Silver Lining

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US photojournalist reveals horrors of being held by Syria armed groups

Al Ahed news

A US photojournalist who escaped from Syrian after seven months in captivity revealed details of his ordeal Friday and spoke of his anguish at leaving a fellow hostage behind.

Matthew Schrier, 35, fled the clutches of an armed group aligned to al-Qaeda in July after being kidnapped while leaving the Syrian city of Aleppo on December 31 last year.

He finally escaped on July 29 after managing to sneak through a tiny opening in a window.

However, another American prisoner being held with Schrier was unable to escape through the gap because he was too big.
“It was one of the hardest things I had to do,” Schrier told CNN, and noted “it’s tough to move on because he’s still there. It hasn’t ended yet 100 percent. I’m not going to have closure until he’s home.”

According to the New York Times, Schrier is one of 15 Westerners who have been kidnapped or who have disappeared this year.

Schrier, who was kidnapped after being betrayed by his taxi driver, said his captors had initially treated him politely. But his situation rapidly deteriorated as he was regularly tortured and ordered to admit he was a CIA spy.

He was stripped and beaten with a metal cable. Schrier’s captors also ran up debts with his credit card and extracted password information for his email accounts.

He said he was moved several times and often held alongside Syrians accused of fighting for the government, and he was also taken for a time by another group, Ahrar al-Sham.

At one place, where he was held in April, a boy as young as 12 was allowed to beat prisoners and use a Taser gun to shock them.

At the end of January, Schrier was transferred to another prison where he was kept with another American “who looked like he had been there for 100 years.”

He was interrogated by three young masked men who spoke perfect English. Schrier said he believed the three men were Canadians.

The two prisoners were tortured after they had been discovered trying to gouge a hole in a wooden door. Schrier had a car tire placed over his legs, was turned around face down and given 115 lashes on the soles of his feet with a metal cable.

He was repeatedly ordered to admit he was a CIA agent. He said on one occasion, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, he was filmed confessing to espionage after the captors coerced them into doing so.

“I sat there and I was like, they’re just going to torture me until I say it,” he told CNN. “You’re going to say what they want you to say. I chose sooner than later.”

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