BAGHDAD, 6 Nov 2006 (IRIN) - Following the sentencing to death by hanging of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity, victims of his former government’s brutality say their suffering continues.
Hussein was judged guilty of the deaths of 148 people in the predominantly Shi'ite town of Dujail, some 60km north of Baghdad, following an assassination attempt on him in 1982. This case, although not the biggest massacre allegedly committed by him, was heard in court first because the evidence was easier to prepare, according to lawyers.
In 1991, Hussein’s Iraq Army forces went into the southern Shi’ite-dominated cities of Najaf and Basra to put down a local revolt against the government. Hussein allegedly ordered his soldiers to kill any opponent. Thousands of Iraqis were killed as a result and thousands more tortured.
One of the most atrocious crimes believed to be committed by Hussein’s government was a scorched-earth campaign on 16 March 1988 to crush a Kurdish rebellion in Halabja, in the north of the country, which was seen as aiding Iran - the enemy of the time. Using chemical weapons, the Iraqi Army killed some 5,000 people and left nearly 10,000 wounded.
Following the verdict on Sunday, IRIN spoke to people who suffered in all three of these incidents.
Bazan Serwaz, 55, Dujail
“I lost my wife, three kids and parents in Dujail. I was out of the city and was [one] of the only ones who survived the genocide. Over the past 24 years, I have prayed for justice and now Saddam will pay for his crimes but his hanging will never bring back my precious family.
“I have been depressed for 10 years and became dependent on alcohol. The image of sons lying dead never goes from my mind but Saddam’s sentence at least will alleviate the feeling of revenge.”
Hawnaz Askewan Rizgar, 34, Halabja
“I was 10-years-old when my whole family was killed in Dujail. I lost everyone in that terrible disaster… Today, Saddam has been sentenced to death as a way to pay for his crimes, but it will never take away my suffering of 24 years.
“Today, I’m married with three children but before I was going from house to house and staying with friends because I didn’t have anywhere to sleep or someone to look after me [after the killings in Dujail]. He [Saddam] will die but the suffering will never go away from my mind.”
Rakan Hamma Ali, 76, Halabja
"We were having our dinner on that fateful night when we heard loud explosions and there was a bad smell like rotten apples. I immediately realised that there was a chemical attack on our village like what had happened in nearby villages.
“I tried to save my wife and three sons by putting wet pieces of cloth on their noises and mouths and keep them in a closed room - but in vain. The chemical smoke reached everywhere and my wife and two of my sons died.
"Me and my only son are still suffering respiratory diseases and no-one is paying attention to us. We don't care if Saddam is sentenced to death or not, we just want politicians to stop making use of our tragedy for their personal benefit."
Salima Serwan Ahmed, 66, Halabja
"I wished I would die in order not to see my four daughters and husband turning blue and hardly breathing. I lost them all and I live with chronic respiratory diseases as polluted water caused one of my kidneys to stop working and left the other one impaired. I also developed a chronic colon disease because of the polluted water.
“Politicians and the new government's men had to deal with Saddam's victims first and then prosecute him. This death sentence will not return my daughters and husband or heal my diseases."
Ali Abdel-Hassan, 49, Najaf
“The uprising in the southern area of Iraq was an act of terror. Thousands of Iraqis lost their loved ones, like I lost my wife and children. I was tortured for weeks and everyday they [Hussein's soldiers] showed me a part of my youngest son’s body as a way to force me to say something.
“After some months, they decided that I was innocent but this mistake took the life of 11 members of my family. Saddam’s death is nothing because he will never have to carry all the suffering and pain that I have been carrying during these 15 years.
“Today, I work as a carpenter because in 1991 they burned my house with my parents inside, [they burned] my shop and they took my car. I could never have back what I lost but at least I’m having the pleasure of seeing Saddam being punished by losing his life as he took thousands of Shi’ites' lives 15 years ago.”
... Payvand News - 11/6/06 ... --