Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Saddam Hussein and the town of Dujayl

In today's Los Angeles Times, a very sad story about the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein, more specifically about the revenge he took on the people of Dujayl, a shii dominated small town 40 kilometers north of Baghdad, after a failed attempt on his life by someone there. The story is a little long, but certainly worth a read:

DUJAYL, Iraq — Once a torrent of water coursed through this central Iraq town, which takes its name from Nahr Dujayl, the Little Tigris River that for centuries nourished its lush palm groves and orchards.

Now, only raw sewage flows through open gutters along the city's unpaved alleyways.

Inside a mud-brick home, an old man chokes back tears as he recalls his three sons. They were killed, prosecutors say, as a result of then-President Saddam Hussein's vengeful fury following a 1982 assassination attempt.

"One by one, my sons were taken from me," said Ali Hossein Mussawi, a 68-year-old onetime farmer. His humble living room is filled with fading photographs of the three young men. "Saddam took away my sons, he took away half of my heart."

Hussein's Sunni Muslim-dominated regime unleashed a wave of retaliation within hours of the July 8, 1982, attack in the Shiite-majority city, Iraqi officials, prosecutors and witnesses say. At least 148 were rounded up and executed, an Iraqi prosecutor said. Some estimate three times that many were killed. Prosecutors allege that almost 400 men, women and even children were in custody for years.

The small river running through the town, which gave it life and prosperity, was cut off, plowed over and eventually turned into an asphalt road. The date palm groves and gardens where residents earned their livelihoods were bulldozed or left unwatered until they died too, according to prosecutors and townspeople.

Few Iraqis were brave enough to speak about events in Dujayl. Days after the botched assassination, the state-controlled newspaper Thawra sardonically hailed plans to "redevelop" and upgrade the town.

But as soon as Hussein fell in April 2003, people began speaking out. "If someone tries to kill the president, you should arrest the suspects," said Jawad Massoud, 38, a produce wholesaler and Dujayl native who lost relatives. "Why destroy everything? Why punish everybody?"

To read the full text of the article, click here.


Jessie Speer said...

I think the world has sufficiently demonized Saddam Hussein, and information about his crimes against humanity is not hard to find. It would be interesting, though, to compare the death toll at the hands of the Americans in the last decade to Saddam's track record. America, without a doubt, is the larger criminal.

Karim said...

Hi Jessie,

Thanks for your input. When you say that "the world has sufficiently demonized Saddam Hussein", the irony is that there are still a lot of people in the arab world (especially in the middle-east) who see him as a hero. In any case, Saddam's exactions against the shia remain quite unknown. Ask any sunni arab about Saddam's brutality, and they will mention to you how he decimated entire kurdish villages. However, they will not know that the shia were in fact the primary targets of the dictator's ruthlessness: given their proportion in Iraqi society, the shia were seen as potentially very dangerous and hence were given no quarter. Western media, for its part, turned a blind eye on Saddam's exactions, when he was an ally against Iran. But even as Saddam was demonized, more emphasis was put on his killing of the kurds than on his treatment of the shia (identified more as a "religious", as opposed to an "ethnic" group). It was for these reasons that I posted the article from the LA Times, to make sure more poeple become aware of the fact that the shia too has suffered under Saddam, no wonder that now they want to rid Iraq of the Baath, and that they want to affirm they right, as a demographic majority, to dominate the Iraqi political scene.

As for your assertion that "America, without a doubt, is the larger criminal", I am not sure it is appropriate to make such a comparison here, for 1) Saddam killed his own people (civilians for the most part), and 2) if Saddam disposed of an arms arsenal even remotely comparable to the one at America's disposal, then God only knows how many people would have died at his hands.