Monday, September 20, 2004
From the Guardian, courtesy of our distinguished colleague Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla:
It began with a phone call. In November last year 39-year-old Huda Alazawi, a wealthy Baghdad businesswoman, received a demand from an Iraqi informant. He was working for the Americans in Adhamiya, a Sunni district of Baghdad well known for its hostility towards the US occupation. His demand was simple: Madame Huda, as her friends and family know her, had to give him $10,000. If she failed to pay up, he would write a report claiming that she and her family were working for the Iraqi resistance. He would pass it to the US military and they would arrest her.We hope it will not spoil the story for you if we reveal that, despite what happened next, Ms. Alazawi's brother was at no point decapitated.
"It was clearly blackmail," Alazawi says, speaking in the Baghdad office of her trading company. "We knew that if we gave in, there would be other demands." The informant was as good as his word. In November 2003, he wrote a report that prompted US soldiers to interrogate Alazawi's brother, Ali, and her older sister, Nahla, now 45. Wearing a balaclava, he also led several raids with US soldiers on the families' antique-filled Baghdad properties.
On December 23, the Americans arrested another of Alazawi's brothers, Ayad, 44. It was at this point that she decided to confront the Americans directly. She marched into the US base in Adhamiya, one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces. "A US captain told me to come back with my two other brothers. He said we could talk after that." On Christmas Eve she returned with her brothers, Ali and Mu'taz. "I waited for four hours. An American captain finally interrogated me. After 10 minutes he announced that I was under arrest." Like thousands of other Iraqis detained by the Americans since last year's invasion, Alazawi was about to experience the reality of the Bush administration's "war on terror" . . . .
Alazawi says that US guards left her sitting on the chair overnight, and that the next day they took her to a room known by detainees as "the torturing place". "The US officer told us: 'If you don't confess we will torture you. So you have to confess.' My hands were handcuffed. They took off my boots and stood me in the mud with my face against the wall. I could hear women and men shouting and weeping. I recognised one of the cries as my brother Mu'taz. I wanted to see what was going on so I tried to move the cloth from my eyes. When I did, I fainted."