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They treated me like a criminal for speaking the truth: says Syrian journalist detained in Jordan

December 8, 2021 at 10:00 am

A Photo shows police vehicles guard at the Azraq camp for Syrian refugees, the newest camp in Jordan that hosts 54.000 refugees in northeastern desert in Azraq, Jordan, on 13 July 2017. [Jordan Pix/ Getty Images]

It was an ordinary Monday morning in Jordan when they came for me. At around 11:30am on 15 November, the doorbell rang. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but to my surprise, three intelligence agents stood on my doorstep. Before I had a moment to process, they had taken me outside, and told me to remain silent.

The Jordanian General Intelligence Service had come for me. They had come for me before, handed me over to the General Security who had interrogated me about my activities. They grilled me on my media appearances on several satellite TV channels, and my presence in several Clubhouse chatrooms, where I spoke out against the legitimisation of the Syrian regime and how Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad would economically benefit from the normalisation of Jordanian-Syrian relations.

They treated me like a criminal, and the officers who arrested me beat me like an animal in front of my wife and young children. They verbally abused me and accused me of hiding my equipment, even though I had handed everything over, including my families’ phones.

They entered my house and quickly confiscated all my devices. My camera, my iPad, my phone and my laptop. Before I knew it, I was bundled into a car and driving off into the unknown.

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My crime? The intelligence services had come for me because I had spoken out about the much talked about Arab Pipeline. Its function is to help solve the energy crisis in Lebanon, and it would involve building a pipeline from Egypt, through Jordan and into Lebanon. The only obstacle standing in the way was the Syrian regime, as the pipe would have to run through Syria and be maintained by the regime. When Egypt and Jordan were excluded from the US’ sanctions programme – known as the Caesar Act – which has rendered Assad’s Syria a pariah state, it was decided the pipeline would go ahead.

The officers threatened to hand me over to the Syrian regime where I would disappear into the black hole of the intelligence services, who would surely kill me for my work as a reporter. Being a Syrian journalist who seeks to speak the truth is a dangerous game, and you make enemies on all fronts; especially if you expose the ugly side of Assad’s brutal dictatorship.

I stayed in the detainees’ transport section of the Public Security Directorate until the next day. They transferred me to the Directorate of Security of Zarqa Governorate, after which I was detained for a whole night until I was transferred to Azraq camp.

A picture taken on August 2, 2018, shows a general view of the Azraq camp for Syrian refugees in northern Jordan. [KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP via Getty Images]

A picture taken on August 2, 2018, shows a general view of the Azraq camp for Syrian refugees in northern Jordan. [KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP via Getty Images]

One of the officers appeared to take pity me, and offered me a ‘special summons’, which read: “Mohamed Ibrahim is transferred to the fifth village in Azraq camp, with the guarantee that he will never leave.” After that, I was taken to the security centre at the camp and tested for COVID-19. In the afternoon, when the results came back negative, I was transferred from the “Quarantine Department” to obtain papers for the camp, and I was sent to the “Fifth Village” in the Azraq camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan.

I am there now, and the conditions are harsh. It is in the middle of a desert, which gets freezing at night, and welfare services are practically non-existent. I was given blankets, bedding, and some utensils, and a meal so foul I could barely eat it. I now buy my own food from the various stalls available around the area.

We later received information from reporters working in Syria that a list had been compiled by the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate with the names of journalists and activists the regime had in its crosshairs. So, at the behest of Al-Assad, the people on this list had been rounded up and arrested by the Jordanian state. Some were forced to suspend their work, and staff from publications like Syria Direct were deported.

READ: As a journalist in war-torn Syria you feel no fear, it dies within you 

I have not yet been charged with any crime. It is impossible, as I have committed none. I have not committed any criminal offence or violated residency laws since I arrived in Jordan in 2015. I do not wish to make offensive statements, nor do I wish to break a single letter of Jordanian law.

All I have done is my job as a journalist. I have exposed Russian propaganda about their activities in Southern Syria, written about Iranian-backed militias and their role in demographic changes in my home country, I have sought to tell the world about Al-Assad’s human rights abuses, and cautioned against warming relations with him. I condemned the exemptions made by the US administration to the infamous Caesar Act which allowed Arab states to strengthen ties with the Syrian regime.

I stood up and spoke because I want to stop authorities normalising ties with a brutal regime, overseen by a ruthless dictator, who regularly kills and disappears my contemporaries in the journalistic field. I wanted to hold to account the Jordanian government for legitimising the atrocities committed by Al-Assad. I have been locked up for it and threatened with being handed over to murderous intelligence services. I write this at great risk to my safety, as I have been forbidden from speaking out about my situation to western publications. Pray for me, pray for my colleagues and friends who bravely go out there every day to report the truth.

Names have been changed to protect the identity of Mohamed Ibrahim