition was neglected by prison administration.
Henrique Capriles, Venezuela’s Opposition Presidential candidate, gathered almost a million supporters this past Sunday in Caracas, just four days before the end of his campaign and a week until the Election Day against President Hugo Chávez who has been in the government since 1999 and aspires for a third term. Chavez supporters marched on Saturday, September 22, 2012 in Caracas, to show their support for Chavez in an election that could give him another six-year term.
Egyptian political activists, legal experts, NGO members and human rights activists held a press conference on Wednesday, October 3, to announce the formation of the “Egyptian Constitutional Front," intended to be a new constitution-writing panel to draw a new representative constitution.
A pro-reform protest leader stands on the fringes during noon prayer at Hussein Mosque. Demonstrators took to the streets to decry the arrest of political activists and launched thinly veiled criticisms of King Abdullah.
massive congregation for the Bahraini opposition in Sitra island, south of the capital under the title:
" Bahraini children in jail " In protest against the detention of 80 children by the Bahraini authorities while schools are about to start a new academic year.
Cairo, Egypt | May 14, 2012
Family members of Palestinian and Arab prisoners gathered in Cairo on Monday, May 14, for a conference dubbed the "Festival in Solidarity with Palestinian and Arab Prisoners in Israeli Jails." The event was organized by the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate, the Arab Lawyers' Union, and the Arab Organization for Human Rights.
The conference discussed the conditions of Palestinian and Arab prisoners who are currently staging a hunger strike due to suffering isolation and humiliation at the Israeli jails for several years.
SOUNDBITE 1 (Arabic) – Fadwa Barghouti, wife of Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti:
"We want the Arab human rights organizations to press the international institutions to push Israel to secure visits for the prisoners, and stop the policy of solitary confinement. For more than 13 years, some prisoners are still in the Israeli occupying jails in solitary confinement. Likewise, we demand an end to the policy of administrative arrest without charges or files. It is done by a secret file that even the prisoner's lawyer cannot know anything about."
SOUNDBITE 2 (Arabic) – Nashaat al-Wihaidi, Fatah member and representative at Prisoners' Committee for National and Islamic Forces in Gaza:
"There are more than 2,500 Palestinian prisoners. If they were in another country, they would make a small community. Today, there is a small Palestinian community in Israeli jails. I would like to say while we're in Egypt, the Arab League has to rise earnestly and responsibly to address the world to support the prisoners and rescue them from deadly Israeli policies."
The family members said that bans on family visits, solitary confinement, and shackling have recently increased in the Israeli jails, and called on all Arab and International human rights organizations to act responsibly to ensure the prisoners' rights.
The attendees demanded the Arab League raise the issue of living conditions of Arab and Palestinian prisoners in Israel to the United Nations, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
Local News Agency: Middle East Bureau / VCS
Shooting Dateline: May 14, 2012
Shooting Location: Cairo, Egypt
Publishing Time: May 14, 2012
Video Size: 130 MB
1. Close up, banner of the conference reading "Festival in Solidarity with Palestinian and Arab Prisoners in Israeli Jails"
2. Various shots of posters of Palestinian prisoners
3. Various shots of the attendees including Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt Barakat al-Farra
4. Various shots of the speakers and the attendees
5. Various shots of attendees holding posters of their detained family members
6. Pan right, the conference and the attendees
7. SOUNDBITE 1 (Arabic) – Fadwa Barghouti, wife of Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti:
"We want the Arab human rights organizations to press the international institutions to pressure Israel to secure visits for the prisoners and stop the policy of solitary confinement. For more than 13 years, some prisoners are still in the Israeli occupying jails in solitary confinement. Likewise, we demand an end to the policy of administrative arrest without charges or files. It is done by a secret file that even the prisoner's lawyer cannot know anything about."
- SOUNDBITE 2 (Arabic) – Nashaat al-Wihaidi, Fatah member and representative for Prisoners' Committee for National and Islamic Forces in Gaza:
"There are more than 2,500 Palestinian prisoners. If they were in another country, they would make a small community. Today, there is a small Palestinian community in the Israeli jails. I would like to say while we're in Egypt, the Arab League has to rise earnestly and responsibly to address the world to support the prisoners and rescue them from the deadly Israeli policies."
- Various shots of the conference and the attendees
- Various shots of a mother of one of the prisoners chanting statements demanding his release and the attendees repeating after her
Benghazi, Libya | February 26, 2012
A somali migrant man detained in a prison in Benghazi complains about the scary conditions in the detention center. Most of the migrants were caught entering Libya without visas or authorization by Libyan authorities or arrested for illegally staying in the country and trying to reach European countries through the Libyan territory by sea.