Somaieh Al Kareem

“Every night, two hundred men were removed and executed. During the mid-to-late 1980s, my loved ones were included in one of these groups of two hundred.”

From 1968 until the late 1980s, Iraqis severely suffered under the hand of the Baath Party that ran the Iraqi government with its campaign of fear, terror and death. Many around the world do not know the full extent of the suffering Iraqis endured. For the most part, records have been muddled and facts confused.

After the Baath Party gained control of Iraq, talk of politics became taboo. Control of the country was paramount and their methods used to maintain it was vicious. Many in the country could not support the government. They came to power by means of a bloody coup d’état and the reaction of the public was mixed.

As a result of public opinion, the new government employed severe measures to ensure its hold on power. There was no freedom of speech and the government of Iraq became insanely suspicious of its own people. They did not tolerate opinion and as a result, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis suffered.   Even the distractions of war were used to deflect the attention of the majority away from the central government and outwards towards its neighbors.

Uncle Ali, Hamed and my father QasemWhat is known is that during that time they killed and tortured Iraqis. Ample information in support of this can be found in many sources. With only a little searching, you will find plenty of information about Iraqis suffering, but there is much more to the story that is untold.

Stories abound of the brutality and suffering of individuals in Iraq. All corners of the country have their share. This article offers yet another. My family was arrested for no reason in the early 1980s as part of the Baath’s policies. I was 7 years old when their secret police arrived at my home and imprisoned my entire family. From the oldest members of my family in their 60s to the youngest at two years, nobody was spared. Pictured from left to right are my uncle, Ali, my brother, Hamid and my father, Qasem. (The picture was taken in either Abu Ghraib or Nograt Salman prison in 1983.)

We all spent many months in the jail where I witnessed death, torture and suffering all around me. We were part of a community of nearly one million people living in Baghdad, called Kurd Faily. The government targeted the wealthy and educated families. They called us Iranian, and accused us of stealing and spying. They stripped us of our wealth and possessions before imprisoning us and eventually forcing us at gunpoint across the border into Iran. In prison was the last time I saw my father, brother and uncle!

Tarazmomtaz003Not until I came to Canada did I find out that the prison where our loved ones were kept contained nearly twenty thousand Kurd Faily men and boys. According to eyewitnesses, the government began emptying the jail in early 1986. (In this photo of men playing soccer inside the Nograt Salman prison, my brother Hamid is wearing the black shirt. It is early 1984. From late 1984 until their executions in 1986, no one was permitted to see the prisoners.) Every night, two hundred men were removed and executed. During the mid-to-late 1980s, my loved ones were included in one of these groups of two hundred. It did not take long before nearly all the twenty thousand men perished. From twenty thousand, less than two hundred survived.

Today, the remaining members of my immediate family live in Canada. I have struggled everyday with these memories of childhood. With the encouragement of many, in the coming months, I will publish a book describing the events, and aftermath of our brutal treatment by the Baath and the difficult journey to Canada. I am doing this in memory of my father Qasem, my uncle Ali, my older brother Hamid, my grandparents and to honor the thousands of others who lost their lives and suffered during this dark period of Iraqi history.

Since 2008, CCIJ has been working with Somaieh to support her in her efforts to get justice for what happened to her family in Iraq. Like so many survivors in Canada, she is unable to seek redress in a Canadian courts because of the State Immunity Act.

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