Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
Luna Watfa’s report as the trial of the accused Anwar Raslan approached its end presents a prosecutor against the « accused » in this session who works in the mental health field and had previously testified in court on 18 September 2021. The following is his full plea as he presented it before the judges’ panel on 12 December 2021.
« In the name of Allah the Merciful”
Your Honor, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This court is of great importance in the Syrian context as it is the first court seize the issue of detention under the Syrian regime at this level. Therefore, we want it to be a success story that can be built upon to seize the leaders of this system and the most important elements and people who founded and maintained it.
So far, and according to what can be documented, there are more than 130 thousand detainees and missing persons, including my father, cousins, relatives, friends and other innocents. My father, who disappeared eight years ago when he was seventy years old, is still coming to me in my sleep. I don’t know when I will be able to accept that he has died, or still hope to see him!
And you can imagine that woman who lost her husband or her child, see how many years she will have to wait. The Syrian people, who yearn for freedom, view this court with optimism and hope that it will open the way for others to reveal the horrific crimes of the regime.
The brutal mindset of this regime was clear from the start. Bashar al Assad does not shy away from doing anything against innocent citizens in order to maintain his rule.
We, as Syrians, dreamed of having a political pluralism in which a former president would hand over power to a new president smoothly and peacefully. We have been dreaming of seeing a scene similar to what we saw several days ago as Mrs. Merkel left office and handed everything over to her successor. However, the regime’s shabiha and its slaves insisted on Assad remaining in power and cried out:
“Assad or we burn the country!”
Not only did they burn the country, they also displaced its people and sabotaged the economy and society and they also literally burned the country by bombing schools, hospitals, people’s homes. They did not even spare their missiles on displacement camps.
The detention system carried out by the Syrian regime is not, as it claims, a “legitimate measure it is taking to protect the security of the country,” but rather one of its dirty tools to silence the voices of freedom because these voices have exposed the regime and revealed its truth to the world.
While the regime was targeting intellectuals and peaceful people who were calling for freedom, torturing them and killing them, as happened to our colleagues and comrades who trained us in the peaceful revolution, including the icons of the Syrian revolution, the martyr Yahya al-Sharbaji, and the martyr Ghiath Matar, the regime was releasing “terrorists, extremists and infidels,” according to his classification, at the same time in order to facilitate later on the formation of military battalions such as ISIS and others in order to appear before the world as a fighter against terrorism.
My arrest, and the arrest of my fellow doctors who were performing their professional and patriotic duty, and many other students seeking freedom who believe in their country, deserves to refute the allegations of this regime.
If the regime’s relationship with ISIS does not appear in this trial, I am sure that it will appear in later trials, which we hope will be soon.
There is a big difference between the mentality of those who chose to revolt for freedom and establish a state to protect its citizens and their well-being and the mentality of the regime and its system that is ready to kill the elderly, the women and children in order to remain in power. We carried out the revolution in order to rid our country and our people of this regime and we will not retreat until we achieve our goals, God willing.
I was transferred to the main branch of State Security on Eid al-Adha, the most important day of the year for us. It is a day that is supposed to be one of the happiest days in one’s life, as one celebrates with one’s friends and family. On this very day, my fellow doctors detained with me were forced to stand in painful positions all day long listening to the sound of Eid celebrations and takbeers outside.
I had the courage to pray to God to give me the ability to forgive and I believe God responded to me in this as I am now ready with many others, who are also students seeking freedom, to forgive the aggressors if they stop their crimes and confess their sins and accept to engage in the mechanisms of universal jurisdiction.
I do not bear any personal hatred towards Anwar Raslan or others who belong to the security services of the regime. In fact, their condition saddens me. Revenge is not part of our vocabulary. What we seek is to succeed in rebuilding our homeland on the foundations of freedom and human dignity and to restore rights to those affected.
We have devoted so much of our health and time to freedom and lost so many of our relatives and friends. Hundreds of thousands of people have suffered from the physical and psychological effects of arrest. The women who were arrested suffered so much but it did not cease there. They also suffered from psychological and physical torture and from the stigma and rejection by society. Some of them reached the point of even thinking of committing suicide or actually committed suicide.
Therefore, revenge will not restore to us what we have lost and yet we must recognise the importance of knowing our suffering has a meaning which will justify our suffering and console us. It is, as I mentioned earlier, a type of psychotherapy “meaning therapy.”
By the way, the inventor of this therapy is a German psychiatrist named “Frankl” who suffered from detention and torture during three years spent in Nazi concentration camps. It was in this situation that it was discovered that the existence of meaning for people’s lives and their suffering was what kept them alive in prison.
My participation in this court, with the difficulty and psychological intensity of this participation, was a kind of meaning-finding for me. I wanted to feel that I was contributing to exposing the Syrian regime’s torture machine, and we wanted to feel that we were contributing to prevent what happened from recurring by sending a clear message to all those who might be tempted to belong to such a criminal intelligence system:
If you dissent from it after committing what you have committed, it does not absolve you from your responsibilities, in other words:
“It is a profession that cannot be cleansed by dissent.”
”Therefore, I hope once again from your esteemed court to be able to help the Syrian people who yearn for freedom and justice, to achieve this meaning:
“That our suffering as Syrians is the last of this kind as enough is enough.”
In the end, I would like to thank you, Mr. Judge and your fellow judges, and to the Prosecutor, the Prosecution Attorney, my colleagues, the Public Prosecutor, the witnesses, the translators, and everyone who contributed to this court. I do not forget either to extend a special thanks to the defense lawyers, for their presence and the efforts they made in defending the accused providing important evidence that fair trials are possible in this world – where the accused enjoys all his rights until he is convicted. In fact, the Syrians’ yearning for a state with fair trials was one of the most important reasons for our revolution.
Finally, I’d like to mention when I was detained, the interrogator reminded me of someone I did not know but he was certainly one of the investigators of the Al-Khatib branch in which Anwar Raslan used to head the investigation department.
He recited a verse from the Qur’an to me mentioning the nineteen angels of torment in Hell and he likened them to the nineteen security branches of the regime.
And I, in turn, reminded him of a great verse from the noble Qur’an, where the Almighty says:
“And we did not wrong them but they were wronging themselves.”
God Almighty has spoken the truth. Thank you, Mr. Judge.
This was the final plea for the civil right’s party before the court.