In this excerpt from The Syrian, a political thriller and available on Amazon, Sonia is visiting Khiam prison in South Lebanon, a former army barracks which Israel turned into a prison during its 22 year occupation of South Lebanon.
Sonia knew war intimately. She’d seen the mangled bodies, the smoldering ruins of buildings, the wide-eyed faces of terrified children. Yet she was shocked as Leila showed her around Khiam prison, now a museum. The one-story building was painted white with Arabic graffiti scribbled on its walls. Concrete square boxes lined one side. Leila had been kept in one of these 36 by 36 inch torture chambers in sweltering heat and bitter cold for weeks at a time—hands tied behind her back, knees to her chest, feet pressed against the wall.
Sonia passed through a heavy metal door so rusty she could taste it. Dozens of padlocked cells with small sliding windows lined either side of a narrow corridor with bare light bulbs dangling from the ceiling. She ran her finger along the wall and brought it to her nose, recognizing the sickly-sweet smell of blood and the salty, sour milk order of sweat.
A special room had been reserved for women with stirrups, gruesome tools spread out on a side table and traces of blood splattered on the floor. As she walked in, Sonia felt the spirit of a female voice call out to her. She remembered the woman; she’d interviewed her in one of her war zones. As the woman had described it, her feet had been secured in place and her legs forced apart. She had screamed when a sharp object was repeatedly jammed into her vagina. Her voice echoed in Sonia’s head.
From another cell, a desperate voice called out to her, this one much younger. When she slid the small metal window open she saw, in her mind’s eye, a young girl lying on the floor naked from the waist down, a pool of blood between her spread legs, whimpering.
Leila lead Sonia to yet another room where men had been hung by their wrists and beaten until their skin turned raw. Others has been forced to lie naked over a stool, chest and genitals exposed to electric wires and cigarette burns. There was a drawing on the wall of a hooded man, on his knees, hands tied behind his back, upper body forced forward.
Sonia began to hyperventilate. She turned around and rushed outside. She stood in the courtyard and concentrated on breathing deeply letting the gentle breeze and the sun revive her.
As she and Ali drove Leila back to her house, Sonia thought about what would happen if certain Lebanese authorities should discover the nature of her liaison with Kamal. The thought of inevitable torture made her feel like vomiting.
After they dropped Leila off, she said to Ali, “Take me somewhere beautiful. Sweet Jesus, I want to forget what I just saw.”
This book is available for purchase: amazon