By Cem Genco
A lawyer who suffered three years of torture and beating inside Syria has now shared his harrowing experiences in a new book.
Samer Tlass’ fictionalized account of those horrific days depicts what he calls -- in the book's title -- an Escape from Prison Hell.
Tlass, 40, wrote the novel after taking refuge in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, which borders Syria.
Of his prison days, Tlass told Anadolu Agency: “Those were the most fearful three years I have ever lived.”
“Words fail to capture those days… but I wanted to write down my memories so people could know what happened there.”
The 130-page novel has been translated into both Turkish and English.
Tlass, a father of three, was arrested by regime forces in 2011 during anti-regime protests in Damascus, when the civil war started.
For three years he was held in two different regime prisons and was subjected to brutal electric shocks, beatings, and severe hunger, he recounted.
“I was arrested although I hadn’t done any harm to anybody’s life or property,” he said.
“I struggled with hunger, electroshock, beatings, and diseases in a military prison.”
But, he added, “I never lost hope.”
Freedom, then nightmare
In 2014, Tlass was freed in a prisoner exchange between the opposition and the regime.
“After prison, it was literally a nightmare,” he recalled.
“My apartment and the neighborhood I had lived in were completely destroyed. There was no place for us to live.
“After a while I took refuge in Turkey.”
Tlass has been living with his family in Hatay’s Reyhanli district for over three years now.
His fondest hope is for an end to the violence inside Syria, including its prisons.
“I hope no one will be left in my country’s prisons," he said.
"Because what happens in those places is no different from hell.”
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the conflict, mainly by regime airstrikes on opposition-held areas, while millions more were displaced.
Turkey hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country in the world. The country has spent around $25 billion helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.