Tariq, as the family called him, was 23 years old when Military Intelligence officers arrested him from a hotel where he was staying in Damascus. He was a second year student at a technical institute, studying accounting. Air Force Intelligence in Mezze, Damascus, had previously arrested him in 2011 and held him for 20 days. His brother Bashar described him as a peaceful activist, who continued going to anti-government protests in Daraya, where the family is from, even after his first arrest.
On February 16, 2013, Tariq was arrested from the hotel in Damascus where he was staying. His brother told Human Rights Watch, “I don’t know why he was arrested, it was just part of the raids. His ID said he was from Daraya.” Daraya is well known for being an anti-government area. The family learned of Tariq’s arrest from friends of his staying in the same hotel.
Though they searched for news of Tariq, they did not learn his whereabouts until the end of the year, when two friends of his were released from detention. They told the family that Tariq had been detained in the 215 Branch (operated by Military Intelligence), and that he had died during the first month of his detention. “He was tortured so much, that he shut down. He lost his mind,” they told his brother.
“We didn’t believe the news,” Bashar told Human Rights Watch. Tariq was in good shape, and had no health conditions before he entered the detention facility, he said.
The family sought out contacts connected to the security agencies for information about Tariq. “They gave us some proof, some information, but it was all a lie,” Bashar said. Tariq and Bashar’s mother went to the military police and lodged multiple formal requests for information about Tariq, but they received no reply. Another former detainee from the 215 Branch, who the family knew, also told them Tariq died after about a month in detention.
When the Caesar photographs were published online, Bashar searched the photographs for his brother. He recognized Tariq from his appearance, and from a distinctive scar on his right shoulder. Tariq had been injured by shrapnel during the shelling of Daraya, while assisting at the local field hospital, and the shrapnel scar was visible in the photographs. The photographs appeared in a folder dated March 2013, the same month as Tariq’s arrest, confirming the information provided by the three former detainees who told his family he died soon after his detention. A white paper held in the picture notes that he was in the custody of Branch 215 (Military Intelligence). The paper is part of a prescription pad, and says “Administration of Military Medical Services” at the top. The shrapnel scar on his right shoulder is clearly visible.