Iraqis in exile and fear

In many Arab cities it is easy to meet Iraqis released from the US Camp Cropper detention centre at Baghdad airport, but few of them are willing to speak about their experiences.

    Iraqi women cry for their loved ones outside Abu Ghraib prison

    In Dubai and Damascus met Iraqis released from US custody and asked them why they are so unwilling to talk about what has happened to them.

    They say they are fearful that the US and/or its Iraqi allies will harm their families in Iraq. And the former detainees' release was conditional on them keeping quiet and not being involved in any activity deemed to be anti-US.

    Criticising US occupation forces or members of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) is an anti-US act in post-war Iraq. 

    Ex-prisoners met agreed that the time they spent in Iraq after their release was as difficult as the detention period itself.

    Iraqi prisoners are brought on a
    US army truck into Abu Ghraib

    They accuse militias from some political parties of carrying out a campaign of terror on released prisoners.

    Claims of constant surveillance, being subjected to hours of detention, as well as constant reminders that they remain suspects despite their release from US custody are common.

    Ex-officer speaks out

    An ex-Iraqi officer spoke to in Damascus, Syria, on condition of anonymity, promising to speak on the record once he gets his wife and two daughters out of Iraq. 

    The officer was a member of the squad assigned to guard a senior member of the Iraqi leadership and he survived an air raid near Basra. But he did not survive the tip-off by one of his wife's relatives. 

    "I was seriously injured and reached Baghdad half dead. Shortly afterwards I was arrested by the US forces, and thrown into Camp Cropper detention centre," he said.

    "The torture inside this camp leads you sometimes to wish you were dead."

    He said the US authorities deliberately create a frenzied, chaotic atmosphere intended to drive people mad. While his military experience helped him cope, many prisoners could not help themselves and collapsed.

    "Such reports of torture or other ill-treatment by coalition forces have been frequent in the past year"

    Amnesty International report

    "They cram hundreds of people from different backgrounds in one big hall. In my cell there were high-ranking officials and looters, the two groups could not avoid daily confrontations," he said.

    "Burglars used to insult the officials and blame their criminal life on them, while the officials accused the looters of stealing from their own country at a time when it was being occupied by the United States."

    The ex-officer says the most difficult time was prior to interrogation.

    "They took me to a dark and empty room, with blood stains on the wall. It was perfectly constructed to look like an execution room. They wanted me to think I was going to be executed  and so beg their kindness. I have a lot of bad memories.

    "I used to be told to stand on one leg, with my hands up, and in each one of them a bottle of water. I was allowed to rest for 30 minutes, after two hours of punishment.   

    "Following that physical torture, Egyptian or Lebanese American soldiers appeared to tell me that they were holding my wife in the next room, and I should talk, otherwise she would be raped in front of my eyes."

    Iraqis inquire about the
    whereabouts of their  relatives 

    He believes that the whole process was intended as a way of recruiting Iraqi informers. 

    "They already knew everything. They knew very well that I did not know the whereabouts of my former boss. Their final aim is to bring you to a point where you cannot refuse to cooperate with them."

    Detained officials

    Liwa Khalid al-Duri, the son of a detained Iraqi state minister and nephew of Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the US's most wanted Iraqi official, spoke to about his experience with the Americans.

    "They arrested my father last September. The family has been living in terror ever since. They raided our house several times, and arrested my brother," al-Duri said. "Our house had been shown on Aljazeera some time ago after US soldiers had searched it and left it in a mess.

    "They accused us of knowing Izzat Ibrahim's whereabouts. But we simply did not.

    "Our life turned into a hell and we lost every source of income. Even tenants of the building that my mother inherited from her father stopped paying us rent. They knew that we have become helpless people."

    Trucks unload prisoners on their
    release from a US-run prison

    The family realised that no one would listen to their complaints amid such an atmosphere of lawlessness and discrimination and their only option was to leave the country.

    As a relative of a detained minister, al-Duri could see difficult times ahead after he refused a US offer to cooperate with them as an informer.

    "After several raids on our house, they asked me if I wanted to cooperate with them. I refused, of course, and left the country because I felt they would never leave me alone after that."

    Amnesty International

    The rights group Amnesty International issued a report on Thursday reviewing the state of human rights a year after the occupation of Iraq.

    The report said US-led forces in Iraq are using the climate of violence a year after the war began to justify violating human rights they should uphold.

    More than 10,000 Iraqi civilians were thought to have been killed in the war and ensuing insecurity, the rights group said, although no precise figures were available.

    Amnesty International report

    Thousands of Iraqis are held by US forces without charges as "suspected terrorists" or "security" detainees, the report added.

    Families of those killed have nothing but their personal grief and to find a way to accept their destiny. While families of those in custody are helplessly standing in front of Abu Ghraib prison awaiting any news from inside the notorious facility.

    Iraqi courts are forbidden to hear cases against foreign troops or officials in Iraq, by order of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, Amnesty said.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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