- - Monday, August 8, 2011

ALONG THE JORDANIAN-SYRIAN BORDER — Syrians who have defied President Bashar Assad flee to the safety of Jordan with tales of torture and death at the hands of the dictator in Damascus.

Even a 65-year-old carpet merchant got no mercy when he was arrested for demonstrating against the regime.

“My heart bleeds for what I have witnessed,” said Abu Shams, when asked about conditions in Syria’s notorious prisons.

He said police beat him with heavy sticks before releasing him. As he made his way to Jordan, he slept at night “between the trees.”

“We have suffered more than 40 years of dictatorship in this criminal system,” he said. “Freedom has a price, and we will not stop.”

Many Syrians interviewed by The Washington Times told similar stories of abuse after they were detained during peaceful protests that began in March. Mr. Assad has unleashed the military in a brutal crackdown on protests throughout the country, killing at least 1,700 people.

In Syria on Monday, Mr. Assad continued his assault on the eastern town of Deir el-Zour, a day after his security forces killed 42 people there. The army also killed three people at a funeral in the town of Daraa, human rights activists said.

Arab nations applied more diplomatic pressure, as Kuwait and Bahrain on Monday followed Saudi Arabia and withdrew their ambassadors to protest the ongoing violence. Saudi King Abdullah pulled his ambassador out of Damascus on Sunday, denouncing the “bloodshed” in Syria.

On the Jordanian-Syrian border, Ibrahim al-Jahamani, 24, said he was picked up by police after walking with a friend in Daraa, which has been a flash point of protests against Mr. Assad.

Police fatally shot his friend and tortured Mr. al-Jahamani in a Damascus jail for several weeks.

“They beat my head, legs, hands and back. My nose was broken. The scars are still visible,” he said pointing to the marks.

“We were naked and barefoot. The torture was daily and systematic. They used to tie us with chains. Others were held in a crosslike position. Some were hanged upside down and continuously beaten,” he said, dark eyes flashing.

A cabdriver from Daraa, who asked to be identified as Abu Mahmoud, said he and his family escaped with the clothes on their backs after their house was destroyed and car burned by the Syrian military.

“I kept going out for the protests,” said the 37-year-old man, cloaked in a long, white robe and sporting a beard.

“The authorities made a list of the participants, and it was understood if we were caught, we could be killed. The security has been very severe, especially going after and detaining youths,” he added.

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