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Profile: Ali al-Azzawi
Ali al-Azzawi was a participant or observer in the following events:
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]
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]
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]
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