Yousef Dandash, who says he was imprisoned and tortured by Bashar Assad's regime for six weeks, speaks to NBC News' Richard Engel on Saturday.
BOYNUYOGUN, Turkey -- An anti-Syrian government activist described weeks he spent in the regime's torture chambers, saying he sometimes wished death would come and relieve him of the overwhelming pain.
"You hear the voices," Yousef Dandash, a 25-year-old merchant from Jisr al-Shughour in Syria's northern Idlib, told NBC News' Richard Engel on Saturday. "You hear the sounds of men crying, real men shouting from the depth of their hearts. You ... pray that God takes you before you go back to the torture."
Speaking at a refugee camp on the Turkish border with Syria, Dandash said he was detained for six weeks in March after tearing up a picture of President Bashar Assad in public.
"They took me to solitary confinement … with no access to a toilet," he said. "Every day there was beating and torture (and) electricity."
He showed NBC News scars that he said were caused by prolonged bouts of torture.
His captors then took him to the capital Damascus, where he was put in a virtual underground city, Dandash said.
"There the torture and the beating started. I was blindfolded all the time and my hands tied behind my back," he said.
Dandash managed to flee to Turkey after security forces took him back to a detention center in his town, where a judge decided to release him until his trial. His brother Ammar, who was a soldier, deserted and came with him across the border.
As dozens more Syrians die in a government crackdown, a few make it over the border to neighboring Turkey. NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel reports.
The growing numbers of Syrians fleeing to the country's neighbors attest to the growing violence in Syria where Assad is trying to suppress a months-long rebellion. Some 10,000 refugees are now registered in tented refugee camps and the number is rising steadily.
On Sunday, voting was under way in the referendum on a new constitution in some parts of the country. Assad has said the poll will lead to a multi-party parliamentary election in three months, but his opponents see the vote as a joke given Syria's turmoil.
The Syrian government, backed by Russia, China and Iran, and undeterred by Western and Arab pressure to halt the carnage, maintains it is fighting foreign-backed "armed terrorist groups."
Unwilling to intervene militarily and unable to get the U.N. Security Council to act amid Russian and Chinese opposition, Western powers have imposed their own sanctions on Syria and backed an Arab League call for Assad to step down.
Dandash called the international stance on his country "weak" and "impotent” and called for the world to arm anti-Assad forces, not send humanitarian aid.
"We do not want food and water," he said. "We need rifles and ammunition."
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NBC News' Richard Engel, Reuters and The Associated Press.