Translator Sabri Omar and journalist Joakim Medin after their release
Swedish journalist Joakim Medin, released on Saturday after a week in a regime prison, has spoken of the “most unpleasant” experience of his life.
Media, who has been in Syrian Kurdistan for months, was seized on February 15 in Qamishli in northeastern Syria with his translator, Sabri Omar. He told VICE News:
[We were] walking downtown…on one of the busiest streets and we passed a government checkpoint. As soon as I said I was a foreign journalist they arrested us.
Syrian officials told Medin that he was detained for entering the country without a visa, ignoring the explanation that it is impossible to get the document since the regime does not control its borders.
Medin was kept in isolation in a 3-by-6-foot cell with “bloody handprints” and desperate messages on the walls. The space was infested with cockroaches and ants, and the journalist was “eaten alive by lice”.
“They blindfolded me and interrogated me. They wanted to know why I came there without a visa, and my relationship to the Turkish and Israeli states,” Medin recalled. After four days, he was moved to Damascus for further questioning and accusations of being in Syria illegally for the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.
He was fed only bread and tap water, except for “lucky” nights when he also received potatoes. The contaminated tap water made him sick in a cell with no toilet: “I started vomiting and having diarrhea. I managed to convince them to give me a bucket.”
The journalist and his translator were finally released after the intervention of Syrian Kurdish officials. Claims circulated that they were swapped for a regime officer held by the Kurds, but Medin had a slightly different explanation: “Kurdish forces captured a high-ranking officer of the Syrian army and said they’d attack the airport if the regime didn’t release us.”
Medin wrote on Facebook: “[This was] the most unpleasant thing I’ve been through…[but] it could have lasted much longer and ended much worse, had it not been for a few lucky circumstances.
He concluded, “Long live freedom! My spirit is unbroken.”