Sednaya Prison 

Syria
2011

Sednaya Prison is a Syrian military prison that is among the largest, most infamous and notorious prisons in the country. Since it was built in 1987, it has been known as a military prison of thousands of soldiers and officers accused of violating military laws. However, it actually was a detention center for hundreds of Syrian and Arab political prisoners. 

Sednaya Prison is located near the historic Christian monastery of Sednaya, some 30 kilometers north of the Syrian capital, Damascus. The prison was completed by the government in 1987, turning into a symbol for the ruling Baath Party's domination, like the other infamous prisons of Tadmor, Adra, Mazza Military Prison, and Aleppo Central Prison. It is run by the military police. Sednaya Prison is one of the country's most fortified military places. It consists of two divisions: the Red Prison, which is in the worst conditions, where the political and civilian detainees who are accused of supporting terrorism are usually detained; and the White Prison, which is allocated to military personnel accused of violating military laws. Sednaya Prison has a unique design that is intended to increase its immunity to any inmate rebellion. It consists of three large buildings (A, B and C) all of which meet at an area called the hexagon. This is the most fortified part of the prison, where there the ground rooms and solitary confinement cells are located. It is watched by prison guards around the clock so as to monitor the inmates and prevent them from seeing any of the prison's structural characteristics or the faces of the guards. Each of the buildings consists of three floors, with two wards on each floor. Each of these wards includes 20 collective, eight meter long, six meter wide dormitories that are closely aligned away from the windows. However, every four dormitories share one ventilation point. The first floor contains 100 solitary cells. In addition there is an administration building, which is adjacent to Buildings A and B. 

There are no accurate figures of the number of detainees in Sednaya Prison, where some inmates have been detained since the 1980s, but estimates by human rights organisations and former prisoners have indicated that there are between 1,200 and 6,000 detainees, mostly Islamists. Some sources even estimate the percentage of Islamists of all backgrounds makes up 98% of all inmates. After protests by detainees in July 2008, hundreds of detainees were injured and dozens of Islamist prisoners were killed. Since the revolution began, the prison lost its military character, and turned into a place to detain thousands of civilians accused of supporting the Syrian opposition factions or "terrorism", according to the regime's official rhetoric. Arrested people, including women, were brought into the prison almost every day, where their fate became unknown. 

Parents strive to get any information about the fate of their children who pass away daily without the knowledge of their parents and loved ones, who in turn are banned from visiting them, except in rare cases. Detainees complain about the severity of torture, the impact of diseases, and the extremity of starvation and continued intimidation at Sednaya Prison.

An aerial view of Saydnaya prison. Photograph: Amnesty
An aerial view of Saydnaya prison, Amnesty International, 7 February 2017

Images

The "welcome party". © Amnesty International / Mohamad Hamdoun
The "welcome party". © Amnesty International / Mohamad Hamdoun, 2016
Prison beatings. © Amnesty International / Mohamad Hamdoun
Prison beatings. © Amnesty International / Mohamad Hamdoun, 2016
The "flying carpet". © Amnesty International / Mohamad Hamdoun
The "flying carpet". © Amnesty International / Mohamad Hamdoun, 2016
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منظر جوي لسجن صيدنايا, منظمة العفو الدولية, ۲۰۱۷

Videos

Remote video URL
Inside Saydnaya: Syria's Torture Prison, Amnesty International, 18 August 2016


Remote video URL
Saydnaya Prison: Human Slaughterhouse, Amnesty International, 7 February 2017
Remote video URL
سجن صيدنايا السوري.. المسلخ البشري, العربية, ۱۳ تشرين الثاني ۲۰۱۹