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After months in detention, 20-year-old Mohamed Atfah was a changed person by the time he encountered another detainee from Homs, his hometown. Mohamed had so deteriorated mentally and physically that he was no longer able to recognize people around him, the detainee, who has been released, told Mohamed’s friends. “He told us Mohamed had lost his memory,” one friend said.

On February 3, 2013, officials whom Mohamed’s family members believe were agents of Military Intelligence arrested Mohamed at a checkpoint in his hometown of Homs.

He had been volunteering to help children in a Syrian Arab Red Crescent psychological support program in Homs. The program uses play and storytelling, among other techniques, to help heal children from trauma and psychological distress. A dedicated Red Crescent member, Mohamed is known around the city for his gentle demeanor and his commitment to helping children.

The recently released detainee said Mohamed managed to mutter one question when he saw him. “Is the shop still open?” he asked, referring to his parents’ store, where he used to work too, seeking news that they were still alive and well.

Friends delivered the story to Mohamed’s parents, who were anxious for news that their son was alive. But they were crushed to learn of his deterioration. For them, the news of his condition was “excruciating,” the friend said.

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