There wasn’t enough room in my article on how the Syrian conflict is affecting Winnipeg families to include every story.

Here’s one more:

A man living in Winnipeg whose brother back in Syria was beaten and arrested for protesting did not want his name published out of fear his family would bear retaliation.

The man, a genetic engineer from Qaboun, a suburb of Damascus, says his brother had been leading a protest in the suburb’s main square for just five minutes when he was apprehended.

In a car on the way to a jail, soldiers beat his brother in the face with the handle of a gun, breaking his nose, the man says.

His brother was then held for five days in a cell about one metre wide by two metres long with seven other people, unable to lie down.

His brother could see and hear other cells in the jail where people were held alone, the man says. But they weren’t lucky for having this extra space: they were being tortured for having uploaded video clips online. “This is considered a big crime,” the Winnipeg man says – “like carrying a weapon in your hand.”

These uploaders were put up against a wall and then beaten across their back, sometimes with electric shocks, the man’s brother told him.

At night, cold water was poured on them, and during the heat of the day, hot water.

When he got out of prison, the man’s brother had to sign a statement that he would stop protesting – but he hasn’t stopped.

Syrians are ever-wary of being overheard by government spies, the man says. “We have spies everywhere in Syria. Every person is a spy.”

For now, he worries about his family. He speaks with them over the phone in his native Western Neo-Aramaic language, spoken by only 15,000 Syrians, so that government eavesdroppers won’t understand.

“I’m unsettled, so frustrated and concerned about my family there because you expect from time to time or from minute to minute to hear from one of my brothers that one of them died.”


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