One of the of the vagaries of the Syrian regime is its tendency to locate security (Mukhabarat) branches in residential neighborhoods. My family home is quite close to one such branch, one of the most notorious in Syria.
These branches do not have any signs, but everyone knows what they are and no one makes the mistake of (openly) seeking information about them. Three years ago, three curious Jordanian tourists inquired about a nameless building they were staying close to in Damascus. They disappeared for three weeks. The then prime minister of Jordan, Nader Al-Dahabi, had to personally ask for their release.
According to former detainees, all Mukhabarat branches have underground cells and, of course, torture chambers. You don’t have to be imaginative to conjure this picture: People going about their lives, housewives setting lunch, students studying for an exam, children playing soccer, and only a few meters away, in dark underground cells, detainees withering away at the inhumanity of their captors. And here is the ugly part: Not only do people know what these nameless buildings are, most know what occurs inside of them.