From hell to Harvard: A Chicagoan’s story of survival in Syria’s infamous Tadmor Prison

June 27, 2011

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(WBEZ/Joe Linstroth)
To this day, Chicagoan Bara Sarraj is not sure why he was arrested and had to endure nine years in Syria's Tadmor Prison.

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the massacre at Syria's infamous Tadmor Prison. In 1980, hundreds of political prisoners were killed there after a failed assassination attempt on then-president Hafez al-Assad. Following the massacre, the prison was used as a tool of fear to quell opposition to the regime. And many of its prisoners were university students. 

Tadmor is closed now, but the prison’s dark legacy lives on in the memories of those who survived the brutal torture there.
 
One of these survivors is Chicagoan Bara Sarraj. In 1984, Bara was a college student in Damascus when he was arrested and taken to Tadmor, where he was tortured almost daily for the next nine years. Now a transplant immunologist at Northwestern University’s School of Medicine, Bara recently sat down and wrote about his time in the prison. He’s posted his memoir online in Arabic, and has graciously shared his story with us.