Inside Out: Reem Haddad Entered a Prison in Southern Lebanon Just after the Israelis Had Withdrawn [Khiam Prison]

By Haddad, Reem | New Internationalist, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Inside Out: Reem Haddad Entered a Prison in Southern Lebanon Just after the Israelis Had Withdrawn [Khiam Prison]


Haddad, Reem, New Internationalist


It was an unreal feeling. I was actually walking in the notorious Khiam prison where over 2,000 Lebanese men, women and children as young as 13 were tortured. Less than 12 hours before, Israel's proxy militia, the South Lebanese Army (SLA), had fled the prison when hundreds of villagers stormed it, tearing down its gates and barbed-wire barricades to free 144 detainees.

And here I was walking through the filthy cells. Nothing had been touched. A full bowl of rice stood on one side of a cell as if the prisoner were just about to have his meal. The smell of perspiration still filled the cells. 'God is just and is watching out for you,' a prisoner had written on the wall.

In the women's quarters a 21-year-old student of journalism, Cosette Ibrahim, had written in French: 'It is so much easier to dream my life than to live it.'

Up to 12 prisoners were crammed into each tiny cell. And for months many were isolated between two walls -- I couldn't even call them cells -- where there was standing-room only. It was pitch dark. There were no windows and no lights.

The jailers' rooms were eerily empty. Maybe they were going over who was on duty that day, as logbooks of prisoners and guards were strewn about. Posters detailing the guards' duties were hung on the wall. Even SLA uniforms were laid out on some mattresses.

Among the number of people wandering silently around the prison in obvious shock were a number of former detainees. Ali Khesheish, 38, wanted to show his children where he endured so much suffering for 11 years before his release four years ago. He held a pair of handcuffs in his hands -- he found them in one of the interrogating rooms. He explained how guards hung him for hours on the prison gates, dousing him with scalding-hot and freezing-cold water. Meanwhile, the beatings never stopped. The worst were the electrical jolts.

'They clipped wires on my genitals,' recalled 33-year-old Riad Kalakish who was one of the 144 detainees released as the Israelis withdrew. 'And every 15 minutes they sent a jolt through my penis. I bled so badly.' Riad was only 18 when he was snatched from his grandfather's house. …

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