Sadecc Choucaire Behind The System
BEHIND the SYSTEM
Behind the System Copyright © 2015 by Sadecc Choucaire.
All rights reserved.. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is based on actual real life events. Characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents are real. Some names have been changed ; any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
For information contact; firstname.lastname@example.org
Book and Cover design by Designer
Second Edition: March 19
Part I….. …………………………………………………
Chapter One……………. Christmas Eve……………
Chapter Two……………..The Wolves.
Chapter Four…………….Cell Fight.
Chapter Five……………..Freedom Dreams.
Chapter Seven…………...The Trial
I looked around. Everything was blurry. Where am I? Who the fuck are they? What do they want from me?
My hands tied behind my back, three big figures -- two behind me and one in front -- took me up two flights of stairs.
“Take him to the room,” said the man in front with his eyes fixed on me and a wicked grin on his face.
It was a plain room, all white with two wooden desks a meter apart. I looked around. I didn’t find any chair but I did find Max standing in the corner.
What is he doing here? Is he playing a prank on me? The terrified look on his face answered my questions.
One our earlier, I was at a pub in Hamra street with a couple of friends. It was Christmas Eve. We all got drunk that night.
It was 1 A.M. I was playing a round of pool when I got the phone call. It was Max. Max wasn’t a fan of the nightlife scene; he preferred to smoke weed 24/7. Unlike me who when I wasn’t smoking, I liked to go out drinking with friends.
“Yooo, Maxi, where you at?” I shouted after picking up the phone.
“Hey, bro. I’m home,” he said. “Do you have weed?”
“Haha no bro, today is a drinking night. Come to Captains Cabin. I’m gonna own your ass at pool,” I said.
“Alright bro,” he said, “I need 10 minutes.” He hung up.
Max lived 45 minutes away from Hamra. I suspected nothing.
A bartender came up to me minutes later, “Leave right now, people are looking for Saco outside.”
My adrenaline rushed. I wasn’t going to run away from a fight with some punks. I wasn’t thinking straight. I was drunk. I rushed outside the pub. I scanned the crowd standing outside. I opened my arms wide and shouted: “who the fuck is looking for the Saco? I’m right here bitch.”
In a blink of an eye, someone twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me. The crowd was staring in shock. A shadowy person put an arm around me and dragged me into a parking lot facing the pub. He pushed me inside a vehicle and pulled my t-shirt over my head. All I could see was darkness. Was I being kidnapped? The car went into motion.
“Maxim! Is this Saco?” the man asked, pointing at me.
“Take him back,” the man ordered.
The two other men grabbed Max by the elbows and escorted him out. Once he was inches away from me, he lifted his eyes, looked at me and muttered, “I’m sorry”.
I was baffled. I opened my mouth to speak, but my words where blocked by a massive blow that brought me to my knees.
The next thing I heard was the creaking of a door opening then closing. Max is close by.
“How much do you sell Maxim?” asked the man.
The question came out like a shock. Max was my closest friend for the past 3 years, we did everything together. His weed was my weed, and vice versa. We became best friend during senior year in high school. Max is big, wide shouldered, blonde, snub-nosed. Despite his tough-guy facade, he has the heart of a saint; he loved everybody he meet. Max and I met during Rugby practice. We became an unstoppable force in mid-field, winning the championship final for our school. After that, he became my smoking buddy. We would smoke together every day. Sometimes he would have Hash, other times I would have Weed. And when we were out, we’d always found someone to smoke us out. We were inseparable.
“How much!” yelled the man.
He was big, well built. Not bad for a man in his early forties. White hair, marine shaved head with a voice that matched his haircut choice. Even though I was drunk, his features will never be forgotten.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, “I smoke weed yes, but I never sol--”
A slap interrupted me, this time by someone standing behind me. Was he here the whole time?
“Boy, do you have any idea where you are?” he asked, “you’re in Makhfar Hbeish.” Roaming around me he continued, “The police station in Beirut. Drugs…prostitution…we’re detectives, police officers. I’m pretty sure you heard many stories about us.”
Makhfar Hbeish: The most notorious police station in Lebanon. Located in Ras Beirut district, it is used to temporarily detain those who are suspected of offences and crimes. Known for brutality, torture, corruption and everything a police station should never be; being arrested and taken to this police station was physical and emotional suicide.
He stopped roaming and got so close I could feel his warm breath brushing my face. He looked me in the eyes and said assertively, “We ALWAYS get our way.”
His piercing eyes still fixed on me closely, he paused for a moment, then backed away and said, “Look. This is how it’s going to work. I will ask you a question and you will answer ‘yes’. Simple.”
“You sell Maxim drugs, right?” he asked.
At that moment I realized I was fucked. He’s going to pin anything on me no matter what. My only hope was to stall long enough until my dad gets news of what is happening to me. He will be pissed but he will help me out. Probably bribe the officer. That’s how stuff work there.
“Drug is such a harsh word for weed. Don’t you think?” I replied, “oh and no I never sold any weed.”
The police officer shoved my face and punched my stomach. I bent down in agony. He grabbed the cuffs tied around my wrist and pulled them upwards. My arms stretched so much I felt they were going to rip from my shoulders and make a full turn over my head.
The pain was unreal. He suddenly released my arms. I collapsed on the floor, face first on the cold tiles. I laid there for a while. Then came the thundering boot hammering down my back.
Max could hear everything. The door I heard creak nearby was his cell. I wanted to hold on as long as I could just to show him how much pain he inflicted on me. The pain was nothing compared to the feeling of betrayal by a brother. I didn’t know how long I could last. The detective knew exactly.
“Farooj,” he said with a smirk upon his face.
Still on the floor, I raised my head slowly and said with an innocent look, “Farooj is good, I can have something to eat.”
(Farooj is Arabic for turkey.)
The police officer’s foot-soldiers got me up. I was so dizzy I tried hard to maintain my balance. They released my handcuffs and ordered me to sit on the floor. I did. Next thing I know, my hands were once again cuffed, this time to the front and positioned at the same level as my knees. A two meter wooden stick was slid over my left wrist, under my knees then again over my right wrist. Then they raised me off the floor grabbing the stick by its ends. My back aligned with the ground, my 100 kg body weight was loaded solely on the joints of my hands and knees. IT HURTS A LOT.
One end of the stick was sustained on a right desk, the other end on the left desk, and I was dangling in the middle of the stick, in the empty space formed by the desks.
My tormentor approached me; his cigar smoke clouding the area right above my tilted head. He even appeared bigger viewing him upside down.
“Toughest guy I had lasted 4 minutes on my turkey,” he barked.
I don’t know if it was my intoxication or something else, but my competitive nature kicked in and I felt the urge to beat that record.
I was determined to hide any sign of pain. Alas, 1 minute in and my wrists felt like they were going to rip, not to mention the pain in my knees. I began to sober up. Rage started to build up inside me, I started pivoting and screaming, tears blurring my sight. I couldn’t take it anymore.
Suddenly, I snapped, “Listen you corrupted shit, you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my dad is. Once he finds out, you’d be lucky if I allow you to scrub my--”
I couldn’t complete my sentence. My voice changed from a vow of vengeance to a pitiful screech in an instant. Till this day, my leg is engraved with the souvenir he left on it; the sizzling tip of his cigar dancing violently on my skin.
“I am going to ask you again are you a dealer!?”
If the question that day was “Did you kill Rafic Hariri?”, I would have still said yes.
“The lights go on when I say they do.”
I was startled by that deep voice that woke me up.
Then I heard a slap.
A poor Syrian prisoner crumpled on the floor trying to mumble some sort of apology to a bearded, longhaired Lebanese. He was clearly The Alpha-wolf of this cell.
I looked around, trying to catch a glimps of Max among the bodies laying motionless on the floor, but to no avail. 15 bodies present, not one was Max.
It was a tiny grey room, 3x3 meters. A single light bulb was hanging from the ceiling; clearly that was the ‘lights’ the fight was about.
I felt a cold chilling breeze sending shivers down my spine. I looked at the wall beside me. There was a wide opening in the top middle, made unescapable by tiny metal bars.
It was December. One week ago, the first winter storm of the year named Alexa hit. As a result, temperatures across the country witnessed a drastic drop. Cold winds engulfed the country.
The window opening was covered by a blanket to keep the freezing wind at bay. A single urinal was placed in the other corner of the cell.
“He’s awake!!” shouted the curly haired Syrian while rising up from the floor.
Everybody in the cell woke up, almost at the same time. They fixed their position to a seating one and stared at me with wide opened eyes.
My assigned space was in one corner of the room facing the urinal. I thanked God I wasn’t assigned the place under it like the unlucky Sudanese detainee. Then I remembered where I was and reprimended the same God for my fate.
The Alpha-wolf spoke first and said, “I’ve been in this sardine box for 2 months, longer than all of these weak shits. I already respect you the most.”
“We heard everything Saco, the whole thing,” said the curly haired inmate.
“Man… you took hella beating… How?” asked a boy who looked no older than 16.
I was still in shock; I couldn’t believe this was real. I looked at my leg, and then I remembered yesterday… my tormentor...
“What was the name of the police officer who interrogated me?” These were my first words that day.
The Alpha took a long stare at me. I was sure he could feel my rage.
“You’re lucky,” he said, “you got a soft one. His name is Zakh I believe, but still I respect you.” Then he added, “I heard all previous detainees- one by one- they are all pussies. I would never sell them Cocaine if I ever saw them on the streets. But you… after you’re done with your 5 years sentence, I’ll let you work for me.”
What??!! Is he fucking with me?!
“5 years?” I asked, “I thought you heard my interrogation. I never sold anything ever”.
“Yep everybody here is innocent too,” smirked Kamal the curly haired Syrian.
“Shut up Kamal,” screamed The Alpha and returned his attention to me. “Saco, you admitted that you sold. the conviction. At the end of the day, you’re always guilty to them. Plus, you pissed of the detective. He will write whatever he wants on your report. Unless…”
“Unless what?!” I asked.
“Unless your parents come to your aid with a large sum of cash, that is. And considering your father is rich, that sum is going to be larger than usual,” said The Alpha.
What? He knows my name… the economical status of my parents…
“Yea I know almost everything I need to about you,” he said, reading my thoughts. “Your friends briefed me well.”
My eyes widened, “My friends?”
“Yes, Eddy and Moe, they got caught with Max,” he said, “they were both here in this very room. Nice boys. They were released just before you arrived; they left with nothing but a warning.” Then he added “By the way, they weren’t so fortunate to get the spot I gave you though. They snitched on someone innocent. But I bet you’ll be happy to find out what they said.”
“I want to know how Max’s interrogation went,” I said hastily.
“Eddy and Moe were fortunate enough to be interrogated at the same time. They both pinned it on Max, saying he was their dealer. So your friend Max is going to be convicted with you,” said The Alpha.
“I know Max better than I know myself,” I said, “he never dealt.”
“I know, but I guess that was their alibi to protect their real dealer,” grined The Alpha.
“What about Max? What did he say?” I asked.
“I will tell you when I wake up. LIGHTS OFF!! ” yelled The Alpha.
In a second, the room was completely dark. I was eager to know more but I didn’t dare rush him for answers.
Then he spoke again. “Get some sleep,” he said, “you’re fighting when I wake.”
My head was pounding; I couldn’t get any sleep that evening. My hope of getting out of this mess relied on my mother. I hoped she comes and bribes the detective. Surely one of my friends who saw me get busted that night at the bar would have given her a call.
It was Christmas 25/12/2013.
I scanned the cell. Bodies everywhere, sleeping on their side trying to fit. Blankets and newspapers served as mat for everyone except The Alpha of course; this guy had a full mattress that allowed him to sleep comfortably on his back. The mattress was placed in the corner, right next to the cell’s door. No wonder he could hear the interrogations so perfectly.
I was also placed in a corner, one of three ‘honorary’ spots. A towering longhaired male took the third spot; I was yet to get acquainted with this one. I glanced at the fourth and final corner and saw the Sudanese sleeping under the urinal. Poor thing! Taking a piss will leave me in guilt!
Why on earth did I end up here?
A classmate gave me the nickname Saco when I was in grade one; I don’t remember why exactly. I was 8 at that time. That same nickname stuck with me until this incident. Having a fake name is gonna look bad on trial.
I come from a respectable upper class family. Our glamorous lifestyle was the envy of many. My father works abroad, he’s barley around. I blame my drug addiction on my parents for spoiling me, but deep down I know that’s not the case. I just like to have fun.
My mom had four girls before me. Her and Dad wanted a boy. A boy is a must. Me and Dad are the only Choucaire boys in Nabatiye.
On the spring of 1994, she had a boy and called him Sadecc. Sadecc means honest in arabic.
My sisters and me always had everything we asked for. Drivers, maids, cooks....We lived with our parents until my mom decided to leave because she couldn’t handle my dad's bullshit anymore. I went with my mother. “She took the boy” all I remember Dad saying that period. Knowing that her money wasn't enough to cater for me, he played the waiting game. I was 12 at that time. My uncle helped mother with my school fees. My father cut all kinds of financial support. We were used to a spoiled life, and suddenly we found ourselves having to work hard to get even the most basic things. We were transformed from Heros to Zeros.
Dad didn’t know what he was doing. He was eager to bring her back using his money, his power. To him, with money he can get anything. Exactly what my grandmother told mom in the past ‘Money is power’. Years passed, mom managed to keep me alive and insisted she will never go back to him. So he gave up. They stayed separated, but he resumed supporting us financially after two years.
I started smoking marijuana when I was 16; I was in high school at the time. At 17, I was smoking on a daily basis, going stoned to family dinners, rugby practices and even exams. Hell, I even did my SATs baked. At that point, I was blind to the consequences that I could end up with, especially in corrupted Lebanon.
I continued my smoking routine, even when my mother caught me on different occasions, and each time I promised to stop. She knew marijuana was harmless but she always feared the wrath of my father if he found out.
“If he finds out he will blame me and cut us again.” she would say.
I didn’t care, I was in my rebellious years… I had my own Mercedes at 18, I wore the best clothes and attended the most prestigious schools and college in Beirut. I never thought how much I had to lose, until now.
I awoke from my daydreaming with the sound of keys rattling. The cell door opened. Standing there was a guard. Did he participate in my torture? He called my name, I had a visitor.
I stood up, ignoring the pain in my back and knees, hopping past the inmates on the floor and out through the door. When I approached him, he turned me around, cuffed my hands behind my back and led me down the hallway. I looked to my right, I saw the torture room with the wooden desks; right after that I saw another cell. That has to be where Max is.
Arriving at the end of the hallway, I was ushered to an office on the left, Zakh’s office. I walked in. He was sitting behind a long desk with two chairs on the other side of the desk. One was vacant, the other, occupied by my mother, tears pouring from her eyes. I was so happy to see her. My savior has come. I thought my time here was at its end.
My mother yelled at me with a sobbing voice, “You’re a disgrace to our family, I can’t believe you smoked again after promising me!”
“But mom it’s more than that, they are accusing me of--” I tried explaining that it was way worse than smoking, but she cut me off.
“Your father has news of this, and don’t think he’ll use his connections to get you out of it, you will stay here and maybe you’ll finally learn.”
She finished her sentence and rushed passed me towards the door.
I stood there motionless, speechless. My savior failed me. I looked over at Zakh, he seemed to be more upset than I was. He wasn’t going to get bribed.
“Take him back!” he yelled, “and send his report as soon as the offices open.” Then he turned to me and said, “You’re going to Roumye kid. Oh, and Merry Christmas.”
Everybody was still deep. Damn, these people sleep a lot. Sleeping was the only thing to do, when not fighting. I sat in my corner, thinking about my mother. All I could do was to wait.
My mind was racing with thoughts. What if I didn’t answer Max’s call that night at the bar? What if I didn’t break. All that didn’t matter now.
Then my mind went back to The Alpha’s last words before he drifted to sleep. Who am I fighting and where? The room barely fits for standing. I started looking around, studying the body of each of the 15 prisoners. Most of them are drug addicts. Heroine, crack and meth; these drugs seriously leave you skinny and weak. I can handle most of them, even with my injuries.
“LIGHTS ON!” yelled The Alpha, wide-awake.
All eyes were open at once. Kamal rushed to the light switch. All prisonners aligned on four walls, in bent-knee position. 17 people in one cell can’t be legal. The cell turned into a tiny Colosseum. This is where it will happen. The Alpha made it obvious by his grin.
“This is how it goes Saco,” announced The Alpha, “it’s a fight till first blood. Trust me you need a taste of Roumye.”
“There are fights in Roumye?”.
“Every fresh meat gets a little testing,” answered The Alpha, “the big families there send someone to fuck around with you apon your arrival. If they see you have balls, you get to join their family. Trust me, you need a family to protect you where you’re going… are you ready?”
I nodded and placed my self in the middle.
“Jamil you’re up!” said The Alpha.
I looked around. Which one is Jamil? Then I saw him. He’s more beast than man. The giant I saw earlier sleeping in the corner stood up. His hair reached his upperback. His body was covered with black curly fur. I didn’t have enough time to study his facial features. He struck first. A hard blow knocked my head back. Still stunned, I got punched again. This time I fell down.
“Get up bitch!” roared Jamil.
I tried to gather my strength and push myself off the ground. Evrerything happened so fast. Bending down, I could see droplets of blood dripping from my nose. I don’t know if it was fear or the sight of my own blood that gave me the adrenaline rush. I forgot the pain in my back, my wrist and my knees. I bounced at Jamal, grabbing his neck to choke him, pushing my shoulders onto his Adam’s apple, my palms on the back of his head. That didn’t cut it; Jamil ignored my hold, he punched my ribs left and right. Each blow stronger than the one before. I was done.
15 punches later, The Alpha intervened. “That’s enough!” he said while shoving each of us apart, “I thought I was clear? It’s till first blood. He’s been bleeding on my floor for hours. Bongo clean this mess!” he signaled to the Sudanese standing next to the urinal to get to work.
I collapsed on the floor, out of breath. Jamil approached me, gave me a hand, pulled me back on my feet and helped me to my assigned corner.
“Good job kid,” said The Alpha. “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall. What matters is how many times you back get up. Remember that,” he added, handing me a tissue to wipe off the blood.
“Food is here, let’s eat,” announced Kamal, the curly haired Syrian.
The guards opened the door and handed us 16 pieces of bread and two big cheese blocks. Four of the inmates started making sandwiches for everyone.
Theres a saying in prison: ‘Once you have salt and bread with another, you become family.’
After our dinner, each started telling me his story- how they sold drugs to provide for their families or because some were forced to do so- I felt bad for them, and grateful for myself. Some did it and our so proud.
“When you get to Roumye,” started The Alpha, “don’t take shit from anyone, show the same resilience you showed today and during your trial.”
“What is it like there?” I asked.
“Well it’s heaven compared to this shithole. You can buy your own room, phone and even get hooked up with drugs,” said The Alpha.
“Phone?”I was shocked.
“Yea. Prisoners run the prison. There’s everything. From barbershops to food stores. Well everything except bitches,” he laughed, “Rooms are open 24/7. You can workout at 4 A.M at the gym.”
“But like what happens if you get caught with a phone?”I asked.
“The government knows, but can do nothing. They have no authority inside.” The Alpha paused for a bit and said “But you don’t have to worry about the government, just pray that you get sent to block A.”
“Why? How many blocks are there in Roumye?” I said.
“There are three blocks,” he said. He started explaining:
“Block A has mixed religions, Shia’a families have combined control.
Block B has mostly Sunnis, the Islamic State has total control. Block C is currently closed, undergoing renovation.”
“ISIS in Lebanon?” I was taken aback.
“Yea, over 300 of them inside block B,” said The Alpha.
“Damn. What about buying a room. How do you do that?” I asked.
“Well in block A, you have to be on good terms with one of the dominant families, because having a room without protection is a waste of money,” said The Alpha.
“Ok. I get you”I said. I fixed myself in sleeping position, sliding my legs under another prisoner then I added, “Oh wait, you still didn’t tell me your name.”
“It’s Ali,” said The Alpha. “And yours?”
“Sadecc,” I replied.
“Well Sadecc, you didn’t ask me again about Max,” resumed Ali.
“I Forgot about that one,” I said.
“Well, there isn’t much to say,” said Ali. “Max said that you get the weed together and smoke together. He got slapped again. Max changed his mind, you sold him on three different occasions. You are a fish my friend. Your status as an Aub student will promote Zach. He found SACO.
“Did he say anything about a Mr. Nice Guy?” I had to know.
“No, why?” asked Ali.
“He’s our dealer.” I said.
My dad was asked a ridiculous amount of money for my freedom. He refused to pay knowing that he would find justice in court.
When you’re locked up, all you have are your dreams; they becomes surprisingly vivid.
I was home again, in my king-sized bed. My mother coming in to give me a goodnight kiss and tuck me exactly like when I was young. That drew a smile on my face.
The young boy sleeping next to me, Mark if I recall, awakened me; he wanted me to stop moving. The smile on my face slowly faded. I’m back to reality. That was the last time I dreamt of the outside world. I dreamt no more. When I rarely did dream, they were nightmares, usually about me being trapped somewhere.
I couldn’t see my family… my friends… my bedroom…I forgot what freedom tastes like. My body was adapting to the situation. I had to forget to survive.
“Forget the outside world, your time in here will move much slower if u don’t,” said an inmate.
That was hard to do, especially this month. Every year during this period, my family and I were accustomed to go up to the mountains and spend Christmas and New Year’s eve at one of the most prestigious ski resorts. They’re up there enjoying their time; leaving me behind in this shit hole.
These were my family. These 15 inmates sleeping side by side on the floor. When you’re stuck with someone for a long time you really get to know them. We even promised each other that if we meet again in Roumieh prison we would help each other. Deep down I knew words are wind, and based on how the prison was described to me, it’s going to be survival of the fittest.
Ali organized fights every day. Some were brutal, other just ridiculous. Jamil was famous for his one-punch ‘cryouts’ that injured two Lebanese. Kamal was matched with the Sudanese, this fight had a stipulation: the loser occupies the urinal corner of the jail.
Kamal rushed at Bongo with a fury of misplaced punches. The tall skinny Sudanese calmly went for a bear-hug and flipped the poor Syrian off his legs. While on top of him, Kamal tried to slip away, to no avail. Bongo launched his head in a snake like motion and bit Kamal’s earlobe bloody. A moment of silence filled the room, only Kamal’s deformed screaming of pain echoed. Suddenly Ali laughted and a resonance of laughter from the others followed.
Other mundane fights occurred were first blood came from scratches. I didn’t fight for a week; Ali wanted me to fully recover before my next one. My joints and nose were healing fine, but my back still ached, especially when I had to sleep on my side. No medical assistance was available for me, not even for Kamal who leaked a puddle of blood under the urinal. When we knocked on the door screaming for help or even food, muteness was the guards’ answer.
They say jail is for men. Jail is for dogs.
Night broke. Darkness veiled the cell. The luminous moon gleamed and illuminated the sheer blanket covering the window, transforming it into a night lamp. That window was our wall clock, telling us day from night.
The image of the ski slopes was resonant in my mind. I was depressed. I was supposed to be there, at the ski resort.
At midnight, four inmates ran to the wide window at the sound of skyrockets fading into firecrackers. They removed the blanket and huddled on each other’s shoulders for a good view. Fireworks glazed the sky outside. I sat there in my corner, trying to avoid bursting in tears. It was New Year’s Eve.
That night, I didn’t sleep. I watched the morning light creep slowly; the sunbeam peeking from a hole in the blanket covering the window, casting a warm rectangular golden shadow on the floor of the cell. It was quiet. Too quiet. Usually, the free birds outside would be singing their asses off, but not this morning. This morning, they were sleeping off celebrating the night before. I, locked in my cage, promised myself that the next year, I was going to party until I drop. I was never so wrong...
I heard keys rattling outside. Strange, it’s too early for food. Every time that sound was heard, inmates would open their eyes and wait anxiously exactly how a kid would wait for Santa Claus. I don’t blame them. That door is their path to freedom.
The door opened.
“Sadecc Choucaire, your trial is scheduled on the 20th of January.”
20 DAYS IN 3x3 METRE ROOM WITH 15 OTHER PEOPLE.
That was all he said before locking the door again.
Trial was my chance to fix everything. The judge will study me and infer that I’m no drug dealer because I come from a wealthy upper-class family; I have absolutely no need to sell drugs for money.
“Be carful Saco, use your words carefully,” advised Ali.
The whole day, my inmates- the wolves- were preparing me for trial. Max was going to be there. I had to be calm when I faced him. Is he even still in Hbeish police station?
“The judge considers us the scum of society, he never listens to what we have to say,” said Jamil.
“We don’t care what he thinks of us. What is important to us is what he writes on our report,” said Ali. He was about to speak again when he heard something. “Shhh. Silence. We have an new entry,” he said.
The interrogation room was occupied but no screaming was heard whatsoever. Things were going on smoothly in there.
“This bag is mine sir. I am a drug dealer,” said the voice.
“Ha. Are you ok son? You’re the first person to come to my station and hand himself over,” said Zack.
I recognized Zakh’s voice in a heartbeat.
“I’ve been a bad boy,” shuckled the voice.
“You’re fucked up. Throw him inside cell number two,” finished off Zakh.
The wolves voiced their discontent at having an additional member to the pack. 16 were too many in that sardine box. It’s a clear violation of human rights. Then again, we are not considered human at that place.
The door opened, the new detainee stepped in and thanked the guard. He was 1.6 meters tall, he looked as if he’s been food deprived for days. His features were basic.
“I am Rakan. This is your lucky day,” announced the new inmate arms wide open.
“Shut the fuck up and sit your ass in the corner there,” said Ali pointing at the urinal corner. He added “Kamal squeeze to your right.”
“Oh no my fine gentlemen I do not sit,” he said politely, ”I came to you on a mission. I’m going to set you all free.”
I was confused.
“Are you fucking with me? Do you want to die?” threatened Ali.
“I will tell you a story. After the story we will all leave through the door,” said Rakan. He paused. He had the crowds’ attention.
Does he have a plan? Like digging an escape tunnel or something?
Then he continued, “Very well. My story starts long before Christ was born. There was no religions back then.”
He talked for a while, about empires rising and falling, about Jews, Muslims and Christians.
“Ali, this bitch is wasting our time,” said Jamil.
As if he has other engagements or things to do.
I was actually curious to see where Rakan was going with his story. Especially after he uttered the following sentence: “Believe in the powers of the unknown.”
But Ali had enough. He stood up and slapped Rakan across the face. The storyteller stood there with a wicked smile on his face.
“Stop Ali,” I said. I don’t know how I dared raise my voice at him. “Let him finish his story. And if it’s bullshit and we’re still here in the next hour, I’ll beat him up myself.”
“As I was saying,” continued Rakan, “we are all pawns in a game none of us will ever comprehend. We, human, should burn the Bible, the Qura—“
He couldn’t finish the word Quran. Ali’s hands were around his neck shocking life out of him. The room went crazy. 10 wolves were stomping Rakan. Ali’s grip got tighter by the second. I looked through the stomping crowd. I caught a glimpse of Rakan. He was looking at me, his face purple red, with a smile that sent shivers through my body. I felt the urge to rush between the assaulters and move them away. I jumped on Ali’s back giving him a headlock, pulling him off the man.
I screamed in his ear, “Ali, wake up! You’re going to kill him. Do you want to be convicted for murder?”
Ali turned a deaf ear. He wasn’t hearing anything I said. Rakan kept smiling silently.
Suddenly the door opened. The guard arrived to the sound of the yelling. The crew backed away from Rakan, even Ali.
In a blink of an eye, Rakan stood on his feet. We were all in shock. No mortal can withstand such beating and keep his balance.
Rakan looked up at the ceiling and sent a roar that gave me goose bumps. “Did YOU see what happened here??!!” said Rakan.
Who is he talking to?
The guards escorted Rakan out of the cell. As he was walking towards the door, he turned his head towards me and gave me a wink, before fading out of sight.
Everybody was still confused, long after he left.
An old man with white hair, who was always silent to the extent I thought he was mute and deaf, broke the silence, “What we saw earlier was a demon in the form of a human.”
Till this day, I ask myself if Rakan really had the power to break us out or he was completely schizophrenic. I never saw him after that.
I had the same clothes on for the whole month in the sardine box, where every time a person leaves it, new sardines come in. No visits were allowed at Hbeish police station. There wasn’t even a sink available to wash yourself. I smelled like shit. Trial was in a couple of hours.
“Sadecc let’s go,” said the guard who was already at the door.
I was waiting for this day since I got here. My chance is today.
It was still early morning. The wolves were still sleeping. I did not say my goodbyes. It didn’t matter. I never considered them as friends. I just acted like it to survive.
I walked away without giving the cell another glance.
“You know the drill. Hands behind your back,” said the guard.
Reaching the exit door at the end of the hallway seemed like it will take ages. My legs were wobbling. It has been a long time since I last used them.
Half way through the hallway, we stopped at cell number one. The guards unlocked the door.
“Maxim let’s go,” said the guard.
Max was here the whole time.
Max was already standing at the door. He looked horrible. But I bet I looked even worse. I couldn’t really tell, no mirror was available to me all this time.
Max didn’t say a word; he just stared shamefully at the ground. I did not speak either.
The guard shackled Max. We walked alongside him as he escorted us through the hallway and down the steps of the police station.
Then I saw it open; the gate to freedom. We walked out. I took a deep breath of fresh air. For the past two weeks, all I could inhale was the breaths and body odors of my inmates. I had no time to waste. We were ushered into a minivan parked right outside. We climbed aboard.
Max and I sat on the second bench, the guard on the first. This was my chance to plan with him my discharge. He has to deny me. I couldn’t let my anger towards him screw this up.
Before I opened my mouth to talk he said, “Bro, I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry?” I couldn’t keep my cool, “you ruined my life; I had an exam yesterday, now I have to withdraw this semester because of you.”
“Man you don’t understand. I had to say your name,” said Max.
“WHAT WHY?” I raised my voice. The guard didn’t object to any of the screaming. He’s nothing without his master.
“You always told me how your dad has connections and can get you out of any mess,” said Max.
“Are you serious?” I said. This boy has to be stupid.
“Man, it was either you or Mr. Nice Guy. I thought your father will get you out easily,” he said.
“So you made a choice? Me, your best friend, the brother you never had, how could you do that?” I said.
“I was scared. If Mr. Nice Guy finds out I ratted him out, he, he would kill me,” he replied.
This talk wasn’t going to change anything. I had to convince him to deny his allegations against me.
“Bro my family gave up on me. You’re my only hope,”I said. It came out from the bottom of my heart.
“What can I do?” asked Max.
“Just say they forced you to say my name,” I whispered, fearing the guard would over hear and ruin my plan. “We did not get caught with anything, there is no proof on Whatsapp,”
“Just like that?” he whispered back.
“It’s a new interrogation. The judge surely knows about Hbeish’s reputation of beating detainees and pinning falsified charges against them.” I hoped.
“Alright brother,” said Max. “I will fix the damage I caused you, don’t worry”.
Yet I was worried. I couldn’t rely on Max. He has a history of fucking things up. I had a plan A. Max denying me was plan B.
After our chat, the rest of the trip towards the courthouse was awkwardly quiet. I had some time to contemplate the scenery outside: the cars, the trees, especially the people. It was like I was newly introduced to civilization.
We arrived to our destination; the guard and the driver both were our escorts for the evening. They led us through a crowd of people toward the judge’s office. People looked at us with pity. I hated it.
The office had a big wooden door on which a balanced scale, symbol of justice, was carved.
I hope he will be just.
Outside, I saw Eddy and Moe well groomed and dressed neatly. Eddy gave me a thumb up and murmured “good luck”. It was as if they wanted me to not worry about their testament. Their testament is crucial; it could help me or cause me more troubles. If they testify that Max used to sell them, and Max sticks to his allegation against me, that will make it look like Max is my distributor. Ali the detainee at Hbeish police station explained this to me.
Eddy got called up first to the office. Five minutes later, he went out; it was Moe’s turn now. Moe left the office with a smile on his face and winked at Eddy. Max entered next, accompanied by the van driver. My palms began to sweat. I’ve never been this nervous in my life. I kept telling myself that Max is going to do me good. He had to.
15 minutes later Max got out. He smiled at me and said “You’re going home.”
It was my turn. I walked through the wooden door accompanied by the guard behind me. It was a fancy office, decorated with wooden African artifacts.
The trial judge was in his forties; white hair was visible only on the sides of his head. He had a serene look on his face.
“Sadecc Choucaire, is that correct?” he asked.
“Yes your honor,”I replied. Ali prepped me on how to address such people.
“Lebanese from Nabatiye, correct?” asked the judge.
“Yes your honor,” I said.
“Married?” he asked.
“No, I’m 19,” I said.
“Job?” he asked.
“University student,”I replied.
“How much Weed did you use to sell Maxim?”
That escalated quickly.
“Your honor,” I said, “this is all a misunderstanding. Yes I smoke Marijuana, with Max. But I never sold him, not once.”
“Then why did Maxim just say he bought from you on three different occasions?” asked the judge with a tranquil voice.
Did Max screw me up again? Plan B down. Plan A had to be in motion.
“If Max lied saying this, and I doubt it, it might be because he has a grudge on me. You see, he was in love with a girl called Tania, but she loved me, so I dated her. I guess he never really got over it. Maybe he felt the need to hurt me back?” I said.
“You know lying in this office can get you in more trouble than you’re already in,” said the judge.
“I’m not lying,” I said with certitude. I lied. I needed to play all my cards to ensure my freedom. I don’t want to be locked up again.
“Very well,” he signaled to the guard still standing behind me, “bring back Maxim.”
The guard obeyed. Max entered the room.
“Maxim,” said the judge, “Sadecc told me what you said earlier was untrue.”
Max was sweating.
The judge continued, “That you never bought from him. Tell me the truth, lying is a crime.”
Max paused. His face turned to different shades of red. Finally, he spoke and said, “I never bought from him.”
The judge’s pleasant and calm demeanor changed to an all-consuming anger. He was furious, he raised his voice and said, “Didn’t you say you bought from Sadecc three time?!”
“I…I don’t remember,” said Max with a trembling voice. His hands were shaking as color drained from his face.
“You two are lying criminals!” yelled the judge.
He signed two papers and told the guard, “Take these papers and get these scums out of my sight.”
I was baffled. What happens now? Max denied his previous allegations against me, right in front of the judge. Where’s the justice? The charges suppose to be dropped.
Words were stuck in my mouth. I just accepted my defeat and got dragged out of the office.
I turned to the guard and said, “What are these papers? What happens now?”
“These are your arrest warrants,” he replied, “I’m sorry, but you boys are going to Roumieh prison.”
Roumieh. A maximum security prison, located on the high mountains of Lebanon. Formerly a German fortress, its Blocks positioned to form the shape of a Mercedes sign when viewed from above. Roumieh is inhabited by the country’s most notorious criminals; killers, rapist and above all terrorists, 300 of them ruling a single Block. That was where the minivan was taking me.
Max was seated next to me. He didn’t dare talk. Specially after I bashed his face with my shackles. As soon as we got inside the van, I assaulted Max. The guard made the mistake of handcuffing my arms in front of my body. Max paid the price for his neglect. I thrusted my arms as soon as his face appeared in that minivan. My metalic bracelets broke his nose. First blood. The guard pulled me off him, and placed me next to the driver, my hand were behind my back this time.
The guard audited the whole trial, he knew I was innocent. I overheard him telling max: “You fucked up, you got an innocent boy with you in your mess.”
Max got scared from the bus driver from Hbesh who walked in with him. He did not change Zakh’s instructions.
After that the ride was quiet as death.
An hour passed. The van stopped in front of a gate. The first gate of many. Two army personnel were standing there, they signaled the driver to approach the vehicle, made him sign papers through the window and opened the gate. We were passing thru an army training ground, which surrounded the prison. That eliminate the possibility of escaping. A second and a third gate were awaiting us before arriving to the prison control station. We got down from the van and into the building. That building was the centerpiece of all Blocks.
“Names?” asked the commanding officer.
“Maxim Chalhoub and Sadecc Choucaire” answered the guard who witnessed my injustice.
We took off our stinky cloth and got searched. We had nothing. All our belongings were still in Hbesh.
“Maxim you are inmate 3087, remember your number. You will be assigned to Block A” said the officer.
Max was escorted by two guards out of sight.
“Sadecc you are inmate 3088, remember your number.” The time before he spoke again seemed to take forever. “and you will be assigned to Block B.”
I was too tired to show my fear. I was too exhausted to beg him otherwise. My fate was set there was no evading it. Block B was where it began. The beginning of the end.
Roumieh prison, Lebanon. Block B
Chapter 8: Home Welcoming
A guard took charge of escorting me to the B block. The sancuary of evil in the world, crawling with Islamic extremists. These terrorists labeled my kind (Shias) as “non-believers”, they claim we changed the Quran and stained its holiness.
I stood outside the block, gazing at the three-story building. I could see the bared cells; inmates’ hands were dangling from their cages, waiting to behold the fresh meat. This will be my home for now. The entrance gate opened, another guard was inside ready to lead me through yet another one. He took the usual information and took the handcuffs off. The entrance gate was sealed shut. I was now placed in what was known as “Between the doors”. Two doors on opposites sides, one hides freedom, the other hell on earth.
Between the doors was the last stop where one encounters guards in the Block. Even guards did not have the courage to go inside
“Good luck kid” was the last thing the guard said before unlocking the gate that separated us from killer wolves.
The first criminal I saw was ISIS’s third in command: Abou Dujana. He was in charge of briefing new recruits. He was short and skinny, long curly hair covered both sides of his face. A long wild beard with the mustache shaved, it was a distraction from his unattractive features.
Time Inside: 3 years
“Salam Alaykum” said the welcoming committee man.
“Hi” I replied.
He gave me a look. “A drug dealer are you?”
“No, they got it all wrong, i'm innocent.”
“I don’t care honestly, in this building we are law, you have to follow our rules and your time here will pass smoothly.” He paused for a bit and started stating the rules:
ISIS Prison Rules:
“Rule #1: No drugs!
Punishment: Solitary for 3 days.
Rule #2: No porn!
Punishment: Phone will be confiscated.
Rule #3: No criminal offences! (ex: Stealing, Fighting.)
Punishment: Decided by the community.
Rule #4: No cursing God!
Punishment: Having your tongue removed.
Tongue removed? That escalated quickly. At that moment I was terrified, but I still managed to mutter: “All clear, you won't be having any trouble with me.”
“You will be residing with non-believers, the Mokdads. First floor, room 110.”
The Mokdads were known for being the most ruthless Shia family in the country. I didn’t know if I should be scared or feel safe.
Abu Dojana resumed speech: “You are not allowed to come to the third floor without an invitation.” He then strolled away.
The prison was dark, inmates were going in every direction, some were big and scary, others tiny, weak or old. Cell doors were open 24/7. I decided to go directly to the room; it was in the first wing on the first floor of the building at the end of the corridor. As I was making my way, I saw one room without a door with groceries stacked outside, I gave the inside a glance, it was filled with all sorts of canned food, chocolate and household items. A legit supermarket. What other wonders this place holds? I left exploring for another day. In my mind I was determined to show my strong character and getting accepted to any pack. I walked till the end of the corridor without any harassments. And so on to room 110. The Mokdads. I knocked.
“Come in.” Said a voice.
I opened the door, the interior of the cell was different from how I imagined it outside. The room had cardboard boxes all around the walls; they served as “closets”. A fridge and a Television were available. Curtains for privacy directly on my left covered the bathroom. Two inmates were inside. One occupied the cell bed, the other positioned right under him.
"I was sent here by Abu Dojana.”
“That fucking moron.” Said the one on the bed.
In prison, the one on the bed owns the room.
“Come in friend.” Said the other one. “Here have some coffee.” He poured a cup.
I sat on a chair in the corner of the room, and drank my coffee. After that, the guy on bed offered me a cigarette. I introduced myself and so did they. The one on the bed was called Toufic, the other Ali.
Faction: Mokdad Family
Time inside: 5 years
Faction: Mokdad Family
Crime: Plotting Murder
Time inside: 5 years
Ali killed a guy after his cousin Toufic told him to. The poor old man lost his life because he had 5000$ stashed in his apartment. Ali bashed through his apartment with a knife in hand, stabbed him right then and there, 15 strikes. “The fucker wouldn’t die.” –Ali
Perfect I’ll be sleeping with killers.
I wasn’t shocked when they told me what they did. A fucking Isis terrorist greeted me earlier today.
Welcoming was over, it was time to get to business. Ali explained the instructions of the room. My place with them wasn’t secured unless I pitched in with the primary materials of the room: food, cleaning detergents and more. I knew what I had to do.
“Toufic pass me your phone.” I said, after spotting him Watsapping.
Toufic was baffled by the way I ordered him, but passed me the phone nonetheless.
I dialed a number.
“hello Pap? Its Sadecc.”
“What how?? Where are you?”
I told him where I was and explained to him what happened with the trial. I also informed him on how things go around here.
”Don’t worry, I got you son. Whatever you need. Just don’t tell your mother.” He replied.
“Oh and this is Toufiks number, I’ll be getting a phone soon.”
“No need, I spoke to a couple of friends, you’ll be out in a week.” He said so confidently.
“Let’s hope so. Oh, I almost forgot, send a recharge card to this number.” I ended.
Chapter 9: Roumye
I slept surprisingly well that night, best sleep since my 2 weeks in Hbesh. Father sent me 100$ worth of credit on Toufics phone. I got some cigarettes and food from the supermarket in the corridor.
There was all types of shops there: barbershop, phone dealer, sandwich place and even a coffee shop. It was similar to a small city. Money was transferred using different methods, either by phone credits or by cigarette packs, but for big payments one relied on Western Union transactions. For the later, you had to have someone on the outside to make transactions or withdrawal, for me that was my chauffeur, Samura.
Samura gave me a visit every weekend, bringing with him meat, chicken and sometimes fast food. We cooked our own food inside, we did not trust prison food since it was rumored to contain Kafur, an ingredient used to numb sexual desires, which affects your reproductive organs on the long haul.
In addition to that luxury, the prison had its own gym and football field installed in the yard. The yard was the only place where we could mingle with Isis recruits. They had a whole floor of their kind, they formed the final ruling in the Block since the government is terrified of their wrath. They had an Imperial constitution, their king, Abo Ghadab had privilege like no other, rumor had it that he once slapped a 25 year old lieutenant for assuming a shift without his knowledge. My situation gave me the chance to see my government for its true colors, knowing at that time, Isis had Lebanese Military captives within their ranks and where bombing locations in the Country. Abo Ghadab was scarcely seen in the bulding. The prince, Abo Turab, on the other hand, took control of prison matters. His word was final, his word was justice.
-2014 roumye riot.