State Security, Aleppo


This building was taken over by the State Security in February 1971, shortly after the coup which was orchestrated by Hafez al-Assad to assume power with the help of elements loyal to him. From that day on, the State Security Branch would be headed by a mock Sunni officer, a Brigadier General, while in practice it is run by a group of Alawite officers who control every single detail at the branch.

Among the main officers who ran this branch while performing torture and executions are Aleppo-born Brigadier General Omar Hamida and his aide Major Alif Al-Wazza, an Alawite officer who is well known for torturing and executing detainees who refuse to admit his accusations. He is also famous for raping women detainees and the women hostages he keeps in order to force their ‘wanted’ relatives to show up and surrender themselves.

The current branch had originally served as an old primary school building in the 1960s until the Security Forces took control of it and turned it into a centre for investigation, torture and arbitrary detention along the coup by Hafez al-Assad in November 1970. The headquarters was then recognised as the HQ for the General Intelligence Directorate in Aleppo (State Security).

The [State Security] branch is located across from the Palace of the Governor who apparently got used to spending most of the summer nights ‘listening’ to the voices and cries of the detainees being tortured in the basement dungeons of this horrifying detention centre. And although the branch building is located in one of Aleppo’s most civilised neighbourhoods, near the Turkish Consulate and the Palace of the Governor as well as many costly and extravagant hospitals, it is regarded as the most terrifying prison in Aleppo, where those who walk out of it alive are seen as newly born babies and the names of those who enter it will fade into oblivion, unless they are spared by the Divine Providence.

I was detained in the dungeons of this branch from 1 May 1980 to 15 June 1980, where I witnessed dozens of case of torture and execution by burning to death, stuffing glass bottles into the anal orifice, inserting heated iron skewers into the eyes and anuses and boiling in hot water until death.

Repeated meetings with survivors from this terrible prison show that torture and execution here go on day and night, around the clock, to the extent that a detainee who dies as a result of torture is considered to be a real survivor; because dying is a thousand times less painful than passing a single day at this appalling detention centre.

The Military Security Branch or the Military Investigation Branch of Aleppo is situated in a huge building that consists of several other buildings that together resemble a castle at the intersection of Al-Shahaba and New Aleppo neighbourhoods with Al-Furqan neighbourhood, with the three being among Aleppo’s most important and most prestigious neighbourhoods. An an earlier stage, the building had included a vast square in addition to a number of buildings at the Syrian (Syriac) neighbourhood, which was a popular old neighbourhood with a Christian and Assyrian majority, and one of the most important security fortresses of the regime of Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar al-Assad. This branch is known for its rough and rugged staff due to the close relationship between the Higher Commander of Military Intelligence and the special chambers of the Presidential Palace in Aleppo, and because it represents the regime’s iron fist that is used to oppress and suppress the whole Syrian people.

This branch is also known for the high death rate among its detainees. Any citizen who is summoned to this branch is unlikely to leave it alive; it is a rarity if they do.

The branch was relocated to a new building that dates back to 2009. It was now equipped by a variety of weapons and ammunition that make it capable of countering any imagined attack. This explains why it has survived the war so far.

Around the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the regime fabricated a tremendous explosion at the branch and immediately scattered around it the corpses of more than 300 former detainees who had apparently been tortured to death in the basement dungeons. The regime claimed that the opposition were behind the blast, although the building remained intact, except for minor scratches on the external walls.

The branch’s approach to investigation includes torturing a detainee for four successive hours, without even asking them for their name. This is meant to destroy the detainee’s ability to resist or reserve any information that might affect them or their family. At this point a detainee is forced to write [and sign] a statement with all the charges against them.

Those who have entered the branch – I met dozens of survivors from this prison whether in the 1980s or post 2011 – know that only 65% ​​of detainees make it out alive as a result of the excessive torture to extract information or to force detainees to admit any charges against them.

Those who have entered the branch – and I met dozens of survivors from this prison both in the 1980s and after 2011 – know that only 65% ​​of the detainees make it out alive as a result of the excessive torture which aims to extract information from the detainees or to force them to admit all the accusations against them.

This branch is located at the end of the Nile Street, near the intersection with the Northern Ring Road, in an area characterised by modern and beautiful buildings in Aleppo where most professors at Aleppo University and senior businessmen live.

This site was established shortly after 2011, around the time when demonstrations against the repressive regime began. It was previously located in the Faid neighbourhood, near the building for the non-commissioned officers’ club.

Heads of this branch have strong, individual and special relations with the Republican Palace because it is assigned experimental tasks carried out against Syrian citizens.

We all recall the events when Aleppine and Damascine ladies were forced to remove their hijabs in public. It was this branch in Aleppo and its counterpart in Damascus that managed the event while conveying its repercussions to the Republican Palace minute by minute, in order to assess the Syrians’ reaction to such an act.

Like the other branches, this branch is known for the severity of torture and considerable amount of arbitrary arrests committed against the Syrian citizens.

This branch sometimes has the power to compete with some of the decisions made by officers at the Republican Palace with the consent of the presidency. For example, the Presidential Palace in Damascus issued four release warrants authorising the release of the Damascine detainee, Brigadier General Jamil Akkam, who was detained by the Air Force Intelligence. For four consecutive times, the branch complied with the warrants and released the detainee in question, only to arrest him immediately once he was on the street in front of the building. In conclusion, the branch simply did not receive any remarks form the Republican Palace.

Unlike its counterparts, this branch is distinguished by its unique approach to dealing with those whose sentences come to an end. In practice, when a detainee has served and finished their sentence in prison—noting that the sentences issued by the field court are among the toughest, most severe and unjust sentences on earth—they are moved to solitary confinement and remanded in custody pending a presidential pardon that might take another 5 or 10 years to be issued, like what thousands of Syrian young people have experienced. Following the events of 2011 and amidst all the momentum they caused, this branch played a gruesome role in the arrest of thousands of people, executing many of them and then throwing their bodies into mass graves that almost every Aleppine knows about. The majority of those corpses were then either burnt or dissolved, while many others remain unaccounted for to this day. On its part, the branch has denied any connection with the victims in the first place.

حلب.. "أمن الدولة" يسلم 3 سيدات قضوا تحت التعذيب في أقبية المخابرات
حلب.. "أمن الدولة" يسلم 3 سيدات قضوا تحت التعذيب في أقبية المخابرات, أخبار المشرق, ۱۲شباط ۲۰۱٦