Families Seek Iraqi Detainees
- Missing Before May 1, 2003
Iraqi Families Looking for their Sons in the American Secret Prisons
E.A.Khamas, BRussells Tribunal
One of the major problems that the Iraqi families are going through
after two years of occupation, a problem that is rarely mentioned in
the media, if at all, is the case of people who disappeared during the
2003 American invasion, or after that during the occupation, whom the
American authorities refuse to give any information about because they
are considered dangerous, or those who are called security inmates in
the American controlled prisons.
All the national and international NGOs who work(ed) in Iraq are very
familiar with a reply that they always get from the American military
bases or information centers, when they ask about a detainee who was
arrested or disappeared in the period March 20-May 1st, 2003:
"No information about whoever was arrested before May 1st 2003", no
compensations, no complains heard, nothing. On May 1st 2003, President
Bush announced the end of the military operations in Iraq. It is also
impossible to know any thing about those who are called security
inmates, because they are the responsibility of the American Army
(according to Chuck Ryan, the American officer who was responsible of
the Iraq prisons late in 2003)
The disappeared may be military men, fedayeen (one who sacrifices
himself for his country), or civilians who happened to be in the wrong
place at the wrong time, although all Iraq was a (wrong place) during
the invasion!! But according to the International law*, even those who
were involved in the military operations, and their families, have
their human rights, whether they are arrested, disappeared, wounded or
killed. For two years, these families have been victims of blackmail,
anxiety, suspicions, and continuous relentless search in the American
information centers, HR organizations, Iraqi ministries etc, looking
for any glimpse of hope to know anything about their loved ones. One
mother, was so desperate, that when heard that a friend of her son
dreamt that her son is buried some where. She went to that place, dug
the graves and of course found no thing.
We just want to know
Talking to these families is diving in a sea of tears of the mothers,
wives, and children. "We just want to know. They (the American) can
keep our sons as long as they want, but just tell us if they are
alive, and where they are" a sentence you hear from almost every body
who is looking for a missing loved one.
"I would give anything, everything I own to any one who tells me about
Rafid", says Ghazza A. Jamil, Um Rafid, a middle aged mother of Rafid,
a young man lost on April 7, 2003.
Rafid, 19 years, left to his grand father's house at 8.20 in the
morning, after the curfew was lifted, he had to cross the Suspended
Bridge which leads to the Republican Palace (the Green Zone now). An
hour later his family heard that the Palace was raided, so his father
ran to the bridge looking for him. He could not go through because of
the heavy bombing. He saw many vehicles burning on the bridge "let's
pray that Rafid did not go on the Bridge" he told the mother. Next day
he took a blanket (just in case he found Rafid's body) and went on
foot, asked an American woman officer to let him look for his son. She
did. He searched all the bodies on the ground, in the cars and buses
that were destroyed or burned on the bridge, the streets, the squares
on the other side, but there was no trace of Rafid. They looked for
days in the hospitals, the cold boxes, the graves, the mortgage, the
police offices, the American bases, the CIMCS (Civilian Information
Military Centers), and the prisons. Now they had files in all the
human rights organizations, the HR Ministry, ICRC, the Red
Crescent etc. They put an announcement in the newspapers and in TV,
but no trace of Rafid.
On November 2003, the lawyer who was helping told them that he found
Rafid's name, that he was arrested in the airport and that he was
transported to Camp Bucca in May 16, 2003. When the father went down
to that prison he was told that Rafid's name was not there.
The lawyer told them that he got the information from Major Coleman in
the Iraqi Assistance Center. They went to see Coleman, who looked in
the computer lists, found the name and told them to come back in a
week. They did, but this time he sent them away again saying that he
was going to call them back. He did not, but they went back again all
the same, he told them that Rafid's name is not there.
A released prisoner from Abu Greib told the family that Rafid was with
him until February 2004. (Many prisoners told us that they were
transported from Bucca to Abu Greib and back at the beginning of 2004).
Another witness is a woman, a neighbor, who thinks that she saw Rafid,
in Kut police station. She said that his hands were tied and that he
tried to talk to her silently, he even tried to throw his body on her
many times, but the American soldier beat him. Another witness, a
prisoner, told the family that Rafid is arrested in a cellar and that
there are strict American guards on that prison. He said that Rafid is
injured in his leg. In one of the American Information Centers in
Baghdad (Jadriya), the mother was told that may be Rafid was a
fedayeen," I told them that he was not, and even if he was, does this
mean that the fedayeen are not going to be released", they said yes.
What was he accused of according to the lawyer? We asked
"Of not holding personal documents"
Um Rafid was very keen on sending a message. We told her that this is
not TV, but she insisted that any one who reads this story please help
in looking for Rafid, and also two other young men, one is called
Firas Sámi Gatti'e,b.1982, who sent a message to his mother on a
cigarette box, and Seif, who sent a message on his short. Rafid's
mother never stopped crying bitterly during the interview. Actually
she is on the verge of a break down" I talk to street pavement, ask it
did Rafid walk here? Please help me, his father is dying"
Abdul Qadir was only doing his job!!
Abdul Qadir Mohsin Mehdi, b.1948, is a chief engineer in Ministry of
Oil. On April 7, 2003 he left to work early in the morning, he was
told to distribute fuel on the Baghdad stations. He never returned
back. Eye witnesses said that he went to Daura refinery that morning
and left around noon to Shalchiya station near Buratha mosque. There
was heavy bombing so he left the car and hide in the nearest fuel
station with two other men, an employee in the station and another man
who was caught in the bombing. Ten minutes later the two men left.
According to the other man, Abdul Qadir was shot and carried away by
two American soldiers in an armored vehicle.
The family looked every where, asked all the relevant ministries and
organizations. Ministries of Oil, Justice, and HR asked the American
authorities about him, but got the same reply, no information about
the missing in April 2003.
"If he is dead, we want his body. If he is alive, we want to know,
that is all" his wife says." Last Christmas a priest was talking on
the BBC, he said we are celebrating while there is many prisoners in
Iraq whose families do not know about them". We do not know the
number; it is some where between 5 and 15 thousands. There is much
talk about mass grave for the dead, these prisoners are buried in
life, and these prisons are mass graves for the living. We had to wait
for 23 years to find the bones in Saddam's mass graves. We do not want
to wait so long to find the new mass graves. We want the bones now!!
We are believers, we know that every one is going to die, but we need
to know. He had nothing to do with politics, never joined a party,
never had a pistol, he was only doing his job"
An eye witness saw Abdul Qadir in Bucca camp, tent 9, camp 9. There
were 650 prisoners in that tent. The man told her until July 2003 they
were in the airport prison and that until March 2004 her husband was
ok". The family asked in Bucca camp but got no positive reply.
The family formed a team of relatives to look for Abdul Qadir. They
looked every where in Baghdad for two weeks after his disappearance.
They searched in the hospitals, new graves which were dug on the
streets sides at that time. His son Seif, a student of computer
technology talks about hills of men, women and children bodies he had
to look in, they were accumulated in the hospitals gardens.
The wife went to see Nebil Khoori, a representative of the American
State Department in October 2003, after he was on TV receiving
people's calls. In Khoori's office she gave all the information, and
they promised to call her, with many other families. They never did
till this minute. The wife says there are at least 6000 missing even
some fedayeen are released, why do not they release him?
Abdul Qadir's wife finds that all other problems are not priority:
water, electricity, government all could be done, but for a family
who is waiting for news from a father or a son, this is the priority
Adel Has a Number, and a Document
Adel Abbass Lieby, 30, was an administrative army officer. On April 3,
2003 he was delivering salaries for a military unit in Yosifiya. He
was shot on the way by the American troops and was injured. His friend
Hasan saw him. He was taken to Yarmook Hospital. Hassan got all Adel's
papers and documents and gave them to his family when he went to tell
them about Adel. Then Adel disappeared. "I asked in a police station,
the American officer told me to come in few days. I went back after 3
days; he told me that my son is in the airport prison"
We knew a translator in the airport, we asked him about Adel, after
few days he said that he saw him near Ammash daughter (Huda Ammash),
and that he was injured, he was sleeping on a hospital bed, with many
medical tubes attached to his body. Another person called and said he
saw Adel, who gave him our number to call.
A young man called Ala'a came to our house and asked for 10 million
dinars to release Adel. He said that Adel was accused of being of in
Saddam's Mukhabarat (intelligence). But my son in law believed that
Ala'a was a swindler. In the end a doctor in the Red Cross asked for 3
million dinars, and gave us a document from the American troops saying
that they found Adel, he has the number 905853. He told us about his
exact address in Bucca prison and urged us to demand Adel's release
because he was innocent".
But no matter how many they go there, they get no positive reply. Once
the mother was threatened by an American soldier to arrest her and put
the black sac on her head if she does not go away. He said that his
mother has not seen him for 6 months too. Again the family sought help
in all the ministries and HR organizations. "I want to see my son,
that's all" his old mother said, crying "his daughter and wife want to
Dhia's Car Deserted
Dhia Mahdi Ali Baqir Al-Sindy, b.1945, was a retired brigadier general
in the Iraqi Army, the veterans' office. On April 7, 2003, he was
driving his car near the airport highway, asking about his son in
Al-Aamil district, he never returned back. He left after 8.00 am, when
the curfew was lifted. The family could not reach the airport highway
area because it was closed by the Americans for 10 days. On April 18
the family began the search. They found his car; it looked like Dhia
deserted it because of the heavy bombing. People in the neighborhood
said that they found the car empty. The family did not find any of the
documents that were in it. A young man from the area who buried the
dead said that all the injured were taken by the American helicopters
from the scene. The family dug in the airport high way side, for a
kilometer. They found hundreds of men and some women's bodies, they
even found a bus full of bodies buried on the airport high way side.
"Are you talking about a mass grave?" we asked Dhia's wife.
"Yes, a coaster full of bodies buried on the side road, and there were
many temporary graves with signs on or near, like a tree branch or a
piece of cloth. But the people, who buried these bodies, were very
keen on collecting details of the dead, so that they are easily
recognized later. They did not see Dhia"
" I kept on looking every where, the military bases, the police
stations, the prisons, until Sheikh M. from the Independent Tribal
Sheikhs Association , told me that they found his name but did not
tell me where he is. In February 2004, a POW lieutenant Leith Abdul
Majeed, 30, said that he was arrested in an American military base in
Qatar, and that high ranking officers were arrested in Kuwait. Both
were gathered in Bucca in November 2004, presumably to be released,
Leith was released, but then the Falloja attack began and everything
A prisoner said that Dhia is in Bucca, that he was wounded in his
abdomen that he is well now, he described Dhia very precisely and gave
the family detailed information about him, that no one else would
know. "We were even given a number, 116224, but when we checked it was
"What I want to say" his wife, a retired employee in the Planning
Ministry, explains " his body was not found, he is arrested by the
American, because many eyewitnesses said that the injured were taken
by helicopters, I demand that the American authorities give us his
number, and if there is any charge against him, we are ready for any
legal procedure, if he is proved to be guilty of any charge he can be
sentenced, but if he is innocent, he should be released immediately".
Yassir Has Many Eyewitnesses
"Yassir is my nephew", said Abu Amjad, "one of the old detainees, he
was arrested at the beginning of the occupation more than two years
ago. Till now we do not have any information about him or where he is.
The only information we have is which we get from ex-prisoners, those
who have been released, we went every where, the Red Cross, the Red
Crescent, the American military bases, the Iraqi bodies we did not get
any reply or official information".
How many times we heard this sentence?!! Almost all of the missing
families say it.
Yassir, b.1975, was arrested in Radhwaniya south of Baghdad, near a
detergents factory; he was driving with his friend, Salah, to Salah's
house on April 4, 2003, when they got near an American group who shot
them. Eye witnesses from the area said that Yassir was injured in his
left arm and leg, while Salah was injured in his head and arm. Both
were given first aid by the American troops and taken in an armored
vehicle. Salah said that they were taken by a helicopter to a military
base, which could be in Yosfiya. Salah lost conscious for 12 days.
When he recovered he found himself in a military hospital in
Nassiriya, in a military base called Al-Imam base, south of Iraq. He
asked about his friend Yassir immediately, but got no reply. From that
moment till now, there is no official news about Yassir.
"A young man called Khamis Sámi came to visit us, he was arrested with
Yassir in Bucca, and he confirmed that Yassir is there. But when we
went there the American authorities denied. There were many families,
around thousand, asking about their sons there. In June 2003 they put
a list of 30 prisoners. They said that these prisoners are in Bucca
and their families can visit them. Among the names was Aisar Abbass
Hneihin, an officer in the Republican Guard. But father is still
looking for him till now.
We kept on looking for Yassir for the last two years in almost all the
American military bases and information centers. At many times the
families were given information, like the family of Jasim Hussein
Sultan Al-Abidy, but then they were denied.
Last year a man called Abdul Sattar Abdul Jabbar came from Basra, he
came to visit us saying that he has a message from Yassir. This man
said they were arrested in the airport prison for two months after the
occupation, and then they were taken to Qatar where they remained
until the beginning of 2004. After that they were brought to Iraq
again, and kept in a prison near Basra. Many prisoners talk about a
prison near Basra but not the Bucca camp. It is some where an hour
away from Basra, probably on the Iraqi-Kuwaiti borders where 3-4
thousands of Iraqi prisoners are supposed to be kept. Some of them
were of the Special Guards, the Republican Guards, fedayeen and
civilians from all over Iraq. His eyes were covered, but he knew that
the camp was called The POW Closed Camp no. 4, the Qatar group, and he
said that Yassir is in this camp and he has the number of 113453. When
we look in the detainees list we do not find this number. By the way,
regarding the serial numbers, there few thousands missing which are
the numbers beginning from 111000-115000, you do not find them in the
lists. I think these are the secret numbers, because where ever we
look we do not find them.
Many of the messengers from prisons hesitate to give full information
about themselves, or their addresses. They give very detailed
information about the prisoners from whom they get the message, which
leaves no doubt that they were with him. Obviously, they are told not
to give any information, but they feel that they should help the families
*see Protocol Additional to Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949
(Protocol1, Article 33)
Courtesy of Dirk Adriaensens
U.S. Offensive Causes Humanitarian Crisis, Nets Few Rebels
While information about last week's counter-insurgency campaign in
Western Iraq proves elusive, hospitals cite civilian deaths; thousands
remain homeless as locals and some US troops challenge claims of success.
May 19, 2005 - US military commanders were quick to declare victory
after a massive, weeklong offensive that involved air and ground
attacks against villages in Western Iraq, saying that marines had
"neutralized" an important haven for insurgents in the region.
But local residents, doctors and relief agencies described something
more akin to a humanitarian disaster, saying the campaign killed
dozens of people, displaced thousands more -- leaving many without
adequate food, shelter or water -- and flattened scores of buildings.
Dr. Hamid Al-Alousi, director of the main hospital in Al-Qa'im, the
largest town in the region, told reporters that the fighting between
US forces and suspected rebels had killed more than 42 Iraqis and
wounded another 80. He also said it was impossible to differentiate
between civilians and fighters.
The Al-Qa'im hospital was so badly damaged in the fighting that
Al-Alousi said doctors have been treating the wounded in makeshift
facilities set up in private homes.
Due to a lack of medical supplies, Al-Alousi told IRIN News that
doctors had to perform more than eleven amputations without the use of
According to IRIN, the United Nations humanitarian news service, the
village of Romanna, located about one mile west of Al-Qa'im, was
particularly hard hit. A school and a mosque were destroyed; gunfire
and artillery shells damaged dozens of homes, IRIN reports.
"My house was totally destroyed during the attack, and I want to know
who will pay for it," Salua Rawi, a resident of Romanna, told IRIN.
"The US and insurgents just know how to fight but don't look at the
mess they are causing in our country."
US military commanders said the week-long offensive, called "Operation
Matador," involved some 1,000 marines and Army personnel on the
ground, supported by Navy and Marine Corps fighter jets and attack
helicopters. It was reportedly the largest military offensive in Iraq
since US forces attacked and largely destroyed Fallujah last November.
No Iraqi forces participated in the campaign, the Washington Post
Commanders told reporters that US occupation forces were targeting
other groups of foreign fighters they say had entered Iraq through
Syria and taken up arms with insurgents and radical Islamic militants
led by reputed Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.
Many residents said US forces struck civilian neighborhoods, rather
than insurgent bases, forcing people to flee their homes.
Um Mazin, a resident of Karabilah, told the Associated Press last week
that US artillery shells hit her house. "We ran away from the American
bombings," Mazin said. "The Americans do not hit the gunmen, they hit
the houses of civilians."
After the attack, Mazin said she quickly fled her village with four
other women and 21 children, joining dozens of other refugees in an
impromptu tent village set up along a desert highway. There, they
experienced fierce sandstorms and struggled to survive without
adequate food and other supplies.
"We did not take enough food, water, medicine or clothes... and we are
tired of the sandstorms," Mazin said. "No one can go back now, and we
do not know what happened to our husbands."
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed Monday
that fighting in and around the city of Al-Qa'im caused hundreds of
women, children and elderly persons to flee their homes. Many have yet
to return to their villages, stating they are too afraid.
"We are happy that the offensive has ended but we are afraid to return
to the town in case fighting erupts again, and we don't want to takes
chances," Muhammad Warda told IRIN. Warda said he has been living in
the desert south of Al-Qa'im for the past week.
According to the Italian Consortium of Solidarity, a non-governmental
aid agency setting up relief efforts in Western Iraq, the events
displaced 8,000 people, and 6,000 are presently homeless in the region.
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society puts the number of displaced families
in and around Al-Qa'im at 1,000, according to the BBC. Many of them
reportedly fled to schools and mosques in nearby towns, or into the
desert where they lack shelter and other basic needs.
Adel Izzedine, a resident of Al-Qa'im who spoke to the AP last week at
the peak of fighting, said he left on foot with his wife and three
children. Izzedine said they walked six miles through farm fields to
reach a village where the family found transportation to Rawa, located
43 miles east of the fighting.
"There are gunmen in the city, but there are also a lot of innocent
civilians," Izzedine said. "We are living the same misery that
Fallujah lived some time ago."
The ICRC says it is now providing 135,000 liters of fresh water per
day to hundreds of displaced families in the area.
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society also began trucking in aid to Al-Qa'im
last week. It says it has distributed food and non-food items to some
200 families in the village of Rawa, 250 families in Ana and 500
families in Akachat.
The US military claims that marines killed an estimated 125 insurgents
during the week-long campaign, which spanned villages along the
Euphrates River to very near the Syrian border. Nine US marines died
and 40 more suffered wounds, according to commanders.
US claims - like those of Iraqi officials - could not be verified. The
military did not indicate how it had determined the number of rebels
killed, and news reports early in the offensive presented casualty
estimates that conflicted with official reports.
Two days into the fighting, for example, commanders in Baghdad boasted
that marines had killed 100 insurgents, but a reporter from the
Chicago Tribune, who was embedded with the combat unit, quoted field
commanders saying troops had killed only "a couple of dozen" suspected
insurgents. An officer also said he thought "hundreds" of rebels were
in the region, but "how many hundreds is tough to tell."
According to a report by Knight Ridder, some local tribal leaders said
that when US forces attacked, they failed to distinguish between
Islamic militants and local residents who oppose them.
"The Americans were bombing whole villages and saying they were only
after foreigners," Fasal Al-Goud, a tribal leader, told the news
service. Al-Goud said he asked US forces and Iraqi government
officials to help local tribal militia groups battle the foreign
militants, whose presence he said many locals resented.
Tribesmen reportedly told Knight Ridder that they had evacuated many
women and children and set up checkpoints around their villages before
US forces arrived. The men claimed they were trying to prevent
militants from escaping to outlying areas and neighboring villages.
But when the offensive began, according to tribal leaders, US forces
attacked both friends and foes. Residents who returned to their
villages after the fighting said they found widespread destruction and
the bodies of local militia fighters who had stayed behind to help the
marines, Knight Ridder reported.
Captain Jeffrey Pool, a Marine Corps spokesperson in Iraq,
acknowledged that informants in the area had provided intelligence
about the activities of foreign militants before the offensive began.
But he told Knight Ridder that US forces had not made arrangements for
local tribesman to help with the operation.
Early in the offensive, marines encountered unexpectedly intense,
organized resistance from insurgents in the town of Ubaydi, located
about twelve miles east of the Syrian border, according to the Chicago
Tribune. After calling in air strikes, ground forces engaged in fierce
door-to-door fighting, the Tribune reported, after which they hit the
town with artillery fire.
Colonel Stephen Davis, commander of a Marine Corps combat team,
referred to the air assault portion of the campaign one of the
offensive's success stories, according to the Washington Post. By most
reports, the air strikes flattened numerous houses and other civilian
But despite Col. Davis' assessment, as well as official statements
claiming massive casualties, some marines admitted that the offensive
failed to net the hundreds of foreign fighters they said they were
Marine commanders told the Post that after entering several towns,
they could not find any militants. They speculated that the opposing
fighters had retreated to towns closer to the Syrian border, such as
Husaybah, or fled into Syrian territory.
"That was the frustrating piece: coming up here for a fight and not
finding anyone," Major Steve Lawson told the Post.
A man from Husaybah, identified as Abu Abdullah, told the AP that his
town "witnessed heavy fighting, but despite that [American troops]
were not able to enter it."
Other residents of Husaybah reported there were never any foreign
militants in their town, only Iraqis defending their country against
According to the Post, a group of marines conducting house-to-house
searches left some Iraqi homes carrying pillows and blankets they had
commandeered, while others admitted they had beaten Iraqi men to get
information about insurgents during previous searches.
© 2005 The NewStandard.
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