How can I forget the face of the one I love?

My name is Amal, in English, it means “hope”. My husband Ahmed used to say that I’ve lived up to my name. Ahmed was the one for me, we fell in love and got engaged in 1991. We had our eldest daughter Hanin in 1995, she brought joy and love to our home. We had five children, three daughters, and two sons.

Our home in Damascus was always filled with noise and laughter. I worked as a teacher while Ahmed worked as an employee. It would be a lie to say we had a perfect life in Syria under Assad family rule, but we tried to do our best to provide for our children. We had high hopes for them, we were looking forward to the day when our eldest, Hanin, would graduate from university. Ahmed had been saving to get her a car as a gift on her graduation day.

When the Revolution started we took over the streets chanting for freedom, dignity and a better future for our children, the future we didn’t have. But the violence of the regime was clear from the very beginning. In December 2011, they arrested my husband and all of my brothers. Although he was only held for 15 days, it took Ahmed months to recover from the torture. The intelligence forces poured acid on his back.

Ahmed’s detention didn’t hold him back from his non-violent activism, but the regime wouldn’t let people like him speak up. He was detained again in September 2012. Later on, three of my brothers were also detained. I knocked on every door I could to try and find out about their whereabouts, but all was in vain.

I left Syria for Egypt in 2013, due to security threats, eventually making it to Germany after a dangerous trip through Turkey. One day, I received a text from my brother with a photo from the Caesar files, “Do you think he looks like Ahmed?”, my brother asked. I knew straight away that it was Ahmed. How could I forget the face of the kind loving man that I have spent most of my life with? His face wasn’t the same because of torture, but I knew that it was him. Through the leaked photos we also found out about the death of one of my brothers. Our families have never had the chance to say proper goodbyes, but only horrific photos. Today, Hanin won’t get the car that her father promised her for her graduation and he won’t be there to be proud of her and her siblings.

This week, on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, nothing can make up for the unimaginable horror that our families have had to live through. But as families of those who found out about their loved ones death through Caesar photos, we have got to join forces, because our joint voices are what is going to make a difference and help us on our journey towards the justice and accountability that we demand.