Our desperate attempts to reject torture

This month is dedicated to a global media campaign against torture

Diana Moukalled

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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 and it does not seem they will any time soon in the Arab world, where 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 behind the Egyptian revolution? Do you remember the children of Daraa 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?

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

Diana Moukalled

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 explosions.

Hurts us all

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 receives. In fact, most torturers escape punishment even if a punishment is imposed. However this circle of brutality incudes both, torturers and those who cheer for it. People are not united over rejecting torture as they are divided on the matter and they condemn it according to the identities of the tortured and the torturer.

In Lebanon, for example, we were caught in controversy last in regards to the leaked video of Islamist detainees being tortured at Roumieh Prison. Many thought the ones being beaten up are affiliated with the ISIS and thus deserve this torture and pain. Such views repeat in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other places as parties vary. The stance in regards to insulting, inflicting pain and humiliating the rival’s body is undecided. The identity of the tormented specifies our stance and whether we will condemn harming him/her or celebrate his/her pain and screams. We are confronting regimes and armed groups and militias who have been raised amidst this brutality. Therefore, the call 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 an excuse that justifies our acceptance of such violations.

We’re at the core of this dilemma and it doesn’t seem we will overcome it anytime soon.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 30, 2015.


Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

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