Thousands of people have watched a video showing a Syrian refugee and former prisoner reacting to the news that he was accepted into a prestigious US university, an achievement beyond his wildest dreams.
“I made it into Georgetown!” Omar Alshogre shouted triumphantly in the nine-second video after learning that he was to study business administration and entrepreneurship at Washington’s Georgetown University. The video has been viewed more than 150,000 times.
But only a few years ago, Mr Alshogre’s future was much more uncertain.
He was one of about 128,000 people arrested for protesting during the Syrian uprising. He was detained seven times for demonstrating between 2011 and 2013.
The teenager spent three years in dungeons set up by President Bashar Al Assad’s regime as the country descended into civil war.
Mr Alshogre was tortured and denied food. Two of his cousins who were detained with him died of starvation. Fourteen-thousand Syrians arrested during the uprising were tortured to death, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
When he was in jail, Mr Alshogre lost his father and brother to a regime onslaught on his home village. While behind bars, he also had to clear prisoners’ corpses and mark their foreheads.
The young man was eventually freed after his mother saved up enough money to bribe officials for his release. Mr Alshogre then fled to Sweden with his family.
“I grew up in a family where my father was really serious about education,” Mr Alshogre said.
In Washington, he testified to German solicitors and European war crimes investigators who are building cases against the Assad regime.
Mr Alshogre campaigned as a public speaker and human rights activist before going on to become director for detainee affairs at the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a campaigning organisation.
“I am one of the few survivors who is really enjoying his life and benefiting from everything I went through,” he said.
“Now I got into one of the best universities. At every step I am taking, I am showing the Syrian regime that they could not break me. And that’s an honour for me and the [other] survivors.”