Syrian thinker and writer, Yassin Al-Haj Saleh
Syrian writer and thinker Yassin Al-Haj Saleh has vehemently criticised British journalist Robert Fisk, who is the Middle East correspondent of the British daily The Independent, for the image that he portrayed of Syrian political prisons in an article published on Sunday, 2 September, titled 'Syria's road from jihad to prison'.
Yassin accused Fisk, who visited Syria this week, of being "indoctrinated"; his article portrays the intelligence officers at one of Syria’s most notorious military prison as friendly, agreeing to leave Fisk alone with the prisoners, who Fisk describes as "Islamic jihadists."
"Fisk reflected this view of the political prisons because he was just too embedded in the events, and couldn't see the wider vision; he was indoctrinated," Yassin told Ahram Online from Syria.
Yassin, who spent 16 years in military prisons in Syria, says that Fisk's description is not related to the facts on the ground.
"He visited a prison where all the detainees he met were extremist jihadists who came to Syria from Algeria and Turkey to make big explosions, and when intelligence agencies arrest them, they do not torture them as we may expect. One of them told Fisk that he’s fine, and thanks god for that; another one said that he was tortured for only one day," commented Yassin.
"The detainees are Salafist jihadists and yet the officer leaves Fisk alone to interview them freely." Yassin added, marking the friendly behaviour that Fisk asserted he witnessed from the guards.
"Personally, I was jailed for 16 years, for minor charges. The imprisonment conditions were worse; no Western or local journalist could ever have visited me nor any human rights activists. This applies to everyone who was arrested during the revolution, the thing that Fisk never revealed," Saleh argued.
The only explanation of the access Fisk got to the prisons is that the Syrian regime guaranteed that Fisk isn’t going to reflect this negative image, and made their arrangements with Fisk, who has allowed himself to be misled, according to Saleh.
Saleh, 51, is a Syrian thinker, writer and former political prisoner, and spent 16 years in the Syrian regime’s prisons during the 1980s and 1990s. He is a regular contributor to various Arabic newspapers and periodicals, including a weekly column in Al-Hayat newspaper.
He published two books after he was released from prison in 1997, 'Syria from the shadow: Glimpses inside the black box' and 'Myths of the others: Criticising contemporary Islam and criticising its criticism.'
His latest book, released last July, titled 'Salvation boys: 16 years in Syrian prisons', narrates his time in detention in Syria.