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Syrian teen whose graffiti, arrest sparked civil war speaks out

Click to play video: 'UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says Syria has become one large ‘torture chamber’'
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says Syria has become one large ‘torture chamber’
WATCH ABOVE: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein , told a UN meeting in Geneva Tuesday that Syria has become one giant "torture chamber." – Mar 14, 2017

It’s been six years since graffiti sprayed on a wall in the southern Syrian city of Deraa sparked a civil war that has since taken hundreds of thousands of lives and forced millions to flee the country.

One of the teens who wrote the words, “Your turn next Doctor” said in a new interview with The Telegraph that while he regrets so many people have died, “Without revolution there can be no progress.”

The boys were inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in neighbouring countries — they had no idea their bit of graffiti would change the country.

“We saw the riots in Tunisia and Egypt and it encouraged us to spray the message,” Mouawiya Syasneh said by phone from Deraa.

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“But it was more of a joke, we never imagined there would actually be an uprising in Syria.”

The arrest and detainment of then-14-year-old Syasneh and his friends prompted weeks of protest.

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“They beat me with cables, poured freezing cold water on me and electrocuted me many times,” Syasneh said. “They hanged me by the wrists from the ceiling of the cell and left me there for a day until I confessed to it and gave them the names of the other boys.”

The teens were eventually released, but their bruised and bloody conditions only prompted further outrage.

The Deraa protests were one of the first major acts of defiance against President Bashar Assad. In response, government forces sent snipers to the city’s rooftops, cut off power and raided food stores.

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Other cities joined in the protests, and as the demonstrations grew so did Assad’s bloody crackdown.

Now 20, Syasneh still lives in the country and fights with the Free Syrian Army. His father’s death in 2013, when he was “hit by a rocket,” prompted Syasneh to take up the fight.

As the war rages on six years later, Syasneh sounds torn about his role in the uprising.

“If I knew what I knew now I don’t think I would,” he said.

“I never expected it to amount to much…I regret that so many innocent people had to die.”

While Syasneh regrets the suffering, he holds hope that the future will be brighter.

“Without revolution there can be no progress,” he said. “The path is not always easy, but inshallah [God willing] it will be better for our children.”
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