AUP graduation ceremony at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

George and Irina Schaeffer Center

Syria Round Table II: Syrian Gulag: Inside Assad’s Prisons

University Room: Omid & Gisel Kordestani Rooftop Conference Center (Q-801)
Monday, April 8, 2024 - 17:30 to 19:30

Out of a pre-war Syrian population of 24 million, at some point during the ongoing conflict, there were about 250,000 Syrians detained in its many prisons, a percentage of the population (1%) that dwarfs that of many other authoritarian regimes. Imprisonment may well be a defining characteristic of postcolonial Syrian history, and its widespread violence under especially the Assad regime since 1970 has made a profound impact on Syrian society. Yet due to the strict secrecy, censorship, and pervasive fear surrounding prisons, as well as the ‘conspiracy of silence’ between perpetrators and victims, Syrian prisons have not been examined systematically. This book is the first ever comprehensive study of the Syrian prison system under the Assad regime. It outlines the internment and imprisonment system in Syria by focusing on prisons, and their bureaucracies, procedures, victims, and perpetrators under the 50-year rule of Assad, father and son (1970-2020). The book is based on a broad range of primary and secondary resources, interviews, documentation in various languages, as well as critically important collections, memoirs, illustrations, maps, photos, oral histories, social media materials, and a large digestion of secondary studies. It has a wide scope and portrays victims and perpetrators in their mutual relationships in what are undoubtedly the most horrific prisons in the world.

Co-organized with AUP Professor Ziad Majed, Jaber Baker and Uğur Ümit Üngör will come visit the American University of Paris to speak about their new book, Syrian Gulag.


Jaber Baker is a novelist, documentary filmmaker, human rights activist, and the senior Syria researcher at the Center for Media and Cultural Freedom – Samir Kasir Eyes (Skeyes).  He has published several novels in Arabic, including 601: The Divine Trials (2017) and Bab al-Faradis: The Lost Messages of Ghaylan al-Dimashqi (2020). Co-writer of the collective novel Three Generations Under the President's Bridge (2023).


Uğur Ümit Üngör is Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Amsterdam and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies. His main area of interest is the history and sociology of mass violence, with a particular focus on the modern and contemporary Middle East. He has won several academic awards and held visiting positions in Dublin, Vancouver, Budapest, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Edinburgh. He has published books and articles on various aspects and cases of mass violence and genocide, including The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950 (Oxford University Press, 2011), Paramilitarism: Mass Violence in the Shadow of the State (Oxford University Press, 2020), and the forthcoming Assad’s Militias and Mass Violence in Syria (Cambridge University Press, 2024).



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