This month is dedicated to a global media campaign against torture. Documented testimonies, investigations, articles and videos of survivors from across the world are being broadcast on alternative media platforms and websites in an attempt to exert more pressure on the parties who engage in torture practices. Voices opposing torture can be heard everywhere. However, these violent practices have not come to an end in the Arab world, nor will they soon. In the Arab region torture is often sponsored by the state authorities. Do you remember a young Egyptian man named Khaled Said who was tortured to death and whose death was one of the sparks that triggered the Egyptian revolution? Do you remember the children of Dera’a who mobilized the crowds after their fingernails were pulled out by the Syrian regime? Screams emerging from Arab prisons have become a distinguishing mark of our region. We were deluded into thinking that the uproars which erupted in 2011 would force people who have been silent about Arab prisons to speak out. However, this did not happen as deaths increased and torture and brutal murders became a daily occurrence. So, what can a campaign against torture achieve?
For us, the citizens of the Middle East, it seems that efforts such as media and human rights campaigns to fight torture are an urgent need. Blood has been shed for years, to the point where we can see this blood on our pillows and we can hear the screams of those being tortured in our sleep. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is trying to break the monotony of decapitation videos and is producing new videos in which it resorts to drowning and exploding the bodies of prisoners.
The torture of a Syrian boy to death pained us all as the soldier who brutally beat him up clearly said: “I want to kill him even if they expel me from the army.”
Expulsion from the Syrian army is the maximum penalty a child torturer and murderer can receive. In fact, most torturers escape punishment even when a punishment is imposed. However, this circle of brutality includes both, torturers and those who cheer for them. People are not united over rejecting torture. In fact, they condemn it according to the identities of the tortured and the torturer.
A leaked video showing Islamist detainees being tortured at Roumieh Prison has sparked controversy in Lebanon. Many thought the ones being beaten up are affiliated with ISIS and thus deserve this torture and pain. Similar views have been echoed in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other places. People have yet to decide their stance on insulting, inflicting pain and humiliating the rival’s body.
The identity of the tormented determines whether we condemn or celebrate their suffering. We are confronting regimes and militias who have been raised amidst this brutality. Therefore, the global campaign against torture seems of no significance and is rather met by a wry smile by some. There are needs and obstacles to address before we realize the extent of our need to reject killing, humiliating and inflicting pain on others even if they are guilty, and we will always find excuses to justify our acceptance of such violations.