War and Social Upheaval: Iraq--Domestic Terror

Figure 1.--Sadam's use of poison gas against defenseless women and children in the Kurdish village of Alaja are the most publicized of his attracities, less well publicized are the massacres with conventional weapons in the 1,200 Kurdish villages he destroyed.

Besides the aggression on neigboring countries, Saddam administers one of the most brutal police states in the world and has even used weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on his own people. The Iraq of Sddam Hussein is a terrible place to live, not because of U.N. sabctions, but because Saddam sytematically uses violence against the people of Iraq. The moral imperative for ousting Saddam is powerful. Iraq is an entire nation of victims. Saddam oppresses his people on a daily basis. Saddam's police have terrorized opponents by not only personal vengence, but horrifying acts against whole families. The most terrifying act, of course, was the use of poison gas against Kurdish villages. I have in my mind the Kurd villages Saddam gassed and the pictures of mothers holding their children in their death agonies.


Saddam's closest family memembers have been involved in unbelivably despicablr behavior. His oldest son Uday has cobducted serial rape and murder of young women. Those women who resist his advances are simply kidnapped and later murdered. Uday is also accused of torturing Ataqi aththeletes that displease him. "Iraq has violated every single provision of the IOC Code of Ethics." [Forrest] Indict a group set up to monitor reports of actions against Iraqui atheletes claims that Uday once made a group of track athletes crawl on newly poured asphalt while they were beaten and ordered that some be thrown off a bridge. It also alleged that Uday ran a special prison for athletes who offended him. [Indict] "The Iraqi committee is the only Olympic committee in the world with its own prison and torture chamber. To allow (it) to participate in the Olympic movement is to mock all of the Olympics' high principles." [Clwyd] Saddam's younger son Qusay reportedly encourages torture. [British dossier] Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan Majeed is a senior Bath Party official known as "Chemical Ali" and was responsible for the use of the gas. [Frankel, p. A12.]


Torture is a principal feature of Saddam's regime. Conditions in Iraqi prisons are notorious. At the Mahjar prison in Baghdad, prisoners are beaten twice daily. Female inmates are routinely raped. In some prisons, inmates are kept in casket-like boxes until they either confess or die. [British dossier] British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook reported, "A speciality of his torture is the beating of the soles of the feet, indeed last year his son Udai ordered this punishment for the entire Iraqi football team after they lost a match to qualify for the World Cup. A repeated horror story from those who escaped from Saddam's jails is the exposure of prisoners to ravenous dogs." [Cook] One report describe an cell with pipes in the ceiling that drip acid on a naked prisinor, often driving him mad before he is killed by the acid. Some reports virtually defy belief. The torture can not only be directed at an individual, but his loved ones. Other accounts indicates that Saddam's security forces starve babies or gouge out the eyes of children within the sight of their horrified parents mothers in an effort to force confessions from the parents. [Pollack] There are also accounts of children being thrown out of helicoptors, again to extract confessions from parents.


Saddam intemidates his people by both violence and the threat of violence. Here he can terrorize Iraqis both in and outside Iraq into silence and obedience. Najib Salhi defected from Iraq in 1995. While living in Jordan he received a video tape from Saddam's inteligence services showing a femal relative being raped. [Reel, p. A12]


Islamic Sharia law dictates amputations for crimes like stealing. Under Saddam amputations and mutilations are used to punish political opponents. Individuals accused of making critical comments about Saddam or his family members have had their tounges cut out. [British dossier]

Death Penalty

Saddam's regime is also notable for massive resort to the death penalty to punish opponents and deter opposition. Cook reports, "It is an article of the Ba’ath Party that all members accept that it is an offence punishable by death ever to transfer their support to another political perspective. All staff in the programmes of the weapons of mass destruction have to sign their acceptance that they will incur the death penalty if they leave the programme without authority. There are many instances of mass executions under Saddam's regime. In November of last year, 568 people were executed in one prison. A week later in the same month, 80 officers from Saddam's own Iraqi army were executed. In his period in power, Saddam has executed also 40 of his own relatives and where he cannot obtain his enemies for execution in his own country, Saddam has shown that his reach can stretch beyond Iraq to murder his opponents in foreign lands. One of his opponents was discovered murdered in Stockholm in two separate suitcases." [Cook] Often the death penalty is combined with torture, cuch as the prolonged torture of a husband and wife accused of participating in the opposition. [British dossier] Opponents of the regime have tortured and killed by being slowly emersed in an acid bath. [Pollack] Other opponents have been killed, dismembered and then delivered to horrified family members.


Huge numbers of peopole simply disapperared in Saddam's Iraq. Besides the thousands of Iraqis formally executed by Saddam, Amnesty International reports in 2002 documenting 170,000 Iraqis that have simply disappeared during the past two decades. [Samari] Another account places the number at 200,000. [Pollack] Most are almost certainly dead and many undobtedly were horrifyingly tortured before being killed. Other estimates are even higher.

Religious Supression

Saddam has zealously supressed religious leaders, especailly the Shia in southern Iraq. Cook reports, "A number of Shiite scholars and leaders have been assassinated solely for representing an alternative to Saddam's regime. In June of this year [1998], a Grand Ayatollah was assassinated in a car and all four others in the car with him were killed. The Iraqi authorities had him buried with no funeral rites and with no investigation of the murder." [Cook]


Saddam's brutality has not been limited to individuals, but to whole peoples--especially the Kurds in the north and the Shi'ite Arabs in the south of Iraq. These are not small parts of the population. The Shi'ite Arabs are about 60 percent of the Iraqi population and the Sunni Kurds are about 17 percent. These two groups are in fact the great majority of the Iraqi people.


British dossier, December 2, 2002, 23p. (Amnesty International was the source for much of the information in the British dossier.)

Clwyd, Ann. (British lawmaker and chairwoman of Indict), "Group accuses Iraq of torturing athletes," CNN.com, December 5, 2002.

Cook, Robin. (British Foreign Secretary) "Standing up to Saddam's Terror State," edit transcript of press conference, December 19, 1998.

Forrest, Charles. (Chief Executive of Indict), "Group accuses Iraq of torturing athletes," CNN.com, December 5, 2002.

Frankel, Glenn. "A would-be Iraqi leader, caught by his past," Washington Post November 25, 2002, pp. A1 and 12.

Indict. "Group accuses Iraq of torturing athletes," CNN.com, December 5, 2002.

Pollack, Kenneth M. ThecThreatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (Random House, 2002), 384p.

Reel, Monte. "Ex-Iraqi generals test political might," Washington Post November 25, 2002, p. A12.

Samari, Kamal. (Amnesty International) in Glenn Frankel, "Britain releases new report alleging Iraqi rights abuses," Washington Post December 3, 2002. A21.


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Created: November 21, 2002
Last updated: April 13, 2003