To Their Asses
By Dahr Jamail
24 May, 2004
the recent court-martial trial of one of the soldiers complicit in the
widespread torturing of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison having come and
gone, Iraqis see the newest promise made by the U.S. -- to clean up
their act regarding the treatment of detained Iraqis -- as being yet
more empty words.
In the dark humor that has become so popular in Baghdad these days,
one recently released detainee said, The Americans brought electricity
to my ass before they brought it to my house!
The promises to
bring justice to soldiers involved in these heinous acts, along with
promises to make Abu Ghraib more transparent and accessible, have fallen
on the distraught ears of family members who wait outside the gates
of the prison to see their loved ones inside.
Yesterday I went
to the dusty, dismal, razor-wire ensconced waiting area outside of Abu
Ghraib. Amidst the distinct feeling of despair and hopelessness pervading
the heavily guarded area I found one horror story after another from
melancholy family members, hoping against hope to be granted their chance
to visit someone inside the awful compound.
Men, women and crying
children congregated at this dire patch of barren earth, expressing
bewilderment and outrage at their continuing inability to visit or gain
information about loved ones held inside.
Sitting on the hard
packed dirt in his white dishdasha, his head scarf languidly flapping
in the dry, hot wind, Lilu Hammed stared at the high walls of the nearby
prison. It was as if he was attempting to see his 32 year-old son Abbas
through the tan concrete.
He sat alone, his
tired eyes unwaveringly gazing upon the heavily guarded Abu Ghraib.
When my interpreter Abu Talat asked him if he would speak with us, several
seconds passed before Lilu slowly turned his head to look up at us.
I am sitting
here on the ground now, waiting for Gods help.
His son had been
in Abu Ghraib for 6 months following a raid on his home which produced
no weapons. He had never been charged with anything. Lilu held a crumpled
visitation permission slip in his hand that he had just obtained which
allows for a reunion with his son ... on the 18th of August.
Lilu, along with
every other person I interviewed there, had found consolation neither
in the recent court martial or the recent release of a few hundred prisoners.
is nonsense. They said that Iraqis could come to the trial, but they
could not. It was a false trial.
As for the recent
release of several hundred prisoners from Abu Ghraib, he added: I
know someone who was captured for counterfeiting money, and they were
released. So the thieves are released, and my innocent son is still
Another man tells
of his brother, Jabbar Atia, who was detained without a reason given
by the U.S. military.
know why he is here! he says in despair. Even my brother
does not know why he is here. Please tell me why! I am always coming
here waiting for him to be released, but it never happens.
He, too, feels the
court-martial trial was bogus, and said: It was a false trial.
The Americans are only interested in capturing Iraqis. They dont
care about the facts.
Yet another horrible
story is that of Tuamaa Mola Hassan Sabeeh, a 67 year-old man
with Alzheimers, who had wandered from his home in Baghdad on
June 29, 2003, and has been missing ever since.
His son, Rassem,
standing in front of the checkpoint of Abu Ghraib, said, We searched
all of Iraq for him, and couldnt find him. Then three weeks ago
someone who was released told us he was here.
Now the family members
take turns coming out and waiting for his release. We have not
been allowed to see him, and if he is released, he cant remember
where to go, so we need to come here everyday to wait for him in case
he is released.
He said the entire
family is affected, as the time away from their jobs is draining them
financially. He added, Were all crying now. All our time
is spent waiting. We dont know his number, since they use numbers
instead of names in there. So we know hes there, but we cannot
contact him. Where is the justice?
Another man whose
nephew is inside the prison, said, I was depressed to see that
my nephew remains in jail while others are released.
When asked about
the trial, he laughed deeply, then collected himself and said, It
was a movie. It was not real.
The mother of Sadiq
Abrahim was despondent when discussing both the detention of her 20
year-old son, as well as the recent trial. An Iraqi judge had
already found my son innocent, but he is still in jail, she said.
I was happy to see the other prisoners released, but it made me
sadder for my son.
Of the recent trial
in Baghdad she commented: None of us believe the trial. It is
not a real punishment.
According to the
mother of another prisoner, Jilal Samir, her son Habib was walking down
the street when he was looted by thieves. Habib found some U.S. soldiers
to ask for help, and was detained immediately. He has been in
jail for 10 months now, and what did he do to be here? Where is the
With tears in her
eyes she told of trying to reason with a soldier while attempting to
gain access into the penitentiary. She asked him if he would feel sad
if he had a mother and couldnt see her, and the soldier, in a
smug effort to dismiss her plea, replied, No.
Holding her hands
in the air, with more tears she cried, Do the Americans have no
feelings? They may not feel, but we do!
Another convoy of
Humvees full of soldiers with their guns pointing out the small windows
rumbled out of the front gate of the penal complex. The huge dust cloud
they produced quickly engulfed everyone waiting at the checkpoint.
Mrs. Samir, waved
away the clouds of dust which billowed around her face. We hope
the whole world can see the position we are in now! she said.
Meanwhile, in a
press released on May 21st: The Coalition Provisional Authority
has recently given out hundreds of soccer balls to Iraqi children in
Ramadi, Karbala, and Hilla. Iraqi women from Hilla sewed the soccer
balls, which are emblazoned with the phrase All of Us Participate in
a New Iraq.
Dahr Jamail is Baghdad
correspondent for The NewStandard. He is an Alaskan devoted to covering
the untold stories from occupied Iraq. You can help Dahr continue his
crucial work in Iraq by making donations. For more information or to
donate to Dahr, visit The
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