LONDON – CAGE is deeply alarmed after having seen a video in which British aid worker Tauqir “Tox” Sharif describes his torture at the hands of an interrogator from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the opposition rebel group that controls the last remaining liberated areas in Syria.

Tauqir was initially taken into HTS custody on 22 June and released “on bail” after three weeks only to be rearrested again, on 11 August after encountering and confronting his alleged torturer. Two days later, US journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem who revealed some details about Tox’s torture was also arrested. Both men, along with Bilal’s driver, have been in HTS custody since.

In the video testimony released today by OGN news Tauqir describes in detail how he was blindfolded and shackled while his knees were forced through a car tyre. Then, a metal rod was pushed behind the back of his knees in order to lock them into place. He was then placed on his stomach and repeatedly whipped on his legs and the soles of his feet. This method is widely practised in Syrian regime interrogation centres.

CAGE outreach director, Moazzam Begg, said:

“We first heard about this torture technique from Canadian Syrian nationals like Abdullah Almalki who was held in Fara’ Falasteen (Palestine Branch) – the infamous torture centre in Damascus – during the early years of the War on Terror. The US government was sending terror suspects to the Assad regime as part of the extraordinary rendition programme. They even threatened to send me there. 

“It is hard to believe that an organisation engaged in a bitter fight for survival against Assad’s forces would resort to the same tactics against as their enemies. It’s like the abused becoming the abuser. Tox’s testimony describes how he “zoned out” while they tortured him and just recited the Quran to give him “strength and patience.” That reminded me of other testimonies of torture CAGE has encountered over the years.”

“Over the past weeks I have received calls and messages from Syrians on the ground who have complained about this treatment. I’ve also heard from HTS who have said that they don’t torture and that it is against Islamic principles to do so. They need to prove this by taking the matter very seriously and ensuring that prisoners’ rights are protected and abusers held to account. But first, these three men should be freed immediately. Only then can HTS earn trust where it’s been lost.”

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)