Real Atrocities

Reader Krystof Zmudzinski pointed us to this article in the Daily Star. Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart.

Ibrahim al-Idrissi is the president of the Association for Free Prisoners, an Iraqi non-governmental organization that has been documenting the execution of political prisoners under the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Many of Saddam’s torturers and executioners are still at large. There have been two attempts on Idrissi’s life, and three on the organization’s headquarters in Baghdad. “Fortunately, their aim hasn’t been very good so far,” Idrissi says.
One year ago, the organization was still called the Committee to Free Prisoners. In the hectic days after the fall of Baghdad, when people were digging holes all over the capital looking for secret prisons, there was still hope that some of the tens of thousands of political prisoners who disappeared under Saddam’s regime were still alive somewhere. That hope has vanished, says Abdul Fatah al-Idrissi, 35, Ibrahim’s younger brother. “Now, our work is not about releasing prisoners anymore.”
Instead, it has become about documenting the horrors of the old regime. So far, the organization has been able to confirm the execution of 147,000 prisoners by Saddam. Last year, the garden of the group’s headquarters, in a villa on the bank of the Tigris River in Kahdimiya, was filled with wailing and sobbing as hundreds of families came to check the names of their missing relatives against the lists being posted on a daily basis by the Idrissis and other volunteers. The lists were based on files recovered from Saddam’s security apparatus.
Ibrahim Idrissi has mixed feelings about the recent uproar caused by the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib under the US occupation. “As a humanitarian organization, we oppose this,” he says. “But these are soldiers who have come to Iraq to fight, not to be prison guards. It was to be expected. Of course, if there are innocent people in there … it is possible, I guess, that some of them are innocent.”
[Idrissi describes a horrific scene of rape, torture and murder at the General Security Prison in Baghdad.]
Then Idrissi says: “What we have seen about the recent abuse at Abu Ghraib is a joke to us.”

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