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Context of 'July 19, 2004: Last Female Detainne Released from Abu Ghraib’s Hard Site'

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Ameen Saeed al-Sheikh, detainee no. 151362, says he is stripped naked at Abu Ghraib and threatened with rape. After being stripped, one of the guards “told me he would rape me,” he later recounts in an interview with the Washington Post. “He drew a picture of a woman to my back and makes me stand in shameful position holding my buttocks.” He adds: “They said we will make you wish to die and it will not happen.” [Washington Post, 5/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Ameen Saeed al-Sheikh

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Three Abu Ghraib detainees naked and cuffed together.Three Abu Ghraib detainees naked and cuffed together. [Source: Public domain]Three detainees at Abu Ghraib, suspected of having raped a male teenage detainee, are set aside for punishment and stripped by MPs. Pfc. Lynndie England describes the scene, apparently talking about Spc. Charles Graner and Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II: “They started to handcuff the two rapist[s] together in odd positions/ways. Once the two were handcuffed together, the third guy was brought over and handcuffed between the other two. Then they were laying on the floor handcuffed together, so all the other prisoners could see them. Cpl. Graner and Staff Sgt. Frederick then asked me to start taking pictures with the camera.” [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ivan L. Frederick II, Lynndie England, Charles Graner

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Huda al-Azzawi, said to be Iraq’s richest woman after Saddam Hussein’s wife Sajida, and owner of the Ishtar Mercedes import company, becomes a victim of blackmail. An informant working for the US military demands that she gives him 10,000 dollar or else he will report to the Americans that she and her family are working for the Iraqi resistance. She does not give in. That month the blackmailer follows up with his threat. US soldiers interrogate Al-Azzawi’s brother, Ali, and her older sister, Nahla. The informant also leads a number of raids with US soldiers on her family’s properties. [Guardian, 9/20/2004; Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Nahla al-Azzawi, Ali al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

On December 22 [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] or 23 [Guardian, 9/20/2004] , Ayad, one of Huda al-Azzawi’s brothers is arrested by US troops, apparently as a result of her ignoring an Iraqi who is trying to blackmail her (see November 2003). In an effort to get Al-Azzawi out, she goes to the US base in Adhamiya, one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces, where Ayad is presumably being held. [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] “A US captain,” she recalls, “told me to come back with my two other brothers. He said we could talk after that.” She did what she was told and returned, on Christmas Eve, together with her brothers Ali and Mu’taz. After waiting four hours, an American captain begins interrogating her. [Guardian, 9/20/2004] “An officer listened to me politely for ten minutes. Then we were interrupted by a soldier who brought in a document. The officer read it. One second later, I wasn’t ‘Mrs.’ anymore, but ‘terrorist.’” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] The captain says she is under arrest. [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Her brothers, as well as her sister, Nahla, are detained. But she is not aware of this at this time. [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] “They handcuffed me and blindfolded me and put a piece of white cloth over my eyes. They bundled me into a Humvee and took me to a place inside the palace. I was dumped in a room with a single wooden chair. It was extremely cold. After five hours they brought my sister in. I couldn’t see anything but I could recognize her from her crying.” That whole night US guards keep her sitting on the chair. [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Ali al-Azzawi, Nahla al-Azzawi, Ayad al-Azzawi, Mu’taz al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The day after her arrest, Huda al-Azzawi is taken from her cell to another room, which other detainees call “the torturing place,” she says. “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 recognized 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.” She allegedly sees her brother being sexually assaulted. After that she is questioned. “The informant and an American officer were both in the room. The informant started talking. He said, ‘You are the lady who funds your brothers to attack the Americans.’ I speak some English so I replied: ‘He is a liar.’ The American officer then hit me on both cheeks. I fell to the ground.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] For the next 12 hours, US guards make her stand with her face against the wall. Approaching midnight she and her sister are returned to a cell. “The cell had no ceiling. It was raining,” she later tells the Guardian. The Americans have another surprise in store for her. “At midnight they threw something at my sister’s feet.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Both women are blindfolded. “I heard a muffled noise and my sister’s screams,” Al-Azzawi says. “The naked body of a man had been thrown across her. She was panicking. She then realized that the body didn’t move. With my hands cuffed in front of me, I was able to lift a corner of my blindfold. The naked man was Ayad, my brother, and his face was covered in blood.” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] Ayad, she remembers, “was bleeding from his legs, knees, and forehead. I told my sister: ‘Find out if he’s still breathing.’ She said: ‘No. Nothing.’ I started crying.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Nahla “spent the night with Ayad’s corpse on her knees.” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] “The next day they took away his body.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] A death certificate is later issued by the US military. It cites the cause of death as “cardiac arrest of unknown etiology [cause].” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Ayad al-Azzawi, Huda al-Azzawi, Nahla al-Azzawi, Mu’taz al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Huda al-Azzawi and her siblings are detained at Abu Ghraib. Numbered 156283, she is to spend a total of 197 days in the prison, [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] of which 156 days will be in solitary confinement at the Hard Site in one of the upstairs cells. [Guardian, 9/20/2004] She will be interrogated thirty times. [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] Her cell at the Hard Site measures two square meters, and initially it has no bed and just a bucket for a loo. For the first three weeks she is forbidden to talk. Guards give her a Koran. With a stolen pen, she records her experiences in its margins. In the first weeks at Abu Ghraib, Al-Azzawi witnesses many instances of torture. “The guards used wild dogs. I saw one of the guards allow his dog to bite a 14-year-old boy on the leg. The boy’s name was Adil. Other guards frequently beat the men. I could see the blood running from their noses. They would also take them for compulsory cold showers even though it was January and February. From the very beginning, it was mental and psychological war.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Possibly the worst she sees, are incidents of rape. “I saw men that had water bottles forced up their butt by soldiers.” To the question whether women also ran the risk of rape, she says, “the women were relatively sheltered.” But it may also be more difficult to learn of women being raped. “You won’t find a single one who will testify to having been raped. A rape, for a man, is the supreme humiliation, but for a woman, it is a death sentence by her own family.” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Mu’taz al-Azzawi, Adil, Nahla al-Azzawi, Ali al-Azzawi, Huda al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

“There was never enough food and one day,” Huda al-Azzawi, detained at Abu Ghraib (see January 4, 2004), recalls, “I came across an old woman who had collapsed from hunger. The Americans were always eating lots of hot food. I found some in a packet in a bin and gave it to her. They caught me and threw me in a one-meter-square punishment cell. They then poured cold water on me for four hours.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

News of the commotion surrounding the Abu Ghraib scandal apparently does not reach prisoners at the Hard Site. Huda al-Azzawi says she heard about the scandal only after her release in July 2004. “Retrospectively, I realize that after the scandal broke, our situation improved,” she later recalls. [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] She is now allowed to exercise in the yard outside for 10 minutes a day. She is given a bed, and assigned a new female guard, “Mrs. Palmer,” who tries to learn Arabic. Later, as hundreds of detainees are released, Al-Azzawi and her sister are moved from their cells to a tent. Three US generals will come to interview her in an apparent investigation of the death of her brother Ayad (see December 24, 2003). But according to her, no apology is offered. [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Four months after the death of Ayad al-Azzawi (see December 24, 2003), his father, Hafez Ahmed Ali Al-Azzawi, is permitted to recover his body from the morgue. The father also buys one or more photographs of the body. Le Monde describes the picture of a young man, detainee no. 1640, “with his face deformed at the left temple and his abdomen covered in brown spots.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004; Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] According to the Guardian, a number of photographs show “extensive bruising to the chest and arms, and a severe head wound above the left eye.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Ayad al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

MPs evacuate all the prisoners from the Hard Site at Abu Ghraib, except Huda al-Azzawi and a small number of other women in the upstairs cells. The guard assigned to her, “Mrs. Palmer,” tells them, according to Al-Azzawi, that during the inspection prisoners must lie quietly on their beds. They are promised with more time outside of their cells if they behave well. [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

May 5, 2004: Journalists Tour Abu Ghraib

For the first time, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller leads a group of journalists around the Abu Ghraib prison. When prisoner Huda al-Azzawi sees Miller with the group of reporters, she shouts out: “We are not the killers. You are the killers. This is our country. You have invaded it.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Journalists notice five women screaming and waving their arms through the iron bars. One of them, possibly Al-Azzawi, shouts in Arabic: “I’ve been here five months. I don’t belong to the resistance. I have children at home.” [CBS News, 5/5/2004] The women had been instructed the day before to keep quiet (see May 4, 2004). Al-Azzawi recalls: “After that they didn’t let me out of my cell for an entire month. A US officer came to me and said: ‘Because of you we have all been punished.’” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Elsewhere at Abu Ghraib, prisoners run out shouting as the bus with journalists drives by. A man with one leg waves his prosthetic leg in the air, shouting in Arabic: “Why? Why? Nobody has told me why I am here.” [CBS News, 5/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Geoffrey D. Miller

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, in a speech to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says that there is proof that Iraqi prisoners, including women and children, were raped and sodomized by US guards while in custody at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. Hersh, who, as evidenced by a video recording of the speech, is struggling with what to say and what not to say, tells the assemblage: “Debating about it, ummm.… Some of the worst things that happened you don’t know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib.… The women were passing messages out saying, ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened,’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out.” Hersh continues: “It’s impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there? When I did My Lai [a US military atrocity during the Vietnam War] I was very troubled like anybody in his right mind would be about what happened. I ended up in something I wrote saying in the end I said that the people who did the killing were as much victims as the people they killed because of the scars they had, I can tell you some of the personal stories by some of the people who were in these units witnessed this. I can also tell you written complaints were made to the highest officers, and so we’re dealing with a enormous massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there and higher, and we have to get to it and we will. We will.” In an earlier speech, Hersh noted the photos and videos of “horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.” [Salon, 7/15/2004] Other stories from Abu Ghraib document the rape and sexual assault of prisoners (see October 7, 2003, October 24, 2003, and January 4, 2004).

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, American Civil Liberties Union

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Huda al-Azzawi is the last female detainee to be released from the Hard Site at Abu Ghraib. She is flown by a helicopter to Al Taji, a US military base north of Baghdad.“After eight months in prison they suddenly treated me like a queen,” she later recalls. “It was weird. They offered me some Pepsi. I could take a shower. There was air conditioning. There were four female soldiers to look after me. The doctor came to see me four times in 24 hours. They made me sign a piece of paper promising not to leave the country. And then I was free.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Her release is reportedly due to intervention by Sheik Hicham al-Duleimi. During her stay in prison, her husband had filed for divorce. After her release, she became the Sheik’s nineteenth wife. “I would have liked,” she said looking back, “at the moment I was leaving my cell, to have had a profound thought or to have pronounced a meaningful sentence. I was the last woman in the prison! But my head was empty. Bizarrely, the only words that came to my mind were English: ‘Bye-bye.’ But, I believe I have still not completely left Abu Ghraib.” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] Asked what she thinks of Americans now, after the terrible ordeal of her and her family, she answers, “I hate them.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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