Conflict & Justice

Inside a Syrian prison


A protester waves a placard against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration outside the Syrian embassy in London on May 7, 2011.


Leon Neal

Dorothy Parvaz, the Al Jazeera reporter detained in Syria, is now free and is telling her story.

Parvaz, who holds both American and Iranian passports, was arrested by Syrian authorities and then turned over to Iran. After a short investigation, the Iranians released her. She returned to her base in Doha, Qatar on Wednesday.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Parvaz said she had been arrested soon after she arrive in Syria on April 29.

"A scan of my luggage had revealed that I had a satellite phone and an internet hub with me — the commercially available type, nothing special, and just the sort of thing one might need while travelling in a country with spotty communications. Still, if that was deemed suspicious, then my American passport, complete with its Al Jazeera-sponsored visa, sealed the deal. The agents couldn't seem to agree what I was, or which was worse: an American spy for Israel, or an Al Jazeera reporter — both were pretty much on a par."

Parvaz said she was sent to a "mini-Guantanamo," one of perhaps many prisons in Syria where protesters are being taken by security agents. Human rights groups said that up to 11,000 political prisoners are now being held in Syria.

Parvaz told Al Jazeera that she had been swept up in the "wide net" that has been cast by an "increasingly paranoid government."

She said that at one point she was taken to a cell that had smears of blood on the walls, adding that the sounds of beatings taking place elsewhere in the prison never ceased, nor did the cries from prisoners.

Violent government crackdowns on protests in cities across the country have become more intense as the popular uprising grows. More than 800 people are thought to have been killed by Syrian security forces.