Executing OUR AUN: the Palm Tree (Febr. 24 2005) | Missing Before May 1, 2003: Iraqi families looking for their sons in American secret prisons (May 9 2005) | Detainees in the Captive Country- I and part II (May 30 2005) | In the New Iraq: The Democratic Example (June 02 2005) - Het nieuwe Irak: voorbeeld van democratie | One hour in Haditha: American Troops and Destroying Hospitals Strategy (June 06 2005) | Al-Qaim Hospital: Tragedy beyond Description (June 10 2005) | Haditha: A City Crushed under the Occupation (June 16 2005) | Al Qaim II (June 20 2005) - The Story of a Declared Attack- Al Qaim Again - Families Besieged in Refugee Camps (Oct. 07 2005) - Sectarian Cleansing Threatens Iraqi’s Future (Oct. 22 2005) - Constitution Referendum: Too Democratic to be American!! (Oct. 23 2005)
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Executing OUR AUN: the Palm Tree
Eman Ahmed Khammas (February 24 2005)
For Iraqis, palm trees are not just trees, they are members of the family, and they are almost sacred. Not only because they are mentioned in the Holy Qur'an many times, and in the prophet Mohammad teachings, in one of which he called upon Moslems to honor the palm tree, our aunt, as he called it, but also because palm trees are deeply connected to the economic, cultural and social Iraqi life through history.
Date palms are everywhere in Iraq, orchards, streets, houses, on rivers sides and in the desert. It is deeply planted in Iraqis conscience, on money, logos, military badges, poetry, paintings. Iraqi women are always glorified by comparing them to the lofty palms. Probably the most well known line in the modern Iraqi and Arabic poetry is Assayab's opening line in his Rain Song
"Your eyes are two date palm forests at dawn"
Palm tree orchards are now chopped, shoveled away and burnt by the American troops. In Daura, south of Baghdad, 50 dounams (a dounam is a measure of land = 1000 square meters) of planted dates and citrus trees orchards were destroyed. Hills of hundreds of trunks savagely cut and burnt, pile in the surrounding newly eroded lands.
"They destroyed Sheikh Mohi's orchard, Yosif's, Hamid's…." and the names go on, when Karim, 26, a farmer from the area began telling us what happened. The tragedy was so bad to him that he talks as if the whole world knew about it. "Beating, humiliating, throwing Igals (head cover) on the ground, they arrested Ghafil's sons, Omran's, Yosif's, Faisal's, Ayyal's, they destroyed Al-Ilwiya tomb"
Daura was exposed to heavy bombings, fighting, raids, and arrests through out the last year. The main street which runs for tens of kilometers beside the river is cut by huge blocks at many points. Houses demolished, fences destroyed, and the only fuel station attacked and closed; "this is the most hurting thing " says Um Omar, women farmer in her fifties " because we can not get fuel for the water pumps, our plants are dying, it has been going on for 3 months, please ask them to give us water, our animals are thirsty" .
American troops were attacked from this area. "But this is illogical" insists Um Omar, "We understand that they are after fighters, but why they attack houses, terrify families, destroy fences, why do not they go after those who attack them, why do they come to families?". She has already lost 3 cows, but water is her main concern. All of the farmers complained about the cut water, including her son, Omar, 15, who explained what happened.
"It went on for a week. They (the American troops) were attacked over there" he pointed to the river side road "they chopped the palm trees, they destroyed plants which value 30.000, they exploded the electricity converter, they even put down electricity columns, we can not operate the water pumps any more, look at our house's walls , they are full of bullet holes, they arrested tens of men, my uncle and nephew are still in jail. The people who attacked them do not live here, no one attacks the American troops at his gate, surely they understand that, so why they hurt us like this"
"But how these trunks are burnt?" an American journalist asked.
"They pile them, pour gas and set them on fire, in front of our eyes. At night they keep on firing to terrify families, they search the houses, take our personal weapons, and they blocked the roads". Omar, and many of his friends could not take the mid year exam, because his school is on the other side of the block.
Daura is a typical Iraqi rural area; anyone's business is everybody's business. Many cars stopped by asking what was going on, when they saw us talking to Omar's family, and then they drove by, too hopeless of any help possible.
But Laftah Suleiman, a blind farmer in his sixties, asked us to "tell them" to stop these hurts" three things are most forbidden in Islam: stealing, adultery and begging, we need to work to keep on living, tell them that".
Ahmed, spent 9 months in Abu Greib and Bucca prisons, and still does not know why he was arrested or released. When they arrested him "They humiliated me in front of my wife and children, they dragged me, beat me, they tied me to a thorny tree, made me climb a ladder for 4 floors with my eyes covered and my hands tied behind, and made me climb down the next day in the same way, can you imagine how difficult this was?" Ahmed was never tired of telling his story in the prison again and again. Deep feelings of injustice and humiliation run in his voice. He confirmed all kinds of bad treatment and torture that detainees in the American prisons talked about in the last two years. He saw American soldiers entering women prisoners' cells at night, and heard women shrieking afterwards. A woman officer admitted to him and many other prisoner that she knew that 95% of the prisoners are innocent. He saw old men dying in prison…etc.
Hamid, 51, was angrier. Members of his family were executed by the last regime, he was hopeful of "the age of freedom, if freedom is like this we do not want it". Hamid was standing in the middle of his shoveled down orchard." Palm trees are our ancestors' history and ours, killing them is like killing a member in the family".
"Did you ask for compensations?" I asked
"Millions would not compensate this. And any way we did complain to the Iraqi authorities, but the judge closed the case, he said there is an item in the new law that prevents the Iraqis of complaining against the American troops, and what about the humiliation, the house raids, the terror. When a tank stops by your gate and starts to fire the family is terrified. They (the American) bomb from Scania ( a bus assembly factory in the past, now a military base). What is our guilt? They raided my house, beat me, pushed me to the wall, dragged me out side "tell us about the terrorists!" they kept on asking. My brother is in jail for the last 7 months, for what do you think? For having many visitors".
We went to see the road blocks. 4 huge cement blocks were deeply implanted into the road. The road looked as if an earthquake hit it. It was sharply cut "they wired the place and exploded it from the helicopter" said Hmood who lives close the block. "They asked every body to be 10 kilometers away. Our windows and doors were destroyed". Some of Hmood's trees were chopped, the fence and the orchard's gate were damaged, but he was lucky, the bulldozer was broken before they came over everything. "I do not know why they did that this time .They searched the orchard ten times before. They used to come before, search the orchard, I offered them oranges, and they were friendlier in the past. Actually one of the soldiers was arguing with them not to destroy the orchard, they used bad words against him. He offered me $20 to rebuild the fence. I thanked him but refused to take the money". Parts of the shovel treads were still inserted in the ground.
While we were talking to Hmood, mini buses brought families and old men, dropped them near the block and turned back. They crossed the block to wait on the other side for any car that would pass by and take them ahead deep into the palm orchards where they lived. Many times when Hmood was talking about blocking the road, he used the word Israelis instead of American troops
Missing Before May 1, 2003
Iraqi Families Looking for their Sons in the American Secret Prisons
One of the major problems that the Iraqi families are going through after two years of occupation, a problem that is rarely mentioned in the media, if at all, is the case of people who disappeared during the 2003 American invasion, or after that during the occupation, whom the American authorities refuse to give any information about because they are considered dangerous, or those who are called security inmates in the American controlled prisons.
All the national and international NGOs who work(ed) in Iraq are very familiar with a reply that they always get from the American military bases or information centers, when they ask about a detainee who was arrested or disappeared in the period March 20-May 1st, 2003:
"No information about whoever was arrested before May 1st 2003", no compensations, no complains heard, nothing. On May 1st 2003, President Bush announced the end of the military operations in Iraq. It is also impossible to know any thing about those who are called security inmates, because they are the responsibility of the American Army (according to Chuck Ryan, the American officer who was responsible of the Iraq prisons late in 2003)
The disappeared may be military men, fedayeen (one who sacrifices himself for his country), or civilians who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, although all Iraq was a (wrong place) during the invasion!! But according to the International law*, even those who were involved in the military operations, and their families, have their human rights, whether they are arrested, disappeared, wounded or killed. For two years, these families have been victims of blackmail, anxiety, suspicions, and continuous relentless search in the American information centers, HR organizations, Iraqi ministries…etc, looking for any glimpse of hope to know anything about their loved ones. One mother, was so desperate, that when heard that a friend of her son dreamt that her son is buried some where. She went to that place, dug the graves …and of course found no thing.
We just want to know
Talking to these families is diving in a sea of tears of the mothers, wives, and children. "We just want to know. They (the American) can keep our sons as long as they want, but just tell us if they are alive, and where they are" a sentence you hear from almost every body who is looking for a missing loved one.
"I would give anything, everything I own to any one who tells me about Rafid", says Ghazza A. Jamil, Um Rafid, a middle aged mother of Rafid, a young man lost on April 7, 2003.
Rafid, 19 years, left to his grand father's house at 8.20 in the morning, after the curfew was lifted, he had to cross the Suspended Bridge which leads to the Republican Palace (the Green Zone now). An hour later his family heard that the Palace was raided, so his father ran to the bridge looking for him. He could not go through because of the heavy bombing. He saw many vehicles burning on the bridge "let's pray that Rafid did not go on the Bridge" he told the mother. Next day he took a blanket (just in case he found Rafid's body) and went on foot, asked an American woman officer to let him look for his son. She did. He searched all the bodies on the ground, in the cars and buses that were destroyed or burned on the bridge, the streets, the squares on the other side, but there was no trace of Rafid. They looked for days in the hospitals, the cold boxes, the graves, the mortgage, the police offices, the American bases, the CIMCS (Civilian Information Military Centers), and the prisons. Now they had files in all the human rights organizations, the HR Ministry, ICRC, the Red Crescent…etc. They put an announcement in the newspapers and in TV, but no trace of Rafid.
On November 2003, the lawyer who was helping told them that he found Rafid's name, that he was arrested in the airport and that he was transported to Camp Bucca in May 16, 2003. When the father went down to that prison he was told that Rafid's name was not there.
The lawyer told them that he got the information from Major Coleman in the Iraqi Assistance Center. They went to see Coleman, who looked in the computer lists, found the name and told them to come back in a week. They did, but this time he sent them away again saying that he was going to call them back. He did not, but they went back again all the same, he told them that Rafid's name is not there.
A released prisoner from Abu Greib told the family that Rafid was with him until February 2004. (Many prisoners told us that they were transported from Bucca to Abu Greib and back at the beginning of 2004).
Another witness is a woman, a neighbor, who thinks that she saw Rafid, in Kut police station. She said that his hands were tied and that he tried to talk to her silently, he even tried to throw his body on her many times, but the American soldier beat him. Another witness, a prisoner, told the family that Rafid is arrested in a cellar and that there are strict American guards on that prison. He said that Rafid is injured in his leg. In one of the American Information Centers in Baghdad (Jadriya), the mother was told that may be Rafid was a fedayeen," I told them that he was not, and even if he was, does this mean that the fedayeen are not going to be released", they said yes.
What was he accused of according to the lawyer? We asked
"Of not holding personal documents"
Um Rafid was very keen on sending a message. We told her that this is not TV, but she insisted that any one who reads this story please help in looking for Rafid, and also two other young men, one is called Firas Sámi Gatti'e,b.1982, who sent a message to his mother on a cigarette box, and Seif, who sent a message on his short. Rafid's mother never stopped crying bitterly during the interview. Actually she is on the verge of a break down" I talk to street pavement, ask it did Rafid walk here? Please help me, his father is dying"
Abdul Qadir was only doing his job!!
Abdul Qadir Mohsin Mehdi, b.1948, is a chief engineer in Ministry of Oil. On April 7, 2003 he left to work early in the morning, he was told to distribute fuel on the Baghdad stations. He never returned back. Eye witnesses said that he went to Daura refinery that morning and left around noon to Shalchiya station near Buratha mosque. There was heavy bombing so he left the car and hide in the nearest fuel station with two other men, an employee in the station and another man who was caught in the bombing. Ten minutes later the two men left. According to the other man, Abdul Qadir was shot and carried away by two American soldiers in an armored vehicle.
The family looked every where, asked all the relevant ministries and organizations. Ministries of Oil, Justice, and HR asked the American authorities about him, but got the same reply, no information about the missing in April 2003.
"If he is dead, we want his body. If he is alive, we want to know, that is all" his wife says." Last Christmas a priest was talking on the BBC, he said we are celebrating while there is many prisoners in Iraq whose families do not know about them". We do not know the number; it is some where between 5 and 15 thousands. There is much talk about mass grave for the dead, these prisoners are buried in life, and these prisons are mass graves for the living. We had to wait for 23 years to find the bones in Saddam's mass graves. We do not want to wait so long to find the new mass graves. We want the bones now!! We are believers, we know that every one is going to die, but we need to know. He had nothing to do with politics, never joined a party, never had a pistol, he was only doing his job"
An eye witness saw Abdul Qadir in Bucca camp, tent 9, camp 9. There were 650 prisoners in that tent. The man told her until July 2003 they were in the airport prison and that until March 2004 her husband was ok". The family asked in Bucca camp but got no positive reply.
The family formed a team of relatives to look for Abdul Qadir. They looked every where in Baghdad for two weeks after his disappearance. They searched in the hospitals, new graves which were dug on the streets sides at that time. His son Seif, a student of computer technology talks about hills of men, women and children bodies he had to look in, they were accumulated in the hospitals gardens.
The wife went to see Nebil Khoori, a representative of the American State Department in October 2003, after he was on TV receiving people's calls. In Khoori's office she gave all the information, and they promised to call her, with many other families. They never did till this minute. The wife says there are at least 6000 missing even some fedayeen are released, why do not they release him?
Abdul Qadir's wife finds that all other problems are not priority: water, electricity, government …all could be done, but for a family who is waiting for news from a father or a son, this is the priority.
Adel Has a Number, and a Ducument
Adel Abbass Lieby, 30, was an administrative army officer. On April 3, 2003 he was delivering salaries for a military unit in Yosifiya. He was shot on the way by the American troops and was injured. His friend Hasan saw him. He was taken to Yarmook Hospital. Hassan got all Adel's papers and documents and gave them to his family when he went to tell them about Adel. Then Adel disappeared. "I asked in a police station, the American officer told me to come in few days. I went back after 3 days; he told me that my son is in the airport prison"
We knew a translator in the airport, we asked him about Adel, after few days he said that he saw him near Ammash daughter (Huda Ammash), and that he was injured, he was sleeping on a hospital bed, with many medical tubes attached to his body. Another person called and said he saw Adel, who gave him our number to call.
A young man called Ala'a came to our house and asked for 10 million dinars to release Adel. He said that Adel was accused of being of in Saddam's Mukhabarat (intelligence). But my son in law believed that Ala'a was a swindler. In the end a doctor in the Red Cross asked for 3 million dinars, and gave us a document from the American troops saying that they found Adel, he has the number 905853. He told us about his exact address in Bucca prison and urged us to demand Adel's release because he was innocent".
But no matter how many they go there, they get no positive reply. Once the mother was threatened by an American soldier to arrest her and put the black sac on her head if she does not go away. He said that his mother has not seen him for 6 months too. Again the family sought help in all the ministries and HR organizations. "I want to see my son, that's all" his old mother said, crying "his daughter and wife want to see him"
Dhia's Car Deserted
Dhia Mahdi Ali Baqir Al-Sindy, b.1945, was a retired brigadier general in the Iraqi Army, the veterans' office. On April 7, 2003, he was driving his car near the airport highway, asking about his son in Al-Aamil district, he never returned back. He left after 8.00 am, when the curfew was lifted. The family could not reach the airport highway area because it was closed by the Americans for 10 days. On April 18 the family began the search. They found his car; it looked like Dhia deserted it because of the heavy bombing. People in the neighborhood said that they found the car empty. The family did not find any of the documents that were in it. A young man from the area who buried the dead said that all the injured were taken by the American helicopters from the scene. The family dug in the airport high way side, for a kilometer. They found hundreds of men and some women's bodies, they even found a bus full of bodies buried on the airport high way side.
"Are you talking about a mass grave?" we asked Dhia's wife.
"Yes, a coaster full of bodies buried on the side road, and there were many temporary graves with signs on or near, like a tree branch or a piece of cloth. But the people, who buried these bodies, were very keen on collecting details of the dead, so that they are easily recognized later. They did not see Dhia"
" I kept on looking every where, the military bases, the police stations, the prisons, until Sheikh M. from the Independent Tribal Sheikhs Association , told me that they found his name but did not tell me where he is. In February 2004, a POW lieutenant Leith Abdul Majeed, 30, said that he was arrested in an American military base in Qatar, and that high ranking officers were arrested in Kuwait. Both were gathered in Bucca in November 2004, presumably to be released, Leith was released, but then the Falloja attack began and everything was stopped.
A prisoner said that Dhia is in Bucca, that he was wounded in his abdomen that he is well now, he described Dhia very precisely and gave the family detailed information about him, that no one else would know. "We were even given a number, 116224, but when we checked it was not him".
"What I want to say" his wife, a retired employee in the Planning Ministry, explains " his body was not found, he is arrested by the American, because many eyewitnesses said that the injured were taken by helicopters, I demand that the American authorities give us his number, and if there is any charge against him, we are ready for any legal procedure, if he is proved to be guilty of any charge he can be sentenced, but if he is innocent, he should be released immediately".
Yassir Has Many Eyewitnesses
"Yassir is my nephew", said Abu Amjad, "one of the old detainees, he was arrested at the beginning of the occupation more than two years ago. Till now we do not have any information about him or where he is. The only information we have is which we get from ex-prisoners, those who have been released, we went every where, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the American military bases, the Iraqi bodies…we did not get any reply or official information".
How many times we heard this sentence?!! Almost all of the missing families say it.
Yassir, b.1975, was arrested in Radhwaniya south of Baghdad, near a detergents factory; he was driving with his friend, Salah, to Salah's house on April 4, 2003, when they got near an American group who shot them. Eye witnesses from the area said that Yassir was injured in his left arm and leg, while Salah was injured in his head and arm. Both were given first aid by the American troops and taken in an armored vehicle. Salah said that they were taken by a helicopter to a military base, which could be in Yosfiya. Salah lost conscious for 12 days. When he recovered he found himself in a military hospital in Nassiriya, in a military base called Al-Imam base, south of Iraq. He asked about his friend Yassir immediately, but got no reply. From that moment till now, there is no official news about Yassir.
"A young man called Khamis Sámi came to visit us, he was arrested with Yassir in Bucca, and he confirmed that Yassir is there. But when we went there the American authorities denied. There were many families, around thousand, asking about their sons there. In June 2003 they put a list of 30 prisoners. They said that these prisoners are in Bucca and their families can visit them. Among the names was Aisar Abbass Hneihin, an officer in the Republican Guard. But father is still looking for him till now.
We kept on looking for Yassir for the last two years in almost all the American military bases and information centers. At many times the families were given information, like the family of Jasim Hussein Sultan Al-Abidy, but then they were denied.
Last year a man called Abdul Sattar Abdul Jabbar came from Basra, he came to visit us saying that he has a message from Yassir. This man said they were arrested in the airport prison for two months after the occupation, and then they were taken to Qatar where they remained until the beginning of 2004. After that they were brought to Iraq again, and kept in a prison near Basra. Many prisoners talk about a prison near Basra but not the Bucca camp. It is some where an hour away from Basra, probably on the Iraqi-Kuwaiti borders where 3-4 thousands of Iraqi prisoners are supposed to be kept. Some of them were of the Special Guards, the Republican Guards, fedayeen and civilians from all over Iraq. His eyes were covered, but he knew that the camp was called The POW Closed Camp no. 4, the Qatar group, and he said that Yassir is in this camp and he has the number of 113453. When we look in the detainees list we do not find this number. By the way, regarding the serial numbers, there few thousands missing which are the numbers beginning from 111000-115000, you do not find them in the lists. I think these are the secret numbers, because where ever we look we do not find them.
Many of the messengers from prisons hesitate to give full information about themselves, or their addresses. They give very detailed information about the prisoners from whom they get the message, which leaves no doubt that they were with him. Obviously, they are told not to give any information, but they feel that they should help the families
*see Protocol Additional to Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (Protocol1, Article 33)
Detainees in captive country-I
Testimonies of Iraqi Prisoners In the American Prisons
(May 30 2005 (Name of the Author withheld for security reasons
Bassim Suggested Finger Prints
On July 16, 2003, at 10.30 am, Bassim Dawood Darob, left his house in Tadgi, near an American military base north of Baghdad, to go to work in the village market, when he saw an American convoy. He was not afraid or even worried. He kept on walking until he reached them, they asked him to lift his shirt, turn around, and put his hands up. He did. They searched his body even his foot fingers. Then they told him to sit down. Three cars passed by, they searched and let them go. Then they cuffed his hands and put him in their vehicle. When he asked why, a soldier told him to ask the officer. The officer said "you were trying to hit the military base towers".
"But I am unarmed?" Bassim said, the officer did not reply.
Bassim spent the next 19 months in many American prisons in Iraq. He talks about the absurdities, the bad treatment, and the humiliation he saw in prison. He was released many times, but was never out of prison. He spent days, his eyes tied, hands cuffed, without even knowing why. A woman soldier called Tane or Tain who investigated him told him that he hit the American vehicle, when he asked her about the weapon she told him that they found it. Bassim was so confident of his innocence that he suggested a finger print examination. Unsurprisingly, the result was positive. Bassim sarcastically told Tane that "either the computer was lying or you". She went mad and started shouting, but Bassim was put in the release room all the same.
But for some unknown reason, he was sent to Tikrit military camp. His hands were bleeding of the tight cuffs; he was sleeping on big hot pebbles, no food, no water…etc. When he heard his name, he realized that at last he is going to be free.
He was sent to the airport prison, camp C, again water was a dream, for drinking and washing, and of course in July the temperature reaches 55 centigrade in the shade. "But the worst thing was the Iraqi guards who were so obscene and dirty, ex criminals", Bassim remembers. Then he was sent to Nassiriya, on his way to Basra, where he was put in Camp Bucca for 4 months.
"The food so bad that you feel sick just smelling it, not eating it.
It was hot inside the plastic tents, through which the burning desert
sun was piercing. Out side the tent the sand storms were impossible.
We had two meals a day, bathroom twice. But we were 600 having
bath in half an hour. Four months later, they told me that I was going
to be released. On that day, they said sorry and returned me back
because there was no car, I said I can go to Baghdad on foot
(500 kilometers), but that was useless.
There was no investigation, nothing in Bucca, just waiting, and taking collective punishments. But Abu Greib Prison was worse. Fox and Casey were the meanest.
Who are they?
A woman and a man soldier. For them we are simply criminals. The food was miserable, but we ate it. Once they brought chicken, I could not believe my eyes. But when I began to eat, I realized that there were worms in it, I ate it, none the less. The first and easiest punishment was cutting the food, water, and leaving the toilet without cleaning for two weeks. It was horrible. There was one tab for 600prisoners. Diarrhea was normal; there were queues on the doctor's door..
On Dec14, 2003, Bassim was told that he was going to be released again, he did not believe it. He was sent to Bucca again. He had his first visit from his family on April15, 2004, 10 months after his arrest. Bassim was not tortured, but he witnessed many prisoners who were. A woman soldier peed on a religious man's beard, and raped him. He remained silent afterwards, not talking to any prisoner. Searching was very humiliating. They ask the prisoners to take off all their clothes, then they ask the prisoners to prostrate (as in prayer) and they search inside their buttocks. The prisoners went on demonstration protesting this search, so they were allowed to keep the shorts but to pull it up very tightly so that the organs would show.
On July 2004, Bassim got another release, on bail this time. The problem was how to tell his family. He was given new clothes, and even asked to shave in order to go out, but he had to wait until December to finish all the papers.
Did you hear about any women prisoners?
"I saw them. One was very old. She was arrested because they
wanted her son who was a military officer. She was crying all the
time. We organized a demonstration for her, they promised to
release her. But when we were taken to the airport prison, we
saw her there. There were about 15 women in the airport. We
saw them when they were taken to investigation. Their guards were men, but for men prisoners, the guards were women, I think this is deliberate. They know that we are from a conservative society; many women soldiers do the sexual abuses or humiliate men prisoners like putting their boots on the prisoners' heads".
What were you charged of?
"of attacking a military convoy, but to charge somebody of committing something was not taken seriously. Many prisoners had no charges; anything could be put in the papers in the appeal. I have seen many of such cases"
How do you feel now, after spending 19 months in prison for nothing?
I do not know, I can not express my bitter feelings. Many things have changed. There are many new prisons, full of innocent people. They say that the number is 9-10 thousands in all the prisons. I can assure you that they are 90-100 thousands.
Are not you afraid?
No, I am innocent.
Huda Al-Azawi Was a Victim of Blackmail
Huda, 43, is in jail now for the third time, her story is well known, not only inside Iraq. It is a big tragedy of a whole family. Huda's brother Iyad was killed under torture in Adhamiya American military base in December 2003, his body was found in Baghdad morgue 3 months later among the unidentified. Her sister Nahla was arrested with her in December 2003 for eight months. Her Brother Ali is still in Bucca Camp for a year and a half now. Her nephew, Mohammad is arrested with her now, and is in Abo Greib. Her other brother, Mo'taz, was released after 15 months in Bucca. Their problem is that they are wealthy family. They refused to be blackmailed.
Huda is a business woman. She is a contractor. According to her daughter Farah, 23, a collaborator asked her to pay him $20.000, she refused, so he gave the American bad information about her, and she was arrested in December 2003. After 8 months of torture, too bad treatment, beating (when she was released her right arm was broken), in Abo Greib , the American general apologized to her, saying that he was sorry, that her file is clean, that investigations proved that she is innocent of the charge of funding the resistance, and that she was a victim of bad information.
"She was another woman when she was released last July" Farah says. This time her house was raided by the Iraqi National Guards and the American troops together on February 17, 2005 at 2.30 am. The house was hit by sound bombs, tear gas, the doors, windows and furniture were broken. All the personal and business documents, the computers, the money, the jewelry, and the car were all confiscated. The chairs were still covered with small pieces of glass when we visited her house. The younger daughter, Noor, 14, was slapped on her face many times by one of the INGs because she was crying when they tried to separate her from her sister, Farah. They used very bad words against them.
"But all this is not a problem", Farah insists "the problem is that my mother was ill when she was arrested in February, she just had an operation in her armpit, the stitches were not removed yet. They tied her arms to her back very tightly, she was crying, they tied her feet too, and hooded her. Her medicines were not taken with her
. "After she was arrested I looked for her every were, I had no clue where she was, until my cousin who was arrested in the same night was moved from the airport to Abo Greib, and we visited him, told us that she is kept in a solitary confinement in the airport"
When were in Huda's house interviewing Farah, the Red Cross called from Amman saying that her mother sent the first letter since she was arrested 2 months ago. There was a deep feeling of resignation in the letter. Huda says that this is her fate, she asks her daughters to take care of them selves and to be brave, to try to help her. She says that she is very tired and does not feel well, but she does not need clothes or food, that she is in the airport, given the same number as in the first arrest.
How was she arrested first in 2003?
-She went to the American base herself. After they came to our house many times, asking questions, she decided to go and meet the American commander himself. They arrested her there, never released until 8 months later, psychologically destroyed. We did not know about her until 6 months later.
Huda's lawyer told us not to talk about her torture in Abu Greib in front of Farah and Noor, because she did not tell her daughters anything of that. There were 14 women with her. Their hands and legs were tied, heads hooded, they were put in solitary tight rooms. They were ordered to do the cleaning. But the most sever experience for Huda in jail was when her brother Iyad's dead body was thrown on her. He was naked , covered with bruises.
Abu Hind never imagined that he was a suspect
Abu Hind , is a middle aged widower who was arrested twice for short periods, again not knowing why. But he never imagined that he was going to be arrested simply because he is paralyzed and moves on a wheel chair for 24 years now. He was injured in 1981 in the Iraqi-Iranian war. He lives with his two teenage daughters in a village north of Baghdad.
The first time he was arrested he was fasting, coming back from the market with his young daughter, he found his house raided and surrounded by hummers and tens of soldiers. They accused him of attacking a military convoy. He was released after three days because his health deteriorated; he also suffers from kidney problems and bed ulcer.
The second time was a month later. He was arrested in the green zone, this time he was beaten and tortured. They asked him about weapons they found near the river. They kicked him on his face and his mouth was torn and bleeding. They poured cold water on his naked body in winter. After six days of torture he collapsed. When they released him he was dying. They threw him in a car station.
But why do you think they came for you?
-I think because of my look, you know with the beard. They actually said so. They asked me about the terrorists. I told them that
since I was injured in the war, it was difficult for me to keep neat. In fact they arrested many people with me, but they released me because I was dying. What I do not understand is why they raid the houses so violently, they did not need that. They were pointing their guns at me, and I am helpless, I can not even put on my clothes without help.
To Be Continued…
Detainees in the Captive Country-II
Testimonies of Iraqi Prisoners In the American Prisons
Mothers and Wives
In a three day protest that was organized by the Islamic Party, hundreds of families, mainly from Baghdad, holding pictures, documents, banners, signs, very sad stories, unanswered questions, and much tears. It was shortly after the Abu Greib prison attack last March. Visits were not allowed in the two major prisons of Abu Greib and Bucca. But many prisoners had no visits at all.
Mohamad Naif Arrak, a 17 year old boy was arrested on February 2, 2005 while he was going to school in the morning. He was crossing the highway with many other people when a military convoy was attacked. They were arrested collectively.
His mother goes to Abu Greib every day asking for him. She never gets an answer. The families who were asking for their loved ones were hit with tear gas by the prison guards.
"I just want to know how he is, I am dying every day hundreds of times just to think that my child is in this savage prison. He is just a high school student. His father is dying, please help me"
Shatha has 4 persons arrested in her family, her husband, two of his brothers and a nephew. Two of them are teenagers. They were arrested inside their house in Daura, when the whole area was raided and searched last January. The family did not hear of them since then.
Soheib Mohamad Amin, 49, a father of five children, is in jail for almost two years now. His wife could not see him since last March. She does not know why he was arrested because they did not find any thing when they raided the whole area and searched the house. The family has no financial income since then. But this is not what worries the wife:
"His health is not good" she said, crying bitterly. "He did not say that, because he does not want us to worry about him. But I can see that he is not ok, when they took him he was walking on his legs, when I saw him in prison he was carried by others. His leg was wrapped, I asked him why that was, he did not reply. But he could not walk. I want to know how he is now; I want him to be out. His children are not doing well in school. They need him. I need him. I am very tired and collapsed. Even if he is crippled, or disabled I want him back, for the sake of his family"
Jamal and Son
Jamal Bedri is ill, he suffers from a brain bleeding. He had an operation but he became epileptic since then. His son, a student in College of Sience, Khalid is also ill, he has salts in his kidneys. Both of them need continuous treatment. Both are in Bucca for 6 months. There are no visits.
What were they accused of?
We do not know, the soldiers said there is bad information about them. They searched the house and did not find anything, not even an empty bullet "I am very worried about them, the wife and mother says, I just need to know how they are, if they are given their medicines or not".
Mohammad: The American took my father
Tahir Abdul Amir, was driving with a friend in Kadhimiya when an American convoy was attacked. All the men in the area were arrested in November 17, 2004. The family searched every where, but there was no trace of him. A curious email was sent to the family saying that Tahir is alive and is arrested in the airport. But they did not get any news about him, or even the car. No number, nothing. His son knows that the American took his father. "I do not know anything else, I want to see my father" says Mohammad Tahir's son, 5 years old.
Abu Ahmad Is Afraid of Arrest Again
Abu Ahmad, who spent the last two years in different American prisons in Iraq refused to uncover his face or to give his real name, "If you see what I saw in the American prisons you would do the same"
What did you see?
"I saw soldiers having fun torturing the Iraqi prisoners, I saw thousands
of innocent people kept in jail for reasons they do not know, I saw very
old people in prison, one of them was born in 1919, I saw 10 year old children, I saw women, one of them was 23, forced to go around in prison in front of every body in her underwear, all her crime was that her husband was an officer. I saw solitary confinement; I saw psychological torture, humiliation, deception, bad treatment, and bad conditions for two years. Once we found a lizard in the sauce. I do not want to go back there…
Abu Ahmad was arrested in the street with many other people. He had plenty of money with him. He is a car merchant. His money was confiscated, and his car, and were never returned back. His hands were tied and his head covered. He did not know his charge, until he was given a charge of bombed car. He spent months in the airport prison, Bucca camp, but he thinks that Abu Greib was the worst.
In Bucca the whether was difficult, the heat, the plastic tents, the bad food, the few cigarettes, the sand storms…A sign was written on the tents saying Welcome to the Zoo. They protested against it and it was removed. Their guards were called Creamy, Jacson, and Martina (according to his pronunciation). One of the prisoners had psoriasis, his skin ulcerated and he was bleeding. "We went on hunger strike to make the prison authorities take him to hospital. A female major saw him and ordered that he was to be sent to hospital. We wrapped him in a blanket and he was taken in a pickup, supposedly to the hospital. We realized later that he was put in what we called the silent tent, which was a solitary tent".
In Bucca there were 10 camps, Abu Ahmad says, "In each camp there are 20-25 tents, in each tent there is an average of 25 prisoners. The translator, an old Egyptian man called Abu Nasser, was a spokesman of the major. He was a big lire".
But the real agony was Abu Greib. After the finger and retina prints, the prisoners were given numbers, and sent to cages, which they call Gancies (according to the pronunciation). There were eight of them, in each one there were 20-25 tents. The conditions were very bad, cold and damp in winter. Little water in summer, bad food, that many prisoners had dysentery. The water was very bad. Once the prisoners asked the guard to drink from their impure water, he refused. The food was rotten, "smelling bad that even animals would not eat". The boiled eggs were blue. (No food) was a regular collective punishment. Many prisoners had no visitors at all.
- all those who were charged with jihad were
tortured, even if it was not true.I saw one of them, he was very old
forced to put on a red women underwear nothing else, and to go around in front of
all the prisoners. Another one was forced to sleep with a woman guard, he refused, he was tortured until he did sleep with her, then
she raped him with a special kind of belt that she put on and became like a man.. When he was returned to he was still bleeding. Another
one was called Alla' Dambi, he had one finger in his right hand. His sisters were arrested too. They were screaming and calling him for help
because they were raped. The female guards put their boots on men's heads, the soldiers would touch the dog, but would not touch an Iraqi
prisoner, they had to put on gloves. Prisoners were hanged from their hands which were tied to the back, dogs bit them. Many of them admitted things that they did not do. There was
a special kind of confinement, it is called the safe. There was no opening in it like a safe.
I saw Mohammad, he was10 years, was crying all the time. In Eid Alfitr 2003( Fast breaking feast,
after Ramadan), there was a demonstration for releasing the innocent
prisoners. It was shot by plastic and real bullets. 13 prisoners were killed, the wounded were taken to the hospital, but never returned back. Prisoners who came from other prisons, like Al-Baghdadi, or the Disco prison talk about sever torture…
What are these?
-Al-Baghdadi is the Qadissiya air base in the past, now it is an American
military base. The Disco prison is a prison in Mosul where prisoners were
tortured by too high music, to which they were forced to dance. But after the Abu Greib scandal the Gancies began to be emptied and the prisoners were sent to Bucca.
When Abu Ahmad was arrested, he was told that he was going to be asked few questions and released immediately. He was never charged. A lawyer called Hussein the Lebanese, would routinely come every six months for an appeal
This is good, isn't it?-
It would be if there is a charge. But if there is no charge what to appeal !
One of the prisoners insisted that he gets an appeal paper, so that he could
know his charge. Hussein the Lebanese gave him any paper; the prisoner found that the name and the number are not his, Hussein told him to wipe them and put his own. Another prisoner who had a PHD, was asking about his charge, the guard asked him what do you want it to be? He said "a thief" sarcastically, and that what it was. Some prisoners do not get an appeal paper for a year. After Abu Greib scandal, it became every three months…
In the New Iraq: The Democratic Example
SOS from Baladroose- First Example
This is a call for help from a town called Baladroose , north east of Baghdad.
In the Name of God the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious
A call for help from the people of Baladroose/Diyala: SOS
Ahl Assunna WA Ajjama'a in Baladroose and the surrounding villages are suffering from a campaign of arrests on identity, lead by police colonel Ali Ismael, well known as Ali Cable*, and his brother fedral police Major Walid Cable*.
These arrests included even the mosques sheikhs, among them sheikh Younis of Fajr Al-Islam mosque, sheikh Nafi' Ali Hussein, of Dahlakiya mosque, and sheikh Hamdan of Somood mosque.
Last Wednsday, sheikh Aqeel Ali Khalil,of Al-Mustapha mosque, was found dead with two bullets in his head, after he was kidnapped 10 days ago.
Detainees who were arrested inside the mosques are more than hundred. Those who were released talk about torture practices. Some of them his shoulders were wrenched, their fingers cut, some were raped, some disappeared, one of them died under torture, his name is Othman. Some were released after paying 6 million ID to an agent of Ali Cable, during the arrests all precious things were stolen from the houses, jewelry, and money. In Al-Fatimiya village, all the men in one house were arrested, money stolen, even sheep. The women went back to their parents; the houses now are empty and deserted.
Mosques are almost empty of prayers; even Friday prayers are not held.
*the Cable is a symbol of torture because it is used in whipping
2- Testimony: Curious Case, Releasing a Convict of Terrorism !!
(All details of names, dates, profession, places ...are not mentioned. The witness is very keen on giving his testimony, but he is afraid that if he reveals his identity, another charge would be fabricated against him and he would be arrested and exposed to torture again)
Abo Amr is a father of many children. One night his house was raided, the door was destroyed and tens of INGs occupied the house:
-Are you …?
-No, my name is …
-You are lying, you are all liars…
They began beating and calling bad words in front of the family. His hands were tied, head hooded, many belongings were taken: a licensed personal weapon, electric kitchen tools, like a juicer, even a plate of sweets among many other things. He was taken to the first investigation point. He thought that he is going to be released in two days at most. The room was about 15 square meters. There were 35-40 detainees in. It was cold, but the room was so crowded that the prisoners were happy with the breath of air. Some people were lying, some covered with blood, one with a broken arm…etc. Many were standing. Abo Amr could not sleep; he found a crack between the bricks, he stood beside to get some fresh air. Next afternoon, he was called for investigation.
He was taken eyes and hands tied. When he asked where to sit he was beaten.
He was asked to talk about a number of names, which he did not know. They told him that they found the names in his notebook. When he denied, He was beaten again. One of the police men asked the officer what would you like for dinner: Quozi, Biriani or Masgoof? (Names of typical Iraqi dishes)
Qouzi, the officer said. It turned out the names are of different types of torture. The Qouzi is tying the hands to the feet, and then inserting an iron stick between them and hanging the prisoner up side down by that stick (see a statue of the torture)
It was so painful; they would hit me with electric and ordinary sticks. My hands and legs were swelling. Two hours later they threw me back in the room.
-Did you sign? The prisoners asked
-Sign what? I asked. They exchanged glances.
The next afternoon, they asked me about bombed cars. They hanged me like a Qouzi again, putting off their cigarettes in my legs this time. Electrified me, I begged them to put me down. He said you are a Sunni. I said I do not mind, we are not enemies, I wished he would shoot me. The forth day I told him I will admit any thing, just do not hang me, killing, stealing, hurting people, anything…He said explosives. I told him that I do not know anything about them, He hit me on my face, I leaned down, a policeman behind me hit me by an iron stick on my back, they went on this way, until I fainted .
A new voice, asked them to give me some water, he offered me a cigarette. I could not hold it. He said " we know that you did not do anything of these acts, you are here as a witness. Just sign on these papers and you go" That was the happiest moment in my life. He made me put my fingerprints on six papers. I could not read because my eyes were still covered. When I returned back, the prisoners congratulated me. I realized that a prisoner was tortured the same way , but with inserting an iron stick in his buttocks . He was bleeding all the time
;Abo Amr was waiting with the others. 43 more people were put in the same room. Some of them more than 63 years, another had heart problems. Few days later they called him again. They removed the tie of his eyes and said "you are good
they introduced me to a man and said that he is responsible for human rights. They told me to repeat my testimony in front of him, tell him about the sheikhs who were supposed to be terrorists and he would help me go home. I did. He was sitting to a computer. He asked me to look at him and talk. The others were standing behind him, facing me, helping me remember what they wanted me to say. I realized later that they were interviewing me for TV I said what they told me to say.
I was going back when an explosion happened near the prison, one of the policemen brought a leg of a victim and said this is the end of the terrorists and those who help them like you, and he kicked me on my right side. I felt his boot inside my body, and fainted. An hour later my chest was blue, swelling, and I could not breathe. 3 days later, I was moved to another prison, the interior ministry intelligence.
The investigation officer told Abu Amr that he confessed of manufacturing bombed cars equipment.
"I told him I do not know, I was tortured and made sign these papers", one of the policemen hit me hard on my chest, I fainted. There were 150 prisoners, 3 doctors among them. One of the doctors examined me and told me that two ribs were broken. He used a bed sheet to wrap me. They told me about the 7th floor, which used to be the office of the Interior Minister in the last regime, now it is the investigation floor: Torture. There, prisoners died under torture, one his pelvis was broken, many were raped, beaten by iron sticks…etc. One of them, Rasool, his wife was raped in front of him. A doctor's fingers were pulled out by pincers. A teenager lost his mind. He said he had the world map on his back. It was covered with traces of whipping 9 months ago. Another one had a deep wound in his arm; he was tied for weeks, until his arm was rotten and got worms. A week before I was sent here, the 7th floor was emptied of men, only women are left there. They said that there were 20 of them. They were used to put pressure on their husbands. One of them had a child of 4 with her.. I began to smell very bad; I realized that my armpit was bleeding. The flesh was rotten and open. I was called at night and beaten. Next day I was called to court. I was shackled hands and legs. The judge asked me what have you done? I said "you know, I do not". I told him the truth. The torture, the beating, the confessions, the finger prints, everything, I showed him the traces on my body. An American officer entered the room and was listening.
Two months later Abo Amr was moved again to a new prison, the notorious fifth section, in Kadhimiya. It is a well known prison from the last regime, where political prisoners were kept. It is called now the "special section", and it is supposed to be controlled by the Iraqi special police, but according to Abo Amr, it is controlled by the American. Here he was kept in a 2 by 2 meters cell, with other two prisoners. The cell has no window, no toilet, and no water. They had to pee in a bottle, and put their human waste in a sac. Beating and humiliation was a routine. They would spray pepper in the cell making the eyes hurt for three days. Some of the prisoners were kept there for 15 months. No lawyers, no visits, no contact with anybody. Two months later, Abo Amr was called to the judge again, who told him that no evidence was found to prove that he was guilty." I was not happy, I wondered what about my rights!!, what about the people that I confessed against!! I realized that the mosques sheikhs get different torture, concentrating on sexual torture in addition to the bodily one. I had to pay one million ID to be free" .
Since his release Abo Amr is on the run, he is afraid if he goes home he would be arrested again. His house was raided again by the American troops. A message was left , saying in Arabic, and in English:" We apologize for the damage to your home. We received a bad tip. You may recover your property and collect financial payment for property at Falcon (Scania). Please go to India gate to collect your property and money" the letter was signed by Let. Follinsbee. Abo Amr thinks that this is a trap.
Abo Amr did not know that we have already interviewed the sheikh against whom he confessed, Sheikh N, who is on the run for months, is in his sixties, he says:
"After the occupation and the disappointment when it was obvious that it was not liberation at all, I found that my duty as an Imam is to tell the truth, which the occupiers did not like. They contacted me; an officer called Williams came with other 4 officers to see me and to ask me what I wanted. They offered me a job of the local council and some contracts. I told them that this is not my job, and that what I want them to do is to stop humiliating the Iraqis, not to put the sacs on their heads during arrests, not to put boots on their heads, or to throw them to the ground…etc. They agreed and asked: If we do these things are you going to stop criticizing us in your speeches, I said: no, my duty is to say the truth, and the truth is bitter.
I began to receive letters, the mosques was raided many times. The last letter they offered me a job of a leader of the Karkh area. I realized that it is a trap. The raids became more, twice a day. During the Friday prayer, the tanks surround the mosque, the same during Ramadan. The soldiers told the prayers that they are going to kill me. I received many threats from Iraqis too. I used to read them in the mosque and show them to the people, and reply.
On the day of the elections, they raided the mosque again; the mowathin (who calls to prayer), the guard and some people were there. There were no weapons in the mosque, only three authorized guns. They asked the mowathin to accompany them up the minaret to search. When they came down, there were two missiles in the mosque. I swear by the name of God, by all his great names, by the Holy Book, that the mosque was clean of any weapons. It was a plot well arranged in the dark. They arrested the mowathin, the guard and one of the praying, and they left a message that I can find them in the American headquarter, that I have to go there, for them to be released.
My house was raided next, 2 airplanes, 4 armored vehicles, 6-7 cars of INGs, lighting bombs, soldiers jumping of the fences, doors broken, bullets shot, shouting, holding guns against sleeping women and children…they even killed my dog. My little daughter, Sara, is still suffering from the shock, she goes hysterical when ever she sees or hears about them.
All the family left the house now, it is deserted. They are after me so violently, they ask all my friends and relatives, they cut my pension, and I work in the mosque for 13 years as a volunteer, all these harms just for a false and unjust word. They arrested my second son, as a hostage.
In the jail N's son met Abo Amr, who was already badly tortured and his ribs broken. Abo Amr told N's son that he was unable to bear the torture and sent the sheikh a message asking him for forgiveness if he saw him saying bad things against the sheikh on Al-Iraqiya TV channel. He told N's son that his testimony was dictated on him, to say that the sheikh was a terrorist.
Sheikh N is well known in his community which is of a Shiite majority as a very reasonable imam. He is a Sunni, but speaks of the Islamic Hussein revolution thousands of years ago, and the 12 Shiite Imams, better than any Shiite speaker, according to the neighborhood who confirmed that the sheikh was always talking against any sectarian conflict. He was accused of terrorism "I believe that a drop of a Moslem blood is greater than the Great Kaaba, how could I possibly be a terrorist?" The newspapers wrote about the sheikh very bad stories accusing him of immoral stories and terrorism…etc.
The Sheikh's older son is in jail since September27, 2004. But this is another story. This one who works in the university, was going back home with some friends when an American convoy was attacked in Al-Jihad district. All the men around were arrested, they were about 25. He spent 5 months in jail, when the Iraq judge found him not guilty and ordered releasing him. He is still in jail till this moment. His charge is of passing by the American convoy. The sheikh is not angry, but very sad. "There is a conspiracy against Islam, we have to face it. The only solution for Iraq is that the Iraqis are united against the enemy"
The sheikh's wife was crying all the time. She could not forget the raid, the noise, the lights, the searching, stealing the jewelry, the money, the documents, and the books. An officer called his superior saying that the house is clean, that the sheikh was not there, only his son. He was told to bring the son. Sara was so afraid that she could not even open her eyes. "I can not go back and live in the house again, while my husband and my son are not there"
Her daughter in law had a miscarriage because of the shock.
4- A Mother Was Arrested for Asking about Her Son
Um Dhia is 56. On December 31, 2004, her son Dhia who is a sheep merchant went to Najaf, about 200 kilometers south west of Baghdad, for a deal. He never returned back. Five days later, his mother, father, uncle and two relatives from Najaf went to ask about him in the police stations in Najaf. They never returned back, except the two relatives. A week later the rest of the family were asking in the garages if there was any accidents on the high way, or any explosions in Najaf. They found out that every body was arrested.
The Family asked a lawyer to look for them, they were afraid that any one, who was going to go looking for them, would be arrested. The lawyer told them that 2 days before Dhia went to Najaf, there was an explosion. And according to the emergency law, any suspect was arrested. Dhia was arrested at a check point, he was unarmed. When the family went to ask about him, the police officer welcomed them with hospitality, told them that he does not know anything about Dhia, but when they left, they were followed by a police patrol and were arrested.
In the Najaf police station the three were tortured. They were kept in separate dark cold rooms with their hands tied. They were beaten and humiliated. The mother asked to see her son. He was brought to her, beaten and tortured in front of her. She collapsed and moved to a hospital, so did the father and the uncle. From the hospital the whole family was moved by airplane to the Interior Ministry in Baghdad. The lawyer said he could not do any thing for them because they were accused of terrorism.
Dhia is a father of 5 children. His family does not know anything about him till now. But his father, mother and uncle got visits. The mother, however, was moved again to Al-Amiriya prison for greater crimes, because the women prison in the Interior Ministry was too crowded. The men remained in the same prison, 50 in one room. She was kept in the prison with other 20 women, who were accused of different crimes. One of them was tortured so badly that she was hysterical; she keeps on asking about her son, she tears her clothes, beats herself and cry all the time. She was older than Um Dhia.
The four children, who were left alone, all students, are looked after by the relatives. The younger boy, Atheer, runs the father's shop. The family, who looks so far away from any political interest, is shocked and terrified when they talk about the prison "one of the men was dead because of torture, he was sexually abused, the other was paralyzed," said Aous , the second son.
"In Al-Amiriya, one prisoner was tortured by electricity; he was made to admit things that he did not do, like spreading leaflets", Atheer wanted to sound mature.
Dalfa' ,18, the second daughter who is a student in the Commerce high school, believes that her mother is a strong woman: " she is fasting since she was arrested months ago. She looks weaker and exhausted now. She does not talk about the prison.", but the little daughter Ala', 11, misses her mother : "I need her, they do not let me visit her in prison". Dalfa' thinks that it is better that the little Ala' does not see her mother in prison.
De Ahl Assunna WA Ajjama'a (Soennieten) in Baladroose en de omliggende dorpen lijden onder een campagne van arrestaties, geleid door kolonel Ali Ismael, beter gekend als Ali Cable*, en zijn broer bij de federale politie, majoor Walid Cable*. Er worden zelfs sheikhs uit de moskeeën opgepakt, onder hen sheikh Younis van de Fajr Al-Islam moskee, sheikh Nafi' Ali hussein van de Dahlakiya moskee en sheikh Hamdan van de Somood moskee. Vorige week, tien dagen nadat hij was gekidnapt, werd sheikh Aqeel Ali Khalil van de al-Mustapha moskee, dood teruggevonden met twee kogels in het hoofd.
Er werden meer dan honderd mensen in de moskeeën gearresteerd. Degenen die terug werden vrijgelaten spreken van folterpraktijken. Sommigen hadden verrokken schouders, afgesneden vingers; sommigen werden verkracht; anderen zijn spoorloos verdwenen. Eén van hen stierf onder de martelingen; zijn naam was Othman. Er werden gevangenen vrijgelaten nadat ze zes miljoen Iraakse dinar betaalden aan een agent van Ali Cable. Bij de arrestaties werden alle waardevolle dingen uit de huizen gestolen: juwelen en geld. In Al-Fatimiya werden alle mannen van een woning gearresteerd, het geld werd gestolen en zelfs de schapen werden meegenomen. De vrouwen gingen terug naar hun ouders; de huizen zijn nu leeg en verlaten.
In de moskeeën wordt bijna niet meer gebeden; zelfs het vrijdagsgebed blijft nu uit.
* De kabel (cable) is een symbool voor foltering. Elektriciteitskabels worden als zweep gebruikt.
(Niet alle details van namen, data, beroep, plaatsen,... worden vermeld. De getuige is erop gebrand zijn verhaal te doen, maar hij is bang om zijn identiteit vrij te geven. Hij vreest dat dan een andere zaak tegen hem zou gefabriceerd worden en hij opnieuw gearresteerd en aan martelingen blootgesteld zou worden.)
Abo Amr is vader van meerdere kinderen. Op een nacht werd zijn huis door de Iraakse Nationale Garde overvallen. De deur werd ingebeukt en tientallen ING's bezetten het huis.
- Bent u ... ?
- Nee, mijn naam is ...
- Je liegt, Jullie zijn allemaal leugenaars...
Ze begonnen te slaan en beledigingen te uiten voor de ogen van de familie. Zijn handen werden vastgebonden en hij kreeg een kap over zijn hoofd. Verschillende bezittingen werden meegenomen: een persoonlijk wapen met vergunning, elektrische toestellen zoals een fruitpers, zelfs een schotel met zoetigheden en nog andere zaken. Hij werd naar de eerste plaats van ondervraging gevoerd. Hij dacht dat hij ten laatste na een dag of twee wel zou vrijgelaten worden. De ruimte was ongeveer vijftien vierkante meter groot. Er bevonden zich vijfendertig à veertig gevangen. Het was er koud, maar de kamer was zo overbevolkt dat de gevangenen blij waren met een beetje frisse lucht. Sommigen lagen neer, er zaten gevangenen onder het bloed, één had een gebroken arm, enz... Verschillende gevangenen stonden recht. Abo Amr kon niet slapen; hij vond een barst tussen de stenen waarlangs hij wat frisse lucht kon ademen. De volgende namiddag werd hij voor ondervraging weggevoerd.
Met gebonden ogen en handen werd hij weggeleid. Toen hij vroeg waar hij mocht gaan zitten sloegen ze hem.
Hij werd ondervraagd over een aantal namen die hij niet kende. Ze zegden dat ze deze namen in zijn notitieboek gevonden hadden. Toen hij dat ontkende, werd hij opnieuw geslagen. Eén van de politie-agenten vroeg aan de officier wat hij voor het avondeten wenste: Qouzi, Biriani of masgoof? (Dit zijn namen van typische gerechten.)
“Quozi”, zegde de officier. Het bleken namen van verschillende soorten folteringen te zijn. De Qouzi is het vastbinden van handen en voeten, om dan met een ijzeren stok ertussen ondersteboven opgehangen te worden. (zie afbeelding)
Het was zo pijnlijk. Ze sloegen me met elektrische en gewone stokken. Mijn handen en benen zwollen op. Twee uur later smeten ze me terug in de kamer.
- “Heb je getekend?” vroegen de gevangenen.
- “Wat getekend?” vroeg ik. Ze wisselden blikken.
De volgende namiddag ondervroegen ze me over bomauto's. Ze hingen me opnieuw op als een Qouzi en drukten hun sigaretten de hele tijd uit op mijn benen. Ze elektrocuteerden me en ik smeekte hen me neer te laten. Hij zegde dat ik een soenniet was. Ik zegde dat het me niet kon schelen; we zijn geen vijanden. Ik wenste dat ze me zouden doodschieten. De vierde dag vertelde ik hem dat ik alles zou toegeven, als ze me maar niet weer zouden ophangen: doden, stelen, mensen pijn doen, alles... Hij zegde: “explosieven.” Ik zei hem dat ik er niets van wist en hij sloeg me in mijn gezicht. Ik boog voorover en een politieman achter me sloeg me met een ijzeren staaf op mijn rug. Het ging zo verder tot ik het bewustzijn verloor.
Een nieuwe stem vroeg hen me wat water te geven en hij bood me een sigaret aan. Ik kon ze niet vasthouden. Hij zegde:”We weten dat je niets van die handelingen gedaan hebt. Je bent hier als getuige. Onderteken deze papieren en dan kan je gaan.” Dat was het gelukkigste moment in mijn leven. Hij liet me mijn vingerafdrukken op zes formulieren zetten. Ik kon niet lezen wat er op stond, want mijn ogen waren nog steeds bedekt. Ik keerde terug en de gevangenen feliciteerden me. Ik begreep dat een gevangene op dezelfde wijze was gefolterd, maar hem hadden ze een ijzeren staaf in zijn anus gestoken. Hij bloedde de hele tijd.
Abo Amr zat samen met andere gevangenen te wachten. Er werden nog drieënveertig mensen in dezelfde kamer gezet. Sommige van hen waren ouder dan drieënzestig jaar. Eén van hen had hartproblemen. Een paar dagen later werd hij opnieuw geroepen. Ze haalden de blinddoek van zijn ogen en vroegen: “Ben je in orde?”
Ze stelden me voor aan een man en zegden me dat hij verantwoordelijk was voor mensenrechten. Ze vroegen me mijn getuigenis voor hem te herhalen, te vertellen over de twee sheikhs die terroristen zouden zijn. Daarna zouden ze me naar huis helpen. Ik deed wat ze van me vroegen. De man zat bij een computer. Hij vroeg me om hem aan te kijken en te spreken. De anderen stonden achter hem en keken me aan. Ze hielpen me te herinneren wat ze me wilden laten zeggen. Later besefte ik dat ze me voor tv interviewden. Ik zegde wat ze wilden horen.
Toen ik terugging hoorde ik een explosie in de buurt van de gevangenis. Eén van de politiemannen bracht het been van een slachtoffer binnen en zegde dat dit het einde van de terroristen is, en van degenen die hen helpen, zoals ik. Hij stampte me in mijn rechterzijde. Ik voelde zijn laars in mijn lichaam en verloor het bewustzijn. Er waren honderdvijftig gevangen, onder hen drie dokters. Eén van de dokters onderzocht me en zegde dat ik twee gebroken ribben had. Hij gebruikte een bedlaken om me in te wikkelen.
Ze vertelden me over de zevende verdieping, welke vroeger, onder het vorige regime, het bureel van de minister van Binnenlandse Zaken was. Nu is het de ondervragingsverdieping: foltering. Het is de plaats waar gevangenen door marteling stierven. Eén van hen werd het bekken gebroken, verschillende van hen werden verkracht, ze werden geslagen met ijzeren staven, enz... Eén van hen, Rasool, zijn vrouw werd voor zijn ogen verkracht. Een arts werden de vingers met een tang uitgetrokken. Een tiener werd er gek. Hij zegde dat hij de wereldkaart op zijn rug had; hij stond vol littekens van zweepslagen, negen maanden voordien toegebracht. Een andere man had een diepe wonde op zijn arm. Hij was wekenlang vastgebonden tot zijn arm begon te zweren en er wormen in kropen. Een week voor ik er aankwam waren alle mannen van de zevende verdieping verwijderd. Alleen de vrouwen bleven achter. Ze zegden dat er twintig vrouwen waren. Ze werden gebruikt om hun mannen onder druk te zetten. Eén van hen had haar vierjarig kind bij.
Ik begon vies te ruiken en besefte dat mijn oksel was gaan bloeden. Het vlees begon te rotten. Ik werd 's nachts weggeroepen en geslagen. De volgende dag moest ik voor de rechtbank verschijnen. Ik werd aan handen en voeten vastgebonden. De rechter vroeg me wat ik gedaan had. Ik zegde: “Dat weet jij, ik niet.” Ik vertelde hem de waarheid. De folteringen, de slagen, de bekentenissen, de vingerafdrukken, alles. Ik toonde hem de sporen ervan op mijn lichaam. Een Amerikaanse officier kwam de kamer binnen en luisterde mee.
Twee maanden later werd Abo Amr naar een nieuwe gevangenis gevoerd, de bekende 'vijfde sectie' in Kadhimiya. Deze gevangenis is nog zeer bekend van het vorige regime. Daar werden toen de politieke gevangenen vastgehouden. Nu wordt het de 'speciale sectie' genoemd, en zou door de Iraakse politie bemand zijn. Volgens Abo Amr zitten echter de Amerikanen erin. Hij werd samen met twee andere gevangenen in een cel van twee bij twee meter gezet. Er was geen raam, geen toilet en geen water. Ze moesten in een fles urineren en hun behoefte in een zak doen. Slagen en vernederingen behoorden tot de routine. Er werd ook pepperspray in de cel gespoten, zodat hun ogen drie dagen lang brandden. Sommige gevangenen werden er vijftien maanden vastgehouden. Ze mochten geen advocaten of bezoek ontvangen en hadden met niemand contact. Twee maanden later werd Abo Amr opnieuw bij een rechter geroepen. Deze vertelde hem dat ze bewijzen voor zijn schuld hadden gevonden.
Ik was ongelukkig en vroeg me af hoe het met mijn rechten zat! En wat moest er nu met de mensen waartegen ik bekentenissen had afgelegd? Ik begreep dat de sheikhs van de moskeeën andere soorten van foltering moesten ondergaan. Zij werden naast de gewone folteringen ook seksueel gemarteld. Ik moest een miljoen Iraakse dinar betalen om vrij te komen.
Sinds hij vrijgelaten werd, is Abo Amr op de vlucht. Hij is bang dat als hij weer naar huis gaat ze hem opnieuw zouden arresteren. Er was een nieuwe razzia in zijn huis, door de Amerikaanse troepen deze keer. Er werd een bericht achtergelaten, in het Arabisch en in het Engels: “We vragen ons te verontschuldigen voor de schade aan uw huis. We hadden een verkeerde tip gekregen. U mag uw bezittingen en financiële schadeloosheidsvergoeding komen afhalen op Falcon (Scania). Gaat u naar de Indische poort om uw bezittingen en geld in ontvangst te nemen.” De brief was getekend door Lt. Follinsbee. Abo Amr denkt echter dat dit een valstrik is.
Abo Amr wist niet dat we de sheikh, waartegen hij bekentenissen had afgelegd, reeds geïnterviewd hadden. Sheikh N., een zestiger, is nu reeds maanden op de vlucht. Hij vertelt:
Na de bezetting en de daaropvolgende ontgoocheling omdat duidelijk werd dat er van bevrijding helemaal geen sprake was, zag ik het als mijn plicht als imam om de waarheid te vertellen. Dat zien de bezetters niet graag gebeuren. Ze namen contact met me op. Een officier, Williams genaamd, kwam samen met vier andere officieren om me te vragen wat ik wilde. Ze boden me een betrekking aan in de lokale raad en enkele contracten. Ik zegde hen dat dit niet mijn taak is en dat ik van hen verwacht dat ze ophouden de Irakezen te vernederen; geen zakken over hun hoofden trekken, geen laarzen op hun hoofden zetten, hen niet op de grond gooien, enz... Ze zegden akkoord te zijn en vroegen: “Als we gevolg geven aan je verzoek, zal jij dan ophouden met ons te bekritiseren in je toespraken?” Ik antwoordde: “Nee, het is mijn plicht de waarheid te zeggen, en de waarheid is bitter.”
Toen begon ik brieven te ontvangen en de moskee werd geregeld overvallen. In de laatste brief boden ze me een job aan als leider van de Karkh regio. Ik begreep dat dit een valstrik was. De razzia's kwamen frequenter voor, tweemaal per dag. Tijdens het vrijdagsgebed werd de moskee door tanks omsingeld en ook tijdens de Ramadan was dit het geval. De soldaten zegden aan de gelovigen dat ze me gingen doden. Ook van Irakezen ontving ik verschillende bedreigingen. Ik las ze meestal voor in de moskee, toonde ze aan de mensen en deelde mijn antwoord erop mee.
Op de dag van de verkiezingen werd de moskee opnieuw overvallen. De mowathin (degene die tot het gebed oproept), de bewaker en een paar andere mensen waren aanwezig. Er waren geen wapens in de moskee, met uitzondering van drie geweren met vergunning. Ze vroegen de mowathin hen te begeleiden naar de minaret om wapens te zoeken. Toen ze weer beneden kwamen, bleken er twee raketten in de moskee te liggen. Ik zweer bij de naam van God, bij al zijn grote namen, bij het Heilige Boek, dat de moskee vrij van wapens was. Het was een goed voorbereid complot. Ze arresteerden de mowathin, de bewaker en één van de gelovigen die kwamen bidden, en ze lieten de boodschap na dat ik hen in het Amerikaanse hoofdkwartier kon vinden. Ik moest erheen gaan om hun vrijlating te bekomen.
Vervolgens werd mijn huis overvallen; twee vliegtuigen, vier gepantserde voertuigen, zes of zeven auto's van de ING's, lichtbommen, soldaten sprongen van de omheining, deuren werden ingebeukt, er vielen schoten, er werd geroepen, geweren werden tegen de slapende vrouwen en kinderen gehouden...ze maakten zelfs mijn hond af. Mijn dochtertje, Sara, lijdt nog steeds onder de shock; telkens ze hen ziet of over hen hoort wordt ze hysterisch.
De familie heeft het huis nu verlaten; het is leeg. De overheid tracht me met alle middelen te vinden. Al mijn vrienden en familieleden worden ondervraagd, ze houden mijn pensioen in, terwijl ik al dertien jaar lang als vrijwilliger in de moskee werk. Al deze schade wordt ons toegebracht ten gevolge van een leugen. Ze arresteerden mijn tweede zoon en houden hem als gijzelaar gevangen.
In de gevangenis ontmoette N.'s zoon Abo Amr. Dit was tegen de tijd dat hij al zwaar gefolterd was en zijn ribben gebroken waren. Abo Amr vertelde N.'s zoon dat hij niet in staat was geweest om de folteringen langer te doorstaan. Hij vroeg om een boodschap naar de sheikh te zenden met een bede om vergiffenis, indien hij zijn bekentenissen op Al-Iraqiya-tv zou zien. Hij vertelde N.'s zoon dat de getuigenis, waarin hij zei dat de sheikh een terrorist is, gedicteerd werd.
Sheikh N. staat bekend als een zeer verstandige imam in zijn Sjiietengemeenschap. Hij is zelf een Soenniet, maar over de islamitische Hussein revolutie van duizenden jaren geleden en over de twaalf Sjiietisch imams kan hij beter preken dan gelijk welke Sjiietische imam het kan. Dit vertellen de mensen uit zijn buurt, die bevestigen dat de sheikh altijd tegen elk sectair conflict pleitte. Hij werd beschuldigd van terrorisme. “Ik geloof dat een druppel moslimbloed groter is dan de Grote Kaaba. Hoe kan ik een terrorist zijn?” In de kranten werden lasterverhalen over de sheikh geschreven, waarin hij beschuldigd werd van immorele praktijken, terrorisme, enz...
De oudste zoon van de sheikh zit sedert 27 september 2004 in de gevangenis. Maar dat is een ander verhaal. Hij werkt in de universiteit en was samen met een paar vrienden op weg naar huis toen in het Al-Jihad-district een Amerikaans konvooi aangevallen werd. Alle mannen die zich in de buurt bevonden, dat waren er ongeveer vijfentwintig, werden gearresteerd. Hij zat al vijf maanden in de gevangenis, toen een Iraakse rechter hem niet schuldig bevond en hem vrijsprak. Op dit moment zit hij nog altijd in de gevangenis. De aanklacht luidt 'een Amerikaans konvooi passeren'. De sheikh is niet boos, maar wel zeer droevig. “We moeten het onder ogen zien: er bestaat een samenzwering tegen de islam. De enige oplossing voor Irak is dat de Irakezen zich tegen de vijand verenigen.”
De vrouw van de sheikh was de hele tijd aan het huilen. Ze kan de razzia niet vergeten; het lawaai, de lichten, de huiszoeking, de diefstal van de juwelen, het geld, de documenten en de boeken. Een officier riep zijn overste en zegde dat het huis zuiver was, dat de sheikh er niet was, alleen zijn zoon. Hij moest vervolgens de zoon meebrengen. Sara, het dochtertje, was zo bang dat ze haar ogen niet durfde te openen. “Ik kan niet terug naar het huis en daar leven zonder mijn man en mijn zoon.”
Haar schoondochter had door de shock een miskraam.
Um Dhia is zesenvijftig jaar. Op 31 december 2004 vertrok haar zoon Dhia, die schaaphandelaar is, voor een zaak naar Najaf, ongeveer tweehonderd kilometer ten zuidwesten van Bagdad. Hij is nooit teruggekeerd. Vijf dagen later gingen zijn moeder, vader, oom en twee andere familieleden naar Najaf om naar hem te informeren op het politiekantoor ter plaatse. Behalve de twee familieleden, keerde niemand weer. Een week later ging de rest van de familie in de autogarages navragen of er soms een ongeval was gebeurd, of er explosies in Najaf waren geweest. Ze vernamen dat iedereen was gearresteerd.
Omdat ze bang waren dat ze ook zouden gearresteerd worden, vroeg de familie een advocaat om naar hun gearresteerde familieleden te gaan vragen. Deze deelde hen mee dat twee dagen voor Dhia naar Najaf vertrok er een ontploffing in de stad was geweest. Volgens een noodwet wordt dan iedereen die verdacht is opgepakt. Dhia werd aan een controlepost gearresteerd; hij was toen ongewapend. Toen de familie naar hem kwam vragen werden ze onvriendelijk door de politieofficier ontvangen. Hij zegde dat hij van Dhia niets afwist, maar toen ze weer weggingen werden ze gevolgd en vervolgens gearresteerd.
In het politiekantoor van Najaf werden de drie gefolterd. Ze werden in afzonderlijke donkere, koude kamers en met geboeide handen vastgehouden. Ze werden geslagen en vernederd. De moeder vroeg om haar zoon te zien. Hij werd naar haar toegebracht en voor haar ogen geslagen en gefolterd. Ze stuikte in elkaar en werd naar het ziekenhuis gebracht. Hetzelfde gebeurde met de vader en de oom. Vanuit het ziekenhuis werd de hele familie per vliegtuig naar het ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken getransporteerd. De advocaat zegt dat hij niets voor hen kon doen, omdat ze van terrorisme beschuldigd werden.
Dhia is vader van vijf kinderen. Zijn familie weet tot nu toe niets over zijn toestand. Zijn vader, moeder en oom konden wel bezoek ontvangen. De moeder werd echter ten gevolge van overbevolking in de vrouwengevangenis van het ministerie naar de Al-Amiriya-gevangenis, een gevangenis voor zwaardere misdaden, verplaatst. De mannen bleven in dezelfde gevangenis met vijftig in één ruimte. De moeder werd in de andere gevangenis samen met twintig vrouwen, die van verschillende misdrijven beschuldigd werden, gevangen gehouden. Eén van hen werd zo hard gefolterd dat ze hysterisch werd. Ze vraagt onophoudelijk naar haar zoon, ze trekt haar kleren stuk, slaat zichzelf en huilt de hele tijd. Ze is ouder dan Um Dhia.
De overige vier kinderen, allemaal schoolgaand, worden door familie verzorgd. De jongste zoon, Atheer, houdt de winkel van zijn vader open. De familie, die zo ver van enige politieke belangen staat, is geshockeerd en doodsbang wanneer ze over de gevangenis spreken. “Eén van de mannen overleed ten gevolge van de folteringen; hij was ook seksueel misbruikt. Een ander was verlamd,” zegde Aous, de tweede zoon.
“In Al-Amiriya werd een gevangene met elektriciteit gefolterd; hij moest bekentenissen afleggen over zaken die hij niet gedaan had, zoals het verspreiden van pamfletten.” zegde Atheer, terwijl hij zo volwassen mogelijk tracht over te komen.
Dalfa', de achtienjarige dochter, die studeert aan de Handelshogeschool, gelooft dat haar moeder een sterke vrouw is: “Ze is aan het vasten sedert haar arrestatie maanden geleden. Ze ziet er verzwakt en uigeput uit. Ze spreekt niet over de gevangenis.” Maar de jongste dochter, Ala' (11), mist haar moeder: “Ik heb haar nodig en ze laten me haar niet bezoeken in de gevangenis.” Dalfa' denkt dat het beter is dat de kleine Ala' haar moeder niet in de gevangenis ziet.
Vertaling: Inge Van de Merlen
One hour in Haditha
American Troops and Destroying Hospitals Strategy : Damage beyond Repair
We were supposed to stay a whole day in Haditha. But the situation was suspiciously quite. Two Land Cruisers were left on the high way, deserted open. Some people asked how we managed to come inside the town. Actually we did not know that it was difficult. But when we left after an hour, many Hadithans shouted warning us not to go on the main cross roads; some just made signs of gun shooting. In the end one car followed us and asked the driver to stop. He did.
"You have to go to the left and take a detour, all the way to Aaloosse, the Americans are on the cross road and are shooting any approaching car, or else you stay here".
Arriving in the Haditha Central hospital at 11 am June 4, 2005 , there was huge crowd of angry men shouting: this is not right, unjust, God does not accept this, neither humanity, where is the government…these are unacceptable crimes…some were crying bitterly like women . Two young men bodies, covered with blood, were just brought inside the hospital.
On the trolleys, the two bodies were lying, both shot in the head. The first got two shots in his head, one in his chest, in his right side, part of his intestines were out. The other was shot in his head, which was smashed and his brain was out, and he has other shots in his hand and legs.
"Who are these men?"
"This is Fouad Shihab Mohammad, a truck driver. The other is Yousif Ammash, a guard in a construction plaster factory. They were bringing plaster from the factory to Haditha when the American troops opened heavy fire against them."
"Why? Were there any weapons in the truck? Was there any fighting, any blast…what happened?"
"No, there was nothing of these things. They were civilians driving on the way, bringing plaster to the town. This happens always here. Innocent people get killed for no reason. This has to stop".
Dr. Iyad, the assistant director of the hospital confirmed that dead and wounded persons are brought continuously almost every day to the hospital in Haditha, a town of 80 thousands population, about 250 kilometers west of Baghdad. The hospital looks miserable. Blackened walls, broken windows and doors, walls covered with bullets shots…could be seen everywhere in the hospital which was crowded with patient. How many times we have seen the same scene, many times in Falloja, in Ramadi, in Al-Qaim, in Talafar… Dr.Iyad describes what happened:
"On the night of May 7-8, 2005, there was fighting between the mojahideen and the American troops. A bombed car exploded on the main road behind the hospital, as it turned out. The American troops, armored, helicopters, and fighters raided the hospital around 9.30 firing on every thing and every body, you can see the bullets on the walls, sound bombs, smoke bombs…There was Soya oil in the daily ration storehouse, and it went on fire. No fire men, no volunteers to put out the fire were allowed to approach. The fire reached other sections in the storehouse, the medicines warehouse, the laboratory storage, the washing and antisepsis unit and the special wards unit and other minor facilities. The fire kept on burning for two days. These sections were totally and completely destroyed, according to the estimates of the official engineers committee. The building has to be up rooted and rebuilt again; even the roofs are dropping because of the fire.
-"It is said that there were mojahideen here?
"This pretext is neither correct nor logical. The hospital was full of patients, employees, even an operation was going on at the moment by Dr. Abdul Wahab who was operating a patient from Al-Qaim…the special ward which was destroyed most was full of patient and their families, who were badly hurt and quickly moved to Ramadi hospital, there was a full staff of specialized doctors on duty…so if all these people have minds and could think logically, would they stay in the hospital if there was fighting or fighters here?! The American troops attacked suddenly and the employees were humiliated.
How was that?""-
"Dr. Zuhair was here during the first raid, he is not here now. I was a witness on the second time the hospital was raided" replied Dr. Walid, the hospital director." On May 25 in the morning, the American troops raided the hospital again looking for mojahideen and weapons, because they thought that the May 7 attack came from the hospital. The employees were arrested in a very humiliating way, they were forced to sit on their knees, their hands up behind their heads, and the weapons in their faces and on their backs. The hospital was destroyed again, the doors were exploded by sound bombs, an hour later, after the troops finished the search, I told the officer who was responsible for them that he was holding innocent people who have nothing to do with armed activities , they are just employees doing their job".
-Haditha hospital is one of the biggest in the area, it covers many other near towns, how can you manage now?
"Originally we had many difficulties covering the whole area, after the population and the construction boom in the past" Dr. Walid replied, and with unstable security situation now, there is heavy pressure on the hospital. After the fire went away with our strategic store, we are on the zero level. We had to do our best to rehabilitate as much as possible, because the roads are cut, we simply have to attend the wounded with whatever we have. So we use now primitive ways of washing for the operation theater. We accept only some of the emergency cases, because we can not take all the patients. Many of them we send away, which of course is very risky for the patient, but our surgical capabilities are too limited now. The problem is that many people are exposed to the American shots for different reasons, they do not know, or do not understand, or they are too confused to act properly at the moment…etc. We need every thing you can think of for a hospital.
-How much do you think it requires rebuilding and supplying the hospital?
"The damaged buildings alone are estimated by the engineers to require 230 million Iraqi Dinars ($160.000)", Dr.Walid replied. "The medicines 120 million ID ($83000), the lab materials 60-70 million ID ($50.0009), Dr. Iyad added.
What are the most urgent needs now?
Both of the doctors replied "we urgently need:
1- Washing and antisepsis unit
7-medicines and medical supplies (daily uses like antibiotics, syrups, emergency medicines…etc)
9-X ray machine and electronic developer".
-Why did not you ask the Health Ministry?
"we did ", dr. Walid says," they promised to help"
-It has been a month?
"These things take time, and our need is urgent"
The laboratory materials store house was totally damaged, everything burnt "any doctor and surgeon can not work and do his investigations with out these lab materials, also the equipments." Says dr. Iyad. In the special wards traces of bullets were everywhere, some patients were arrested inside the hospital, others were badly injured.
-May be this is a naïve question, but since the attack was outside the hospital, why did the American troops ruined it?
"They say that they were attacked from the hospital. But it was a bombed car, everybody saw that. The traces are still there on the main road, you can see it and film it. This is I think part of the media thing, to say that there were terrorists inside the hospital"
Yousif's head was smashed………………Fouad had two shots in the forehead.
The Warehouse unit
Bullets on the walls
Daily ration unit
Medicines and supplies shelves
The administration and the special wards unit
To be continued
Al-Qaim Hospital: Tragedy beyond Description
Sabah Ali (June 10 2005)
The picturesque and peaceful landscapes on the way to Al-Qaim contradict sharply with the tragic reality this little town more than 400 kilometers to the west of Baghdad, lives in for more than two years. The Euphrates flows slowly and calmly among many villages and small townships, those we rarely hear of in the news: Karabla, Ebeidy, Rommana, Al-Ish…surrounded by fruit orchards. Bombed houses on the way say something…but the reality is beyond description" as Dr. Hamdi Al-Aaloossy says
.Dr. Hamdi was not in Al-Qaim when we arrived, but he came all the way from another city to meet us. He was very angry.
"What are you going to do for us? Once after I did an interview, the American troops came here and held me for more than 4 hours in my office. They did not leave until I show them the medical records and documents to support what I said in that interview"
What did they want?
-They asked me why I said that the casualties were women and children while the American military spokesman said they were terrorists. I told them that the casualties I treated here were women and children and showed them the medical files.
ِAfter we had a tour in the hospital, listening to what the patients and employees had to say, we found out that his anger was the least we could expect. Dr. Hamdi had to work, protect his medical staff, and help the hundreds of urgent cases in extremely difficult, almost impossible, situation without any help.
"The events began on May 2, 2005" Dr. Hamdi began his description of the situation, "there was fierce fighting, the hospital became a battle field. After 3 days of fighting and shelling on the hospital we decided to go to an alternative one in the center of town. We gave first aid, blood transfusions, nutritious solutions and medicines. We saved many lives in very difficult circumstances. We were under huge pressure. The ambulances movement was very limited, we could not do many operations, but we managed to save many children. There were many casualties, the majority civilians, tens of dead bodies, tens of the wounded. The situation was so tragic. We sent many calls of help to humanitarian organizations and to the fighting parties too, to stop the blood bath. Thanks to God that the situation stopped at this point. We ask God peace and security for this town".
"But other towns were exposed to heavy bombing, in Karabla and Rommana, many were killed. We could not reach them until after the fighting was over. I advice you to go there and see the damage, the demolished houses, and the victims who were buried under the rubbles. There were tens of them. In one house 4 were killed and 7 wounded, this is one example. The bombing and shells do not differentiate between civilians and fighters; they do not know children, old people, and women. The horror was so great. Many families fled to the desert, with nothing, only the sand and the sky. It was a human tragedy; we ask God that it will not happen again"
What about the number of casualties?
-42 people were killed, more than 50 injured. I assure you that the majority were civilians, women, children and old people. In Rommana 6 people were killed in one house, 5 in another.
What about the alternative hospital?
- It is a diwan (big guest room or hall) in one house. The family volunteered to host us. It was not easy to work, but we did our best, as we say in Arabic "the less harmful", we had two choices: either stay in and jeopardize the lives of the medical staff, or leave the town. The fighting went on for almost two weeks. We could work in Al-Qaim only. We managed to send some medical help to Karabla, but the roads to Rommana were closed, we could not help them, and we apologized to them through some satellite channels. But we went to see them after the fighting was over.
Who helped them?
I can not say, but some of the wounded were moved to Mosul through the desert. In Ebeidi they had an alternative hospital, and we sent them a surgeon and an anesthetist.
It was tragic because we could not move the injured to a hospital, we could not send an ambulance out, and we did not know how to behave.
What about on normal days, not during military operations, are there any casualties?
-certainly, there are the American snipers. There are casualties every day. But of course when there are military operations the number is much higher, the situation becomes indescribable. Not enough medical supplies, very limited ambulance movement, difficult conditions…the second day in the alternative hospital, a bomb exploded few meters away. In normal situation there are the land mines, the snipers, the clashes, there is no single day without firing, casualties, and families leaving town.
In such (NORMAL) situation, do you have enough medical supplies especially for emergency cases?
-The Red Crescent, the Humanitarian Relief and other organizations helped us, but the situation is too difficult, and we certainly need more help…
What are the damages in the hospital?
- The hospital was partially damaged, we lost 2 ambulances and one Land Cruiser, the air-conditions, electricity net, water, medical instruments, doors, the building ….etc. We call upon humanitarian organizations for help. In the alternative hospital, we could do different types of operations: blood, nutritious solutions, surgery, amputation, and lung paracentesis. We had to chose between leaving the injured to death or do what ever we can do to save their lives. As doctors we can not go to our private clinics, which are closed now. We attend patients in houses and in the streets…
In the streets?!!!
-Yes, we stop on the road to examine a patient. Snipers do not differentiate between people, also the shelling, the mortars and the bombing. The casualties are so many.
The whole atmosphere in Al-Qaim was tense. The sign that said "Welcome in Al-Qaim" at the main entrance of the town disappeared. The main commercial street was mysteriously deserted; many houses and public buildings were destroyed to the ground.
In the hospital, a crowd of men were waiting, one of them was crying. Traces of shelling, bullets, blasts were obvious on the walls, the broken windows, the ambulances and the air-conditions. In the emergency ward, a young man, Quosai, was lying, his head and chest wrapped, respiratory tube on his nose, another tube coming out of his bleeding lung. Quosai has a shoes-shop in the market. He was opening his shop when an American sniper shot him in the head and chest.
How is he now?
-unstable, Dr. Lam'an, who volunteered to show us around replied. "His right lung is torn, and we do not know about his head injury yet, he has to be sent to Baghdad for further examination, we do not have the equipments hear. Yesterday we sent another injured man; he passed away on the way to Baghdad".
A man volunteered to talk: "This is happening every day. Women and children are killed everyday. A 9 year old boy was injured with Quosai, and another man in a jewelry shop. The same place, the same street, every day. The snipers are everywhere, they occupy the high buildings, and they shoot randomly. 5 women were killed in a month, one of them is very old, she was going to the bank to receive her pension, the car was shot and 4 people were killed in the spot, including her".
The man who was crying outside turned out to be Quosai's brother. He was crying bitterly, and could not hide his anger "we are innocent civilians going to work. The American snipers are hiding everywhere aiming at who ever they want. We can not do anything, and this has been going on for months, snipers, airplanes, mortars, bombing. God will avenge us against them."
All the people of Al-Qaim say that the customs building, which gives on the main commercial street, and which is occupied by the American troops and used as their headquarters, is the point where the snipers are shooting people from.
Facing Quosai was a 10 year old boy, Ahmad Abdullah. His nose, hands, abdomen were all connected to many tubes. His abdomen was wrapped. Ahmad was going home from school after receiving his final report, he had good marks, and was very happy to be in the forth grade, when a mortar shell torn his stomach, liver and pancreas. He had shrapnel in his head. "What actually happened was that a mortar shell was dropped, Ahmad was afraid, and he came running into the house when the second shell was dropped and injured him. There were no armed fighter around, no terrorists, the American were shooting randomly and continuously", his father explained.
In the children ward, two women were preparing the kids who suffers from diarrhea, to leave, holding with them the medicines and the solution bottles,
Where are you going?
We are leaving; it is not safe to stay in the hospital. They began to talk about the problems we hear from almost all the Iraqi mothers nowadays: the milk is expensive, the fathers are unemployed, life is difficult…etc. The ward itself was miserable, with the old equipments, ruined and bare beds. The women ward was not better, neither the labor and delivery rooms. Dr. Lam'an explains that there is a new delivery hall, but it is closed "we do not have a cadre, no assistant doctors, no nurses, no anesthetists…they are not willing to work here. Few months ago a woman doctor and her fiancée, who is also a doctor, were killed, the anesthetist was beaten badly by the American troops. He refused to come back to work for a month".
The only operation theater in hospital was not in a better shape. The windows were closed by bricks because every time the glasses were repaired, a blast destroys them. The doors are destroyed by soldiers' kicks or blasts. "All kinds of operations are done here" explained Dr.Lam'an, "Al-Qaim is a town of 200.000 population. You can imagine the pressure, with all the wounded and the women cases. We added a new operation table now, but the place is miserable as you can see". The walls were cracked; the operation table was broken and supported by a piece of wood. "This is our electronic door" Dr. Lam'an was sarcastically pointing at an aluminum door which has been broken and repaired many times.
"Nothing is left unbroken here" says Abu Mohammad, a male nurse and assistant administrative employee "the doors, the equipments, the windows, the cars…they say that we treat terrorists here, but when a patient is brought we do not ask if he is a terrorist or a soldier. I' ve been working here for 30 years, nothing like this happened under Saddam, with all his injustice. No doctor was ever beaten or humiliated. No doctor was arrested. We got rid of Saddam, but all the woe began. If you see the autopsy files, all of them are women and children. 50% of Al-Qaim people run away, in my area only three families are left, the houses are deserted, the shops are closed. They (the American) destroyed the court building, the fuel station, a house for the unmarried, the insurance company. The snipers are every where, occupying the houses and buildings. They say we want to protect you from the terrorists…but we do not know when the American would come and demolish our houses".
Abu Mohammad showed us all the destruction of the hospital.
Aysha, a young widow covered with black, who works in the hospital, was there on May2, 2005."It was noon; the shooting began after a dead body was brought here. The hospital was surrounded; the place was full of armed men. I told them that my 3 children are alone in the house and that I got to leave. I had to go from corner to corner, under the fire. I found the fighters inside my house. They told me to stay, I could not. I decided to take the children to my father in law's house across the street. A shell was dropped at the door; I decided to go no matter what. My husband's family went out to see, another shell was dropped on them, 5 children were killed, and 4 women injured, one of them lost one of her eyes. I left Al-Qaim and went to Ebeidi; the fighting was heavier, so I went to a village called Al-Khaseem until the fighting was over. Many people are telling me to leave Al-Qaim, but where am I to go, I work here". Aysha's father, an old man in his 80s, was killed by a sniper shot while he was leaving the mosque. Her husband died 4 months ago in a car accident. Her oldest son is 6 years.
Haditha: A City Crushed under the Occupation
No Authority, No Security, No rights...just the Killings
SOS from Haditha
In the Name of God the Most Merciful, The most Gracious,
In the name of the people of Haditha, its women, children, and old people
We call upon you, all the people of Iraq and the world: SOS
The American troops, accompanied by the Iraqi National Guards, are waging the most ferocious attack against our town, for three days now. They violated our blood, honor, and peaceful houses where not a single piece of weapon, fighters, or armed men were found. They killed old people, women and children; they bombed the houses with airplanes. We swear by the name of God that there was not a single piece of weapon in them. They killed Sheikh Ismael Al-Zawi, speaker of Al-Seif mosque, while he was going to pray at dawn. They forced families out of their houses, occupied them and used them as their headquarters. The INGs have stolen all the houses properties, including even children and women clothes. They closed all the roads to the town hospital, the wounded were left un attended. They killed women and children without any reason; there were no fighters among them. Please help the people of Haditha; even with a word … Our sanctities, houses, women, blood, and honor are violated by the INGs who come from the south. They swear bad words against the Companions of the Prophet in the streets, and on the American Tanks. They call Ahl Assunna bad words and say "This is the day of revenge of you, Sunnis"
Ps: We have lists of victims, of killing, house damage, and thefts
This message was sent from Haditha 2 weeks before we could go there early in June. Haditha, similar to almost all the towns of upper Euphrates in Iraq, is well known for its exceptionally beautiful landscapes, its thickly green island, its socially and religiously conservative society…and its bitter suffering from the occupation troops and the Iraqi National Guards.
The beautiful Haditha looked really hurt by the occupation; with the sand storm on the day we went there, the destroyed or deserted houses, the closed roads between one area and another, especially what is called the western side near the Haditha Dam where the American troops are located. The tense and prudent silence that the Hadithans insist on, suspecting any stranger…all partly explains the SOS message above.
Mohammad was going to school
On that day, the Hadithans were especially angry because Mohammad Aarif, the Genius as he is called, was killed by the American. M. Aarif is a very intelligent high school boy. Last year he finished school but got an excellent level of 92, but it does not allow him to go to the Medical College according to the Iraqi Higher Education System. So he decided to repeat the year to get more than 95 level required for the medical college. Mohammad was going to school that morning when he was shot by a sniper in the head and was killed immediately.
Mohammad Omar was with his friend M. Aarif, the genius, when both were shot inside the house. They were in the garage starting the car to go to school. Omar was going to get his final report, he just moved to last year high school. But Omar could not talk; he was still anesthetized in the hospital when we arrived. A sever shot shattered his left arm, and another one in his chest. His body was full of shrapnel.
In the same emergency room, another man, Mohammad Ibrahim, 43, a worker in the Dam was shot in his chest. His condition looked stable, "but we are concerned about the complications" Dr. Iyad explained. He was still bleeding through a chest tube. Ibrahim could barely talk:" I do not know what happened, I was driving with my friend going to work when we were shot". His friend was still in the operation room.
The Innocent are Caught…
"This is the problem" Dr. Walid Abdul Khaliq, the Haditha General Hospital director explained. "The innocent are being caught between the fighters and the American troops. Two days ago, in Al-Haqlaniya (7 kilometers to the east of Haditha), the road was cut and there were military traps that the people did not know about. A municipality employee and his son were shot; he kept on bleeding so that when we reached him he was already dead. An employee in this hospital who has just moved to a clinic was shot too, we moved him to Ramadi but he died on the way. In the Dam area 2 people were killed today and 3 injured. It is true that there are fighters here, as every where in Iraq, but the civilians who have nothing to do with the fighting are being killed: students, children… ".
-We noticed that almost all the shots are in the head and the chest?
*"That is unfortunately true." Dr. Walid added "The situation is very tense. We reached the point that when we leave our families in the morning we do not know if we are going to see them again or not, even when the situation is relatively calm. There are no signs on the road, no amplifiers saying that this or that area are "dangerous".
Abu Ammar, a citizen of Haditha, relates what happened.
"Haditha was a quiet town when the American came and occupied the Dam area. They began to come down inside the town. Many people do not accept this and hit them. There was resistance. Many prominent people from Haditha went to the American and asked them to stay in their headquarters in the Dam area. The streets and the market place of Haditha are very narrow as you can see, they came with theirs Humvees, Hummers and armored vehicles, they crush cars, they shot at motorcycles, on the river bank they shot a boy of sixteen…etc They did not respond to the people's demand.
What happened last month was that they surrounded al-Haqlaniya area. They bombed civilian districts with airplanes, mortars, and artillery…they killed many families who have nothing to do with the resistance, civilians, women and children…they occupied buildings and houses, the May1 hotel for example. In one car which was coming from Aaloosse, 10 people were killed, the majority was families. For four days, they shoot any one who leaves his house. Water and electricity were cut. When they entered Haditha, they began raiding houses, hitting old people, breaking things, destroying, house and shops and exploding them
They raided Sheikh Subhi's house after he criticized them in the Friday prayer speech. They insisted that he puts his official Islamic dress and turban, when he did they humiliated him in front of all the people, and hit him very badly. Every now and then they come back and hurt the people. This has been a routine procedure. You have heard what happened in the Dam area today
What is the Dam area?
"It is the area where the employees' families of the Dam and the energy station live, around 1000 families, a residential complex; most of them are from other parts of Iraq, not from Haditha. It is called al-wastta (the middle), many people are killed in it, all civilians. Civilian houses are occupied, families are kept in one room, and soldiers occupy the whole house to be used by snipers. Some families leave their houses in such situation. They (the American) are using this area to prevent people from approaching the military base in the Dam which is 3 kilometers to the west. This area has been under siege for months. When they shoot they do not differentiate between civilians and fighters, men and women, old and children…etc. And if they look for some one, all his family and tribe are suspects.
Attalla's house was exploded and burnt
Hajj Attalla, 80, is a retired guard in an irrigation project. He has five sons living with him in the same house; four are married and each has 5-6 children, 25 persons live in his house. The sons work for daily payments in different petty jobs. On May 28, about 20 American soldiers raided the house, searched it, asked many question and left saying "thank you" after sharing Attalla his cookies, but not his water. They even gave 5 dollars to Farooq, a mentally retarded son of Attalla, who was happy with the visit. He was happier that the soldiers told him that "if any other troops came tell them that the house was already searched".
Half an hour later another group of 30 American and Iraqi soldiers raided the house again. They were not friendly this time. They broke the furniture, used bad words with the women. Attalla tried to explain something to an Iraqi soldier but he told him "shut up". They did not find any thing in the house. They asked about one of the sons. He was at work; they arrested his brother who is still in Al-Baghdadi military base. They threatened the women that if the wanted son did not show up in 3 days they would come back for the others.
They asked every one to leave the house, not allowing them to take any thing: the documents, the money, the food, the clothes…nothing, not even the Holy Book. Few minutes later; they blew out the house from the inside and set it on fire. The soldiers prevented any body from trying to put out the fire. They remained until the house was a heap of ash, then they left. (We heard this kind of crime many times and saw many houses exploded in this way).
Attalla the Iraqi…
"I want to know why" Hajj Attalla said crying painfully, "we are innocent and poor, in this house there are 4 families. My house is burnt, my family is scattered, my son is in jail, we have nothing now, and they did not find anything in the house. Do you think if I go to the American or the Iraqi government they would listen? Where do you think I should complain? There is no authority here" Hajj Attalla asked sincerely.
His food ration paper was burnt, the pension ID, the house document. Surprisingly enough one phrase was left of the document saying "Attalla the Iraqi…". One of the daughters in law hid 500.000 ID ( $325) in the flour sac for fear of thieves, it was burnt. Eye witnesses say that the explosion was so strong that the roofs of the house flew in the air, and then every thing was on fire in one second. The news satellite channels which covered the event told Attalla and his sons to say that the house was air bombed, not exploded and burnt, as a condition to put the news on TV. The poor family did so, but a report was shown for few seconds, not mentioning any details of Attalla story.
Sheikh Ismael was shot inside his house
Sheikh Ismael al-Zawi, 60, is one of the best known personalities in Haditha. He is the Imam and Mo'athin of the Seif mosque. On May 24, at 4.20 am, he was leaving his house to the mosque to call for prayer. He was 2 meters outside the inner door when a sniper on the opposite house shot him in the head. The bullet entered the right side of his head, went out of the left side and made a whole on the wall inside the house. Sheikh Ismael had nothing to do with the fighting, had no gun, not even a bullet in his house. When a neighbor heard the noise and came to see what happened, he was shot by the same sniper, but the injury was not fatal. The bullet hole is still in the garden door. The same dawn two women (Shakiba Mish'an Motlag, 45, and Madiha Fayadh Salim, 35) and an eight year boy were killed in the same street, obviously by the same sniper(s).
-If your father was so innocent, why do you think he was targeted? We asked the Sheikh's son
* It is an expression of wrath and disappointment. Killing the innocent is inexcusable. It is violation of all the meanings of human rights and freedom which they came in its name.
Sheikh Abdul Jabbar Mi'jil:
A call for The UN and HR organizations to help lifting this injustice
Sheikh Abdul Jabbar, a retired teacher and the head of the Moslem Scholars Association in Haditha complains of too many raids, thefts, insults, arrests, killings of civilians. He believes that calling a Moslem a terrorist is an insult "a Moslem can not be a terrorist".
"Destroying houses, destroying the only hospital in the town and the area, this is terrorism. MSA office was raided three times, and completely destroyed. Nothing was left. There is an area, it is called the death area, Sheikh Abdul Jabbar explains, It is located between Al-Haqlaniya fuel station and the Haditha train station. Any car there could be targeted, especially if it stops there for any reason, a breakdown or a puncture. Many families were killed there. A whole family coming from Rawa was killed, in another family, a child was sitting between his father and uncle was shot in the head, in a place called Al-Khasfa on the outskirts of Haditha. These people are civilians, not terrorists, not even resistance which is supposed to be legal. But the American do not listen. We had a meeting with them, we asked them to stay out of the town, so that they can evade attacks. But they keep on coming down. The siege was very cruel, they wanted to revenge against the attack near the hospital, for almost a week we could not even move a curtain in a house. After the siege, they left but the airplanes kept on flying. The killings continue, many houses are flattened to the ground. There is no authority here. All our rights are violated. We tell them this enough…thank you…you have done enough of killing and destroying … go away. We call upon the UN and the human rights organizations to help us lifting the hurt, the injustice in which we have no guilt"
Another Example: Ibrahim Khalil Family
Ibrahim Khalil is a poor man, a farm worker. As usual he has a big family of five sons, all married, all have many children, and all live in the same house. More than three months ago, at 2 am the house was raided by the American and the Iraqi troops. They were asking about some body called Isam. There was no one called Isam in the house.
The mother told them that they can come in and search without breaking the doors and the furniture. They would not listen. They broke the doors, the windows…etc. They stole 450.000 ID, a hand watch, a hunting gun of 65.000ID. They arrested all the sons, including one who is paralyzed from childhood and moves on a wheel chair. They were arrested in their bed rooms. The wife of the paralyzed one was 6 months pregnant, she was badly shocked and terrified. She kept on bleeding until she gave birth to a boy. Now she can not walk, her legs do not hold her.
The mother decided not to interfere in whatever the troops did. She was worried about the children, the daughters, the daughters in law and the old man who was shivering.
The sons were dragged from their beds on the ground, their eyes and hands tied. They were taken to the Dam military base, to spend the night there and to be moved to Al-Baghdadi base the next morning. They were taken in their sleeping dresses only. It was very cold.
The sons were badly beaten in both prisons. They were asked about terrorists, and especially about some body called Oqba, whom they did not know. In Al-Baghdadi they were tortured by crushing their fingers with the soldiers' boots, and wrapping the chest with a belt and pulling it very tightly until the ribs crack, pushing the back with the boots. One of the sons was hooded with 3 sacs, folded twice, making them six. The plastic hand cuffs were tied so tightly that they went into the flesh. The strange thing is that the American soldier told the Iraqi ones to remove the folded sacs and to loosen the cuffs.
Three weeks later, three of the sons were released, one is kept in jail. He is in Abu Greib now. The mother went there 5 times asking about him, she was given wrong numbers. She had to spend the nights in the open until she found his number. She visited him twice; he is arrested for almost four months now, without a charge, just for suspicion.
-But why he was kept while his brothers are released?
*"He has 3 of his fingers cut" one of the sons replied. "10 years ago he was a worker in the military industry when he injured himself and cut his fingers. They asked why his fingers were cut and accused him of terrorism"
-This is illogical !!
* What is logical !!
Snipers' Indiscriminate Killings: Testimonies of Civilian Casualties
(Dedicated to the UN, with Documents)
Sabah Ali (June 20,2005)
(While we were writing this report , Dr .H Al-Aaloossy , the director of Al-Qaim General Hospital sent a call for help (June 20,2005) to the international community asking for lifting the military siege imposed by the American and British troops on Al-Qaim and the neighboring areas, and to let the ambulances evacuate the wounded. He also called upon these troops to stop the blood bath, and to let water, electricity, and medical help reach the civilians. He said that tens of families are buried under the rubbles and no medical help can reach them. He confirmed that the majority of the casualties were civilians, women and children(
The stories we heard in Al-Qaim General Hospital (see part I) give part of the picture. Al-Qaim is becoming a town of death. Before the current attack, the American snipers were the major problem. Almost all the casualties we heard of, or saw were shot by snipers who occupy houses after arresting the whole family in one room, or simply evacuate it.
But the main and the most dangerous place is the customs building. Al-Qaim is a border town, and the customs building looks on the main street. It is occupied by the American troops who shot civilians in that street where the market place and the clinics compound are. Many shop owners, civilians, women and children were killed by these snipers' bullets.
Shokor was the only son of a poor widow, and a brother of two young sisters. He has just turned 20 and was newly married. His wife Sarah, 16, is one month pregnant. He was a worker in a shoes shop for $50 a month. His father was killed in the Iraqi-Iranian war in the eighties. He had to leave school at the fifth grade to help his mother supporting the family. The family actually lived on charities and small businesses, selling candies, cleaning…etc.
On May 21, 2005, at 5 in the afternoon he went to the market. He was shot by snipers in his chest and died immediately; the shot was in the heart.
Subhi, Shokor's uncle and father in law explains what happened: "at 5.45 six bullets were shot from the customs building, five people were injured and Shokor was killed. He was walking, eating nuts with his friends, not armed."
-Who shot them?"
-" The American. They occupied the whole area: the court, the Bank, the fuel station, the shops…every thing. Any one walks on that way is shot"
-"This is the question: why? He is not a mojahid, not a fundamentalist, his mother prevents him, he is her only son, she is crazy about his safety. But this happens daily, to every one not only Shokor, just now a young man is shot, he is in the hospital (Referring to Qusai we mentioned in part I), we want to know why the American are killing people who do not threaten them. They (the American) are controlling and surrounding the whole area, so why killing civilians, and old women…The shop owners can not open, if they do, they must not put their heads out …
-how long this has been going on?
-"since they occupied the fuel station less than two months ago. Since then they destroyed the agriculture building, the bank, the court, and the shops near the court. It seems that they were attacked from a place behind the station. They exploded the building
-the buildings were not air bombed?
- No, they were exploded from inside. Our problem is that there is no media to cover these crimes. If you cross the river, go to Rabot village, you can see the three families which were killed yesterday at 3 am. Where is the media! One missile in Rabot village made a hole of 20 meters in the ground. Houses are flattened to the ground. Go to Karabla village, and see the houses and the families who were bombed. If they are after terrorists, why they bomb houses. This is our problem. They want to destroy us. If they are after Zarqawi, as they say, why do not they catch him? They are one thousands every where, apart from the National Guards. Al-Qaim would not take five minutes to be surrounded and controlled. Why they killed the Anbar governor!. They know that he was kidnapped and they know where he was kept near Rawa, why did they bomb the area and kill him?"
The military campaign on Al-Qaim is going on for two months now. The people say that the American troops had a very bad hit, that they gave many casualties, that is why a new wave of attacks was expected, which came true soon.( On June 17 the second attack began, the American news say that 9 big bombs were dropped on the town, that tens were killed on that day. On June 20 Dr.Hamdi , the director of Al-Qaim General hospital, sent a message through media calling upon the American and British troops to stop the blood bath and he called upon the international and humanitarian organizations to do what ever they can to help the civilians who are buried under the rubbles, to let ambulances move, especially in Karabla village, 5 kilometers east of Al-Qaim. He confirmed again that the majority of the dead and wounded were civilians). The campaign means that they besiege the town, bomb it, occupy many houses and buildings, and kill any moving thing. Daham, a citizen from Al-Qaim said that "they occupied no less than 100 houses for 2-3 days each and then retreat, and use the roofs to shot near by houses. They arrest people collectively. There are hundreds of them in Al-Qaim. When they raid a house and find some gusts they arrest them. This is again another big problem, because this town is actually a center of a very large area, people come from far villages to see doctors or finish business; they stay in their relatives' houses. When many men meet in a house, it is raided and they are arrested for suspicion of being terrorists. After the attack on the neighboring villages many families seek refuge in Al-Qaim, again they are suspected. In Shokor's house there were 4 families".
It is a policy of intimidation and humiliation. The people are not safe in their houses, in the street, in their cars, in the hospital…They do not argue about arresting or killing fighters, because it is the fighter's choice to fight. The argument is only about the civilians. A girl of 11, Sahar Diyab, was injured and taken by the American, supposedly to be treated. She was never found. Her family is looking for 3 months everywhere. In Rabot village, men of 3 families were arrested, 12 or 13 of them.
Rabot is a village of about one thousands, now no more than few tens remain because of the bombing and raids. It is located between the Euphrates and the mountains, the American say that the mojahideen hide in it, also in Karabla.
Trying to document the destruction…
We tried to get some photos of the demolished public buildings, when a white car drove beside us
- what are you doing? a young man who was driving asked
- getting some shots of the street
-stop the car!!
-just stop the car, I tell you….he was very serious. we stopped
-give me the camera
-no, why should I?
-then you have to come with me, follow me!!
-no, we are not. Where do you want to take us? Who are you?
-just follow me or give me the camera
-Does any one in Al-Qaim know you?
-of course, many
-then take me to one of them.
We did, and after our friend form Al-Qaim confirmed to the young man that he knew us very well, and that we were good, he apologized
-you have to understand that we lost too many people here, we can not tolerate strangers taking pictures, and what were you doing there anyway?
-we wanted some pictures of the court and the bank
-Do not. You were too near to the customs building, and do me a favor: leave Al-Qaim as soon as possible!!
We could not. We had to meet a family whose mother was killed by snipers. She was visiting the private clinic of Dr. Ali Al-Ani around 6pm on May 20, 2005, accompanied by her son, her daughter in law, and her grand son. The car was shot very heavily, the mother, Wadha Jasim Hassan, 53, was killed the three others were injured. The car was burnt.
Rain of Ambers
An eye witness of the crime described what happened "We were waiting for our turn in the clinic. Few minutes after the family left, we heard the shooting. We tried to go out to see what was going on but the shooting was too heavy, like a rain of ambers. I saw Abu Omar (the son) and his mother in the front seat. Waddhah, 2, was in the back seat, the daughter was still in the clinic, she tried to go out, and she got a bullet in her head. Abu Omar was injured and he was bleeding .He opened the door next to his mother and pushed her out, she was bleeding. He threw him self out of the car and was shouting at Waddhah. The shooting continued on Abu Omar and the mother, both were on the ground outside the car. Dr Ali and two of us tried to reach him, but it was impossible. Abu Omar crawled until he was about a meter from the clinic; we managed to pull him inside. His mother was still lying beside the car, bleeding. The kid began to run towards us, he was shot and fell to the ground. The car began to leak; we shouted at the mother to crawl, she tried. She actually crawled for few meters, but the shooting continued on her until she was dead. The car began to burn ".
-Was there fighting? Was it random shooting? Why the family car was targeted?
- We do not know. There was nothing, no fighting; otherwise we could not go there. Another car, KIA Sportage, was also shot and burnt. There were two children in, one 6 the other 14; he was injured too in the thigh.
The death certificate of the mother says that the cause of death was a "piercing shot in the abdomen and the stomach. The spleen, the small intestine, and the diaphragm were torn"
Abu Omar got two bad shots in his left shoulder and right thigh. He was still in the hospital in Baghdad. His wife had shrapnel in her head, she needs a sensitive operation. The child lost two of his left hand fingers, and was injured in his intestine. He had an operation and his condition is stable now.
Zarqawi had Dinner at Aftan's
During our visits to the casualties, asking them why they were targeted, we heard the same joke: Zarqawi was there, and a reply came quickly, "No, Zarqawi was having dinner with Aftan". We were very curios to know who this Aftan was until a young man volunteered to show us the house. It was no more than a heap of rubbles.
Aftan was an old ill man. On May 26, 2005 at 2 am, his house, which is located on the way to the customs building, was raided by huge forces with airplanes and armored vehicles. Many troops invaded the house, arrested Aftan and his four sons, searched the house, and broke everything. After they left, they blasted the house to the degree that not a single wall was still there. The 5 men are still in jail, the women are staying with relatives.
The problem is that after they finished with Aftan's house, they raided the next neighbors asking what they knew about Aftan. Again they searched the house, found nothing interesting except a locked safe. The owner of the house, who had the key, was sleeping in his second wife house in the same street. They did not wait for the key and blasted the safe. They found nothing in it except 25.000 ID ($17) and the family personal documents. They took them and arrested the only boy in the house, Hussein, who was diabetic. Two days later he was released.
"They asked me what did I know about our neighbors, and I told them. I was beaten; I did not get my medicine, eyes and hands … cuffed no food, hot water, bad treatment…two days later I collapsed.
I was vomiting and fainted. They threw me on the way to the paved road. They told me to run and began shooting at me. I ran as fast as I could until I fell near the car road. A pick up took me some time later I found myself in Rawa hospital".,
"I wish he was killed fighting them"
When Lo'ai, 30, finished his study in the engineering college and could not find job, he worked as a taxi driver on Al-Qaim-Baghdad highway. On Nov 27, 2004, he was driving on the way between Falloja-Ramadi taking his mother in law to the cancer hospital in Baghdad and two other passengers. The car was shot by the American troops, every body was killed and the car was set on fire, as usual, to hide the evidence.
Lo'ai was the only supporter of a very big family. Apart from his wife and three children, the oldest of whom is 8, he was looking after 15 of brothers, sisters, mother and a handicapped father (a retired employee in agriculture) and a mentally retarded brother.
The father was crying bitterly "I know my son, he was very intelligent and committed. If the road was closed, he would have known and stopped. They assassinated him" But the mother was proud "I consider him a martyr, he is my honor. I am only sorry that he was not killed holding his gun fighting them"
They apologized and suggested help!
Bahjat … was taking his sons' bride, her mother and sister to a lunch invitation in Al-Qaim at 12 am on March 26, 2005. There was an American check point. He stopped. Few minutes later the shooting began. The bride, whose wedding was few days ago, who was sitting in the front seat beside her father in law, got a bullet in her head and died immediately. Bahjat, who was driving got a bullet in his eye. After the attack an American officer came to the family, apologized for the (mistake) and offered help treating the old man's eye.
Bahjat refused his offer and rejected his apology. He had already three operations in his eye and was getting well.
Salah Shaban Askar, a blind man in his fifties, and his son Omar, 14, were going back home from the mosque after evening prayer on Sept23,2004 when they were shot in the head and chest 200 meters away from their house. There was no shooting, no fighting, actually there was a crowd leaving the mosque. No one was allowed to approach them, according to a civil defence officer (A.J.) who tried to attend and evacuate them. He was shot at.
The next two days, the American troops visited the family during the funeral. They apologized for the (mistake) and told the family to present a claim and ask for compensation. They also arrested some people who were attending the funeral. The family did present a file in two languages explaining everything and asking for compensation, with all the police, the hospital, and witnesses testimonies and documents. They waited for months, there was no reply. Then a friend brought them their file saying that he found it in the Civil Defense garbage.
Salah who lost his eye in 1991 war, left 6 young daughters, one of them is Mongolian. The family is living on charities now, the widow is trying to get her husband's pension but it is difficult to leave Al-Qaim because of the whole situation and because the transportations are too costly"
"The problem is that there is no authority to go to and ask help" says Qahtan A. Askar, Salah's nephew and son in law. "The court, the police station, the committee, even the mosque…all is destroyed". In the mosque there is a relief fund. The family presented the file to get some help. The mosque was raided, destroyed, and the fund was stolen.
Mustapha was lucky
Mustapha, 12, lives in the railway station. On April28, 2005 he was going to see his friend when he got shot by an American sniper. The shot tore his back and abdomen. But he was lucky; the shot was very close to his back bone but did not injure it, neither his intestine nor stomach. He had an operation immediately and is getting well.
Alaa' survived by a miracle
Not a single centimeter of Alaa' Khalid's body was free of shrapnel. She is 3 years old; her family did not believe that she could survive. Alaa' is one of a family of 14. The men, two brothers, work as carpenters in Rawa (one hour to the east of Al-Qaim). On May 3, 2005 they returned home to find everybody, the entire family, killed or injured. A grenade was dropped on the house. There were 4 women and 10 children. Alaa's mother, Zeinab, lost her eye. Two other women's legs were broken. 5 of the children were killed and buried in that day. Alaa' was thought to be dead too, she was no more than a paste flesh and blood, but she survived. She had shrapnel in her eyes, and need an immediate operation that can not be done in Iraq. She had many holes in her intestine. Now she does not look well, she is suffering the pains of too many shrapnel in her skin and different parts of her body. She can not eat properly, and neither can she walk. Her legs are getting weaker.
Suad is not getting any pension
Suad Abbass Kadhum, 40, the widow of Hamid Abdul Majeed the train station employee who was killed in the market on Dec28, 2004. He left 5 children; the oldest of them is 16, an intermediate school student.
Hamid had a herbs shop too. He was inside his shop when shooting began in the market. Hamid was curios, he went out to see what was going on. He was shot. He was not taken to the hospital until a long time later, when his friends in the market could move out. The medical death certificate says that he died of bleeding in the neck, chest and abdomen.
Suad's problem now is how to get his pension, because his salary is cut after his death. She is doing the only thing she could do, sewing. Her family and her husband's family are not in a better financial condition. It is also too dangerous for her to move outside Al-Qaim to work on getting a pension.
Dhafir: the wounded as Suspect
Dhafir, 25, student in the technical institute, was shot once by a sniper on August 20, 2004 in Si'da village. He was leaving home in the evening with two of his cousins. He was left for an hour bleeding, and then people of the area took him to the hospital. The doctor said that the nerve was cut; he has a dropping foot now. He does not feel it, even if it is burnt, which actually happened . The shot went into his thigh from the outside and emerged from the inside.
But he was luckier than his cousins who were both killed. Hamad, 60, was shot in the chest and the abdomen. He bled to death, and his only son, Mon'im, 19, was shot in the heart and died immediately. Hamad had 11 children, all girls. Now they are being taken care of by their uncles.
Dhafir's problem does not end here. Now he can not go out, can not go to Baghdad to treat his injury for fear of being arrested. The American troops are now arresting injured young men because they suspect them as fighters. M.H. Jasim, Dhafir's uncle was arrested 7 months ago in his house. He had an injury and the soldiers arrested him for that. He is still in Abu Greib.
What the Lawyers Say
Lawyer A.J. was a member of claims committee in Al-Qaim local council before it was recently dissolved. Since October 2004 he, alone, presented more than 100 claims to the American authorities in the town. His colleagues, other lawyers, work directly with the people, not necessarily through the council, they had more cases. Many other cases were not registered for different reasons: no court, no police station, no security, no feeling of trust that the Americans are serious about these cases, and a general feeling of despair and the absurdity of the whole situation. Some people however refuse to present their claims to the enemy.
Of these hundreds of cases, only three were compensated, according to lawyer A. They were trivial , like a case of confiscated blankets on the borders or a case of confiscated construction stones…No real cases of killing, injury, demolished houses, car or property damage were compensated.
What the American authorities are actually doing is bluffing the people. Last year an officer, Velasios or Belasios in Division 82 was appointed by these troops as responsible for receiving the casualties' cases. He had an office to receive the people and the lawyers. He collected hundreds of the original documents of these cases, with photos and official reports. He used to read the case and decide which was good enough for compensation and which was not. He gets the addresses, supposedly to reply. All of a sudden this officer disappeared, and all the documents disappeared with him.
Another one called Captain Fetch never agreed to compensate any case. We got copies of about 40 replies from the American authorities, all are clichés of the same wording; the only change is the name of the complainant. The replies were in English, full of law jargon that no one can understand. All of them say "the claim is denied" no matter what it is. There is one sentence that says the complainant has the right to appeal in Ramadi or Baghdad, which of course is the worst part, because if the case is denied in the spot, how the appeal would work in a place that does not know anything about it. Some lawyers, however, did go to Baghdad to appeal, they were told that there is a responsible office in Al-Qaim for these cases and that they have to solve the cases there, because "we have nothing to do with it", and that this office itself should present the appeal, which is illogical.
The cheating is obvious; at least they want to make it more difficult for the people so that they stop complaining.
"In my last meeting with the American officer" Lawyer A. says," I asked him are you serious about the compensations", he said "yes, and there are money allocated for these cases, but the problem is that you are bringing cases of terrorists"
-" I asked him about some cases, as the case of Malik, the mentally abnormal old man who was shot, and about Abid the crippled who was shot in front of his house, and about Abdul Qadir who was killed by a mortar grenade in his house, and his two sons who were killed in their father's funeral inside the same house two days later"
- In such a situation, as a lawyer, what do you advise the people?
- I advise them to raise their voices, to tell the International and the humanitarian organizations about their violated rights. But the problem is the people are too tired and desperate of any possible change, and also the bombing, the curfew, the difficult situation in general.
"We know that the casualties are not terrorists"
-Why do you think the American are killing so many civilians? We asked A.
-" A prisoner in one of the American prisons asked a guard the same question, and the soldier replied: we know that they are not terrorists, because the terrorists who hit us do not stay in the same place. But we are doing this so that the civilians would not allow the terrorists to hit us" . The prisoner asked again" if you, the Americans with all your power and weapons are not stopping them, how do you think we could" and the reply was" that is why we keep on shooting so that the civilians prevent the terrorists from attacking us"
On our way to visit the killed woman’s family, we stopped twice in front of 2 houses which were badly damaged. The first one was actually no more than a heap of rubbles, the second used to be a big beautiful house on the river’s side, was heavily shot, the second floor was burnt out.