Posted by Jan (220.127.116.11) on August 03, 2003 at 13:00:58:
In Reply to: Uday Hussein- A mixed Type posted by Rich (18.104.22.168) on August 02, 2003 at 13:26:02:
Sadistic torture just 'a job' in Uday's regime
From The Sunday Times
AS he stood on a street corner in Baghdad last week, the young man looked nothing like a torturer who cut out tongues and hacked off hands.
His clothes were ordinary, his grin boyish. Standing by a burned-out tank, he chatted amiably with a group of youngsters.
But behind the fake Gucci sunglasses were the eyes of a killer. Ali is a former member of a Fedayeen squad that carried out sadistic punishments for Uday, the deranged elder son of Saddam Hussein.
Until a few weeks ago, Ali had kissed his wife goodbye in the mornings and driven to work at a heavily guarded base in the north of the city.
There he changed into a black uniform and into a man who maimed and murdered anyone who criticised the regime or mocked its leaders.
In four years, by Ali's estimate, he personally cut out 13 tongues and chopped off about 40 hands. He broke the arms of four men and the backs of another three. He took part in dozens of decapitations and assisted in 16 assassinations of figures suspected of being opposed to the regime, including several Kurds in northern Iraq. It was all done on the orders of Uday.
Last week, in a series of meetings, Ali began to talk, with a close friend acting as interpreter, about his life of terror and the dawning understanding, post-Saddam, of the terrible suffering he inflicted.
He described how, clad in black garb that covered all but his eyes, he had often meted out sentences in the street, in front of a victim's family and horrified onlookers. Guarded by armed colleagues, he used to tie up and blindfold the accused. One of his men held the detainee's head in a firm grip. Another forced open the mouth.
Ali would then draw out a pair of pliers and a sharp knife. Gripping the tongue with pliers, he would slice it up with the knife, tossing severed pieces into the street.
"Those punished were too terrified to move, even though they knew I was about to chop off their tongue," said Ali in his matter-of-fact voice. "They would just stand there, often praying and calling out for Saddam and Allah to spare them. By then it was too late.
"I would read them out the verdict and cut off their tongue without any form of anaesthetic. There was always a lot of blood.
"Some offenders passed out. Others screamed in pain. They would then be given basic medical assistance in an ambulance, which would always come with us on such punishment runs. Then they would be thrown in jail."
When I had first met Ali, after much searching, he had been reticent and secretive, but gradually he had opened up.
True, he refused to reveal his surname and showed little emotion and scant remorse. But perhaps inside he wanted to extirpate his guilt by revealing it. He began to tell me in detail about how the Fedayeen worked and his part in it.
He showed me several safe houses they had used, including one the Americans had not discovered. It was still stacked with ammunition cases and weapons.
He took me to the site of a secret training camp, which American forces later confirmed had been a Fedayeen base. And finally he led me to a man who had been a victim of torture by the punishment group, although not, Ali said, at his own hands.
Ferass Adnan is a 23-year-old trader who speaks with difficulty these days now that part of his tongue is missing. Some months ago he got into a fight in a market in northern Baghdad and was overheard insulting Hussein as the "son of a dog". A policeman tried to arrest him, but Adnan fled.
Within hours, Iraqi secret police agents arrived at Adnan's home and, failing to find him, took away his uncle, brother and two cousins. They were thrown in jail and tortured with electric shocks.
It was only a matter of days before the regime's ubiquitous security spies caught up with Adnan in the suburbs of Baghdad.
He was jailed and then, on March 5, turned over to the specialists of Ali's punishment squad.
Adnan was taken back to his father's home in north Baghdad, where his entire family was ordered to gather outside the local coffee house. "His hands were tied and his eyes blindfolded," the young man's father, Adnan Duleimi, recalled last week. "I had not seen my son since they had arrested him. I tried to pay for his release. I lost all my savings, handing everything I had to corrupt security officers who promised to help but only took my money. There was nothing I could do.
"I had to watch in silence as they took a knife to my son's tongue. Had I said a word we would all have been killed."
The punishment was botched, leaving Adnan's tongue mutilated but not excised.
The wound, although now healed, recently became infected. Quite apart from the physical injury, the psychological scars have left Adnan barely able to put his ordeal into words.
"I am still afraid," he murmured.
"Saddam is alive, and so are all those closest to him. We don't know if one day the regime will come back. Those who did this to me are still around, we just don't know their faces.
"They just took off their uniforms and went home. They are still out there and we are still afraid." Beside him, his uncle lifted his shirt to reveal his legacy of prison torture – a back covered with the scars and boils of electrocution.
A stocky man with a soft voice and thin moustache, Ali joined the Fedayeen, a group set up under the command of Uday, in the mid-1990s when he was 18. He proved loyal and good at the work, and four years ago he was selected to join Saffa, a special team that took orders directly from Uday.
Members of the elite team had a special identity card signed by Uday in golden letters under a portrait of Hussein and the words "Allah, fatherland, leader". They worked closely with a group called Eiun – meaning "eyes" – which was in charge of gathering intelligence on opponents of Hussein. Their missions included kidnappings, assassinations and punishments.
The pay was generous: some Saffa members earned $US70 ($114) a month, including bonuses for special operations, a small fortune in a country where many workers earn a pittance. From this inner circle of the Fedayeen, Ali used to glimpse Uday about twice a month, mainly at Saffa's secret base north of Baghdad. He became a close friend of one of Uday's guards, a man from Hussein's home town of Tikrit, who gave Ali an insight into the debauched, vicious lifestyle of the dictator's eldest son.
Sex, drink and violence were Uday's interests. A key figure in his entourage was Ali Sahar, who procured young women for his boss and organised drunken parties in his honour. Sahar, said Ali, ran a network of madams and houses where Uday would spend time with women, who in most cases were forced to sleep with him.
After Uday was wounded in an assassination attempt in 1996, which is said to have left him partly impotent, he became even more violent. He once ordered a female Iraqi urologist, who lived abroad but was visiting her parents in Iraq, to be brought to him to give medical advice. When she failed to cure his sexual difficulties, he exploded in a mad rage and tried to rape her. Then he shot her dead.
"If Uday saw a woman he liked in the street, he would order his bodyguards to bring her to him," recalled Ali. "There was nothing that anyone could do. He would either pay the women money or try to rape them.
"Other times he would force them to dance and strip. To try to oppose him would mean to risk getting killed.
"One of his steady mistresses was a Jordanian restaurant owner called Wafaa. She used to bring him girls. Then she began sleeping with him herself and the sexual favours paid off. Suddenly she had power. She was one of the first people in Iraq to have a mobile phone, and she could have anyone killed if she wanted to."
By day Uday often slept, according to Ali, if he was not driving fast cars or hunting. By night he partied at the Jadriea Equestrian Club, an exclusive nightclub on the Euphrates. In private he had a liking for cowboy hats and garish clothes – but only those with a death wish would dare to comment on his style.
Anybody, including Fedayeen soldiers, caught making even innocent remarks against Hussein or Uday would have his or her tongue cut by a member of Saffa.
In the medieval terror of Uday's reign, there was a clear scale of barbarity. Deserters had an ear cut off. Thieves had fingers or hands cut off, depending on the source and value of stolen goods. Stealing government property automatically cost a hand.
Members of Saffa, said Ali, performed the amputations with a sword dubbed al-Haq, the Arabic for justice. Liars had their backs broken. Offenders were tied to a wooden plank between two cement blocks, and another block was dropped on the victim's spine. Informants who supplied Saffa with tips that proved erroneous had a piece of redhot iron placed on their tongue.
Homosexuals were shown no mercy, and Ali witnessed one punishment in which two gay Iraqis were pushed off the roof of a building. One died, the other was paralysed.
Traitors, spies, smugglers and occasionally prostitutes paid the ultimate price. They were taken to a secret Fedayeen training base in north Baghdad. There they were beheaded with a sword known as al-Bashar.
In late 2000, Ali took part in the mass decapitation of 39 Iraqis who were accused by Uday of running a sex slave ring, selling Iraqi women to Kuwaitis across the border.
"There were 24 men and 15 women," he recalled. Two groups of Saffa members were ordered to execute them all in one day. Eleven of us were tasked with chopping the heads and the other seven with collecting the heads and bodies, which were then dumped outside their houses as a warning to others. I was on the team picking up the heads."
In a gruesome twist, Uday ordered that many of the Saffa punishments were recorded on video and the tapes delivered to him. The playboy, said Ali, had a collection of hundreds of tapes for private viewing at his leisure.
As war dawned, the Fedayeen in Baghdad were ordered to keep a close watch on the districts of Saddam City, Shaula and al-Husseinia. All three are predominantly Shi'ite and poor working-class areas. The regime, said Ali, feared that once the war began they could become hotbeds of rebellion.
Small units of Fedayeen patrolled the districts in trucks with a heavy machinegun mounted on the roof. They were ordered to break up any group of more than five Iraqis by firing into the air, and to search for spies trying to help the Americans. As the US Marines advanced, the Fedayeen retreated back into the city centre to try to ambush the Americans in deadly urban warfare. Ali was ordered to fight as part of a group of 40 men armed with AK-47s, PK heavy machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades, pistols and knives. The army had the tanks and heavy artillery but, to the dismay of the Fedayeen, it failed to put up significant resistance. Ali claimed the Fedayeen had believed Iraq could win the war because America, despite its greater weapons and power, would lose its will to fight.
"And we thought we would be honoured as defenders of the fatherland, and that we would be rewarded by Uday with money, or a new car," he said. "We really didn't expect the Americans to make it all the way to Baghdad.
"We were shocked when we realised that they were at the city doors. The army betrayed us. Without tanks and artillery, there was little we could do against US tanks."
But he said even as the Marines closed on the city centre, Uday was still in Baghdad. On the day when US Marines were on the southern bank of the Euphrates but had not yet managed to take the bridges, Uday pulled up near Ali's group at the wheel of a four-wheel drive.
He was armed and protected by three bodyguards. He asked about US positions, praised his Fedayeen fighters and ordered them not to let the Americans take a nearby highway bridge that led into the city centre. According to Ali he was calm and very much alive.
Ali and his fellow Saffa members fought on sporadically for several days. When they realised all was lost, they abandoned their uniforms and melted into the population. Ali buried his weapons and burnt his Saffa ID card. Now he lives discreetly in the city but in fear, and would be photographed only with his face masked.
When I asked him how many different punishments he had carried out with his own hands, he joked awkwardly that he needed a calculator. He began to count, occasionally jotting down names of places and dates on a piece of paper. Then he tore it into tiny pieces.
"At first I never used to think about what I did," he said. "It was a job. But then with time I began to feel bad about the punishments, the tongues, the hands and the decapitations.
"But we lived in fear of Uday. We would all freeze whenever he turned up. He was crazed and totally unpredictable. He thought he was God and behaved like God. He owned the country.
"He could just lose his temper and shoot someone in the head and there was nothing anyone could do. To refuse an order, to try to get out of Saffa or the Fedayeen meant a death sentence.
"At first, the attraction was the money and the respect we earned from people. We had power and people feared us but soon I realised that the only power was Hussein and Uday. Everyone else in Iraq, including us Saffa Fedayeen, lived in fear. Paralysing fear. Now I pray (to) Allah for forgiveness. I realise it was wrong."
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