An illustration by ex-prisoner and illustrator Najah al-Bukai depicts his memories

Syria reveals fate of people thrown into 'slaughterhouse' jails

Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT) August 30, 2018

Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds.

(CNN)No man will see Huda Halasi's face or hear her voice while she goes through her four-month grieving period. She sits in a side room of her house in Aleppo province, surrounded only by her female relatives. Her eyes are fiery but her voice never rises above a whisper. For six years, she and her family agonized over her husband's fate. His whereabouts and conditions were shrouded in mystery.

Until one day in early August, the Syrian government issued his death certificate.
"We don't know when he died exactly," Huda says to her relative.
Abdul Ghafour Halasi, an anesthesiologist, was arrested in the early years of Syria's war. He vanished into an abyss of prisons and military intelligence centers, and was one of around 82,000 forcibly disappeared people that local and international rights groups demanded the Syrian government return.
Families scrambled to track down their imprisoned relatives and scraped together money to try to secure their release. Much of the time, their efforts were in vain. An old maxim resurfaced about the regime's arbitrary detentions: "Those inside the prisons have disappeared. Those who managed to get out, have a new lease on life."