A new life for Omar: Syrian torture victim thrives in Sweden

All the fun of the fair is a far cry for a young man who has seen hell on earth.

Syrian torture survivor Omar Alshogre arrived in Sweden during the 2015 refugee crisis.

Practicing his Swedish whenever he can, he works weekends in an ice cream parlour.

Omar was just 15 when the Arab Spring reached Syria. He took part in rallies calling for more freedom.

The price he paid was harsh -three years behind bars.

How this Syrian escaped imprisonment and torture for a new life in Sweden https://t.co/zWaLplHSNy pic.twitter.com/amjYoMdodf— The Local Sweden (@TheLocalSweden) 25 janvier 2017

First, Omar was imprisoned in the notorious Damascus jail known as Military Security Branch 215.

Then he was sent to Seidnaya prison north of the capital, known as Assad’s slaughterhouse.

Rights groups say thousands, like Omar, are held in Syrian government jails without charge and many are tortured to death. Authorities deny this.

Omar said:

“Within the first five minutes of arriving in Seidnaya, I realised that Branch 215 was paradise in comparison. Within 5 minutes! ...I wanted to go back to ‘215’. Two hundred years of torture in Branch 215 was much nicer than 1 minute in Seidnaya.”

He went on: “They started torturing me and my cousins. They shot my cousin and tried to beat me on the mouth, removed some teeth…They took out nails and tortured us with electricity… bad food, bad water.”

TAKE ACTION: Call on Russia and the U.S to push for independent monitors to access Saydnaya prison https://t.co/PKTYQS9rtU #Syria pic.twitter.com/2SJ4rxOYOf— Amnesty Syria (@AmnestySyria) 16 mai 2017

In Syria’s Saydnaya prison up to 13,000 people have been secretly hanged since 2011. End this horror NOW: https://t.co/a8mnT90jMR pic.twitter.com/1n5l8bsOnC— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) 7 février 2017

In Stockholm, where Omar is studying, his circle of friends is growing by the day.

Several members of his family have paid with their lives in Syria.

Omar escaped hell when his mother scraped together 15,000 dollars to smuggle him out and onto Turkey. His weight was 35 kilos and he had tuberculosis – his tortured body coping badly with the side effects of the medicine.

Omar’s mother saw no option but to send him on the dangerous refugee route to Europe. Too weak to travel alone, his 11 year old brother went along to take care of him.

Omar, now 22, describes how she told him about the trip ahead.

“My mother said: ‘You must go to Greece.’

‘Good, then you have to book tickets!’

‘No there are no tickets, Omar.’

‘How will I get there then?’

‘By boat.’

‘Ah by boat.’

I said…‘So cozy” and imagined a big boat where you can sunbathe on the deck.

She said, ‘No, no Omar. You’re going to go in a rubber boat with lots of people who die on the way.’”

Every minute, 20 men, women and children are forced to flee their homes. Find out more facts about #refugees here: https://t.co/K4JG1AMKNF pic.twitter.com/KCzwPVp620— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) 20 juin 2017

Home today is with a family in Stockholm.

A chance meeting with the Von Helands in a doctor’s waiting room led to friendship and an invitation to stay for Omar and his brother.

Omar now works as an interpreter at a school as well as studying and serving ice creams.

He talks to his mother daily although has not yet got the papers needed to bring her to Sweden for a family reunion.
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