The government men in masks who
terrorize Iraq By Dahr Jamail
and Harb al-Mukhtar
BAGHDAD - After the US
forces and the bombings, Iraqis are coming to fear
those bands of men in masks who seem to operate
with the Iraqi police.
Omar Ahmed's family
learnt what it can mean to run into the police,
their supposed protectors. Omar was driving with
two friends in the Adhamiya district of Baghdad at
night on September
when they were stopped at a police checkpoint.
"The three of them were arrested by the
police even though there was nothing in the car,"
an eyewitness told Inter Press Service, speaking
on condition of anonymity. They did not return
home for days, and the family began to search the
morgues, common practice now when someone is
arrested by the Iraqi police and does not return.
"Five days after they were arrested we
found Omar's body in the freezer in a morgue, with
holes in the side of his head and shoulders," a
friend of the family said. "We don't know if the
other two men are dead or alive. But we know these
men were guilty of nothing other than driving
their car at night. We have no security and the
problem is that police are killing and
disappearing the Iraqi people every day now."
The "death squads" as they have come to be
called are getting more active with just a week to
go before the December 15 election.
Tuesday this week Iraqi police said they found 20
bodies dumped at two different locations in
western Iraq, according to the al-Sharqiyah
television network. Eleven bodies of men wearing
civilian clothes were found dumped on the main
road between Baghdad and the Jordanian border. The
bodies were found near al-Rutbah city, with their
hands tied behind their backs. Nine bodies, also
of civilians and riddled with bullets, were found
on the side of a road near Fallujah on Monday.
Signs are emerging that such killing is
the work of death squads operating with the
Iran-backed Shi'ite forces that dominate the
government, and therefore the police.
Omar, a 39-year-old unemployed engineer
who now sells petrol and cigarettes on the black
market says he survived one such Shi'ite squad. "I
was sleeping on the roof of my house one night
because it was so hot and we had no electricity as
usual," Omar said. "I was awakened by a loud
explosion nearby, and immediately surrounded by
strange men wearing night-vision goggles."
Omar says he was thrown to the ground by
the men, handcuffed and blindfolded. "They started
to beat me using the end of their guns," he said.
"Then they searched my house, took my gun which I
told them I had, then they took me away." His
32-year-old wife Sumia, a teacher, was also
handcuffed and taken away.
Omar says he
saw about 10 pick-up trucks carrying at least 100
men wearing black masks before a bag was placed
over his head. He was taken to the back of a
truck, and beaten up until he fainted.
Sumia was beaten up too. "I received so
many kicks to my stomach," she said. "I heard
screaming in pain, so I fought until they
handcuffed me and beat me until I couldn't do
The two were taken to the
Iraqi police station in Suleakh, Baghdad, where
they were interrogated and accused of owning a
mortar. "I explained to them that I don't know
anything about mortars," said Omar. "And that I
have never had anything to do with the resistance,
but they said so many insulting words to me, and
beat me further."
Sumia, who was also
interrogated, pleaded with the policemen to let
them return home to care for their young children.
"They would not give me a headscarf to cover my
head," she said. "They kept asking me about
mortars and wouldn't let me go to look after my
children. We know nothing about any mortars."
Omar said the next morning he was moved
into another room where he saw men lying
handcuffed, with their heads covered with sacks.
"They were lying on the ground without a blanket
or pillow." In a while, he saw 14 men wearing
black masks enter the room carrying whips. "I
watched them beat the prisoners. They told them
this was their breakfast."
Omar and Sumia
were later taken home, and warned that if security
forces were attacked in their neighbourhood, they
would be detained again.
Omar said the men
who detained him and his wife were members of the
Shi'ite Badr Organization, a militia affiliated
with Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme
Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Tensions in Baghdad run high, as people who live
in areas not controlled by the Badr Army face
daily threats of being kidnapped or killed by
members of the militia.
Organization is conducting a campaign to destroy
other political parties and their electoral
advertisements," said Saleh Hassir, a doctor at a
Baghdad medical center. "We see black paint and
tears on ex-prime minister Allawi's posters and
those of the Sunni groups, but pictures of
al-Hakim remain unaffected."
says the Americans have helped bring in new
"So many of us are
against Iraq being controlled by these fundamental
Islamic Iranian loyalists like al-Hakim," the
doctor said. "Now we are seeing the suffering and
ultimate dictatorship they have brought us here
with the help of the Americans."