Iraq is a regime that supports terrorist groups worldwide, and has also institutionalized terror as a means of suppressing its own people. The use of state terror by Saddam Hussein's government is a fact of everyday life in Iraq, where the freedom of expression is crushed ruthlessly.

In the 2002 report of Amnesty International it was noted that:

"Scores of people, including possible prisoners of conscience and armed forces officers suspected of planning to overthrow the government, were executed. Scores of suspected anti-government opponents, including people suspected of having contacts with opposition groups in exile, were arrested. The fate and whereabouts of most of those arrested, including those detained in previous years, remained unknown. Several people were given lengthy prison terms after grossly unfair trials before special courts. Torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners and detainees were systematic. The two Kurdish political parties controlling Iraqi Kurdistan detained prisoners of conscience, and armed political groups were reportedly responsible for abductions and killings."

The death penalty is widely implemented. Crimes punishable by death include prostitution, homosexuality, incest and rape. A recent decree stated that those convicted of providing accommodation for the purposes of prostitution would be executed by the sword.

Torture is widespread. Amnesty reports that:

"Political prisoners and detainees were subjected to systematic torture. The bodies of many of those executed had evident signs of torture. Common methods of physical torture included electric shocks or cigarette burns to various parts of the body, pulling out of fingernails, rape, long periods of suspension by the limbs from either a rotating fan in the ceiling or from a horizontal pole, beating with cables, hosepipe or metal rods, and falaqa (beating on the soles of the feet). In addition, detainees were threatened with rape and subjected to mock execution. They were placed in cells where they could hear the screams of others, being deliberately deprived of sleep."

Amnesty International also reported that Iraq has the world’s worst record for numbers of persons who have disappeared or remain unaccounted for.

The Secret Police

The Secret Police in Iraq provides the means for state-instigated political terror, and functions as the eyes and the ears of the Revolution. Iraqi citizens are detained at will, arrested without warrant and routinely tortured and murdered. It is for this reason that the US has been advocating that the UN inspectors remove scientists (and their families) for questioning on Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. Without such protection, they fear, the scientists will be intimidated.

The Kezzar Affair

Terror is nothing new to Iraq. The first Chief of State Security in Iraq was Nadhim Kezzar, a 1969 appointee of Saddam Hussein. Kezzar was a central figure in the excessive use of political terror of the first 1963 Ba'athist regime, during which thousands of Communists and Kurds were killed after torture. Political purging of opponents was necessary early on to establish the power of Saddam.

Kezzar developed a penchant for personally carrying out sadistic acts. Despite his methods, which were the cause of criticism from within the party, Kezzar's use of terror successfully liquidated political opposition. At a time when the position of the regime was uncertain, he strengthened the position of the party.

In July 1973, Kezzar was executed along with 35 of his colleagues - but only after he had killed the Ministers of Defense and Interior. He was unsuccessful in his attempted assassination of the President, al Bakr.

At the time, the Kezzar Affair threw the Party into turmoil. This came to head when a number of Kezzar's gang members were implicated in a series of gruesome corruption scandals, and house robberies with the hacking to death of whole families. The totalitarian regime had to come up with an ideological explanation for criminal and deviant operations within its ranks. Saddam Hussein himself explained Kezzar's and Abu al Tubar's (the so-called "hatchet man") behavior:

"Some people imagine that the Revolution is unaware of what is happening around it... those crimes which have taken place recently are new devices to confront the Revolution and exhaust it psychologically. These are not sadistic crimes ... they are crimes against the Revolution."

The Kezzar Affair had a number of important consequences for the Party and for institutionalization of political terror:

  • Firstly, it depleted the leadership at the top of the Party. After the execution of Kezzar and his followers the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) was reduced to six members, namely; Hussein, al Bakr, Izzar al Duri, Izzat Mustafeh, Tahal Jazrawi and Sa'dun Ghaydan.
  • Secondly, it enabled the regime to blame Kezzar for its earlier excesses--even though Kezzar was appointed by Hussein and it is unlikely that his superior was unaware of his behavior.
  • Thirdly, it provided the opportunity for the reorganization of the Secret Police. The reorganization was presided over by Saddam Hussein. The new infrastructure provided the basis for organization of the Secret Police up until today.

For the Ba'athist Party, the Kezzar affair has been explained as "imperialist encroachment" and therefore provided an excuse for further political purging in the name of strengthening internal security. The Party, it was argued, would have to protect itself; the oil nationalization decrees of March 1973 had clearly not been sufficient to ward off imperialism.

The Structure of the Secret Police

The Secret Police consists of three separate intelligence organizations. Each of these organizations are instrumental in the use of terror for political purpose, both within Iraq and abroad. Information is scarce about these institutions. The most important documentation is provided by Iraqi dissident Samil Al Khalil. In his book 'The Republic of Fear', Al-Khalil lists three agencies of terror; the Amn, the Estikhabart and the Mukhabarat, all of which are independently accountable to the RCC.

  • THE AMN or State Security
    The Amn provided the eyes and ears of the Revolution. The KGB is believed to have supplied interrogation and sophisticated surveillance equipment, training for Iraqi personnel in KGB training schools in the USSR and exchanged intelligence information.
  • THE ESTIKHABARAT (Military Intelligence)
    The Estikhabarat, is said to operate only abroad. In this way, the Ba'ath Party maintains greater control over the military, by restricting its functioning within Iraq. It performs traditional Military Intelligence gathering but is active, together with the Mukhabarat (see below), in the victimizing and assassination of political opponents in foreign countries.

The assassination of political opponents dates back to the days of Kezzar. In 1971, before Saddam Hussein had become President:

"(He) sent a group of seven religious leaders from Baghdad to talk peace with Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani. One of the Sheikhs agreed to a request from Saddam's Security Chief Nazin Kezzar to strap a hidden tape recorder to his body so Baghdad could have a verbatim record of what Barzani said. Kezzar showed the Sheikh the button to push under his robes when he got close enough to record Barzani's voice. Kezzar forgot to tell him that hidden inside the tape recorder was a bomb."

State Terrorism in the 1991 Gulf War

The fear by President George Bush that Saddam may use terrorists to carry out attacks on Israel or the US is not without foundation. During the 1991 Gulf War, German neo-Nazis negotiated with Iraqi agents to build an "anti-Zionist" legion. Saddam also held audience with French and U.S. neo-Nazi groups in the run-up to the war.

  • For over a quarter of a century, Iraq has collaborated with many terrorist organizations in utilizing political terror against its opponents worldwide. Iraq has contracted "freelance" terrorists based in Lebanon, as well as Palestinian and Lebanese groups such as Abu Nidal and Abu al Abbar, both of which were based in Baghdad at the time of the Kuwaiti invasion. The Ba'ath Party has been remarkably successful in the elimination of political opponents worldwide.
  • In 1981 in Dubai, Mohammed al Salmai Iraqi Shia, member of the Islamic Opposition movement was assassinated. In 1986 in Italy, Dr. Mohammed Habush, Iraqi Shia and member of the Islamic opposition movement was killed. In March 1987 in Pakistan, Nima Mohammad and Sami Mahdi Abid, Iraqi Shias, and members of the Islamic opposition, were killed. Saddam even killed his own son-in-law.
  • The Estikhabarat provided logistical support for the London Iranian Embassy siege in May 1980, as well playing a central role in the attack against the Israeli Ambassador to London, Shlomo Argov in 1982. When Farzad Bazoft, an Iranian British journalist was hanged on charges of spying for Israel in May 1990, a box with his body inside was later delivered to the British Embassy in Iraq.

THE MUKHABARAT or General Intelligence Department

This is the Ba'ath Party's security arm, described as "the most powerful and feared agency... designed to watch over the other policing networks and control the activities of the State... institutions like the army, government departments and mass organizations". The Mukhabarat developed directly from the Jihaz Haneen. It has acted for over 30 years as a means of exporting Iraqi terror.

"In 1969, General Herdan al-Takriti, who in 1968 was Defence Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and a member of the Revolutionary Command Council, had a disagreement with the leadership; he heard the news of his replacement from Baghdad Radio when he was in Algeria, where he wisely decided to stay. He subsequently sent for his wife and children.... The Ba'athists used his wife to teach him a brutal lesson.

Prior to leaving Baghdad Airport with her three children to join her husband, Mrs. al-Takriti was told she had to be vaccinated before departure and was accordingly given an injection. By the time the Iraqi Airways jet landed at Algiers Airport, she was dead and her three children were screaming...

General al-Takriti retaliated by calling a press conference, giving the press a detailed account of how the 1968 coup had been carried out, highlighting the connection between Saddam Hussein`s Jihaz Haneen and the C.I.A.

Three months later, he was invited for lunch with the Iraqi ambassador in Kuwait... A Mukhabarat agent walked calmly up to the vehicle and shot General al-Takriti dead..."

The institutions involved in the implementation of political terror in Iraq have undergone a process of political development and solidification. Under Saddam Hussein, formal distinction between the different agencies of terror in the State apparatus has decreased; the system has become more nuanced and complex.

The most recent sources from Iraq suggest that the Mukhabarat has been substantially reduced in size and authority. Another organization, the Amn al Khass acts as the senior, more powerful secret police, and is run out of the President's office. This is a clear reflection of the concentration of power in the hands of the President. Amn al Khass is said to be headed by Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal Hassan.

The use of political surveillance in Iraq is so successful that nobody, including the secret police, feels secure. Spies are spied upon and bosses are reported on by members of the Party in lower positions. Children are asked about the activities of their parents by teachers at school. Every teacher is a Ba'athist member. As Saddam Hussein stated:

"You must surround adults through their sons .. Teach the student to object to his parents if he hears them discussing State secrets and alert them that this is not correct ... You must place in every corner a son of the Revolution, with a trustworthy eye and a firm mind that receives its instructions from the ... revolution ... plant in the child's soul a vigilance."

Saddam, while visiting a school, asked a boy of six, "Do you know who I am?"

"Yes, you are the man who makes my father spit on the television every time you appear." The boy's entire family consequently disappeared and their house was demolished.

Insecurity, fear and political terror have solidified the Party's iron grip on society and the State. Terror provides the main guard against insurgency. In order to remain alive, citizens must show unquestioning loyalty to the Party and the President.

  • The clearest documentation of the penetration of the secret police into the everyday lives of the individual was discovered after the Gulf War and the subsequent Kurdish and Shiite uprisings. Hundreds of secret police files were discovered in Iraq and are now in the possession of the eight organizations that make up the Kurdish Front.
  • Much of the newly-found evidence is still unpublished. Kanan Makiya did, however, take a BBC camera crew into Iraq and produced a powerful filmed testimony of the new evidence. Al Khalil discovered "files that probe peoples' minds, describe how they think and personal weakness [8]".

Once this has been discovered, the victim is at the total mercy of the interrogator. Moreover, documents testified that punishment for an offence is routinely extended to an entire family. Evidence found includes cassettes of bugged telephone conversations between political leaders, as well as the chat of everyday people.

The Party Militia

The Party Militia, the private "fighting force" of the Party, was conceived as the counterpart to the regional army; it provided the party with teeth to discourage the plotting of coups. In 1980, on the eve of the war with Iran, the People's Militia reportedly numbered 175,000. During the Iran/Iraq war it expanded to 750,000 and remained at that level until late 1989.

The Party Militia was overhauled in 1974 after the Kezzar Affair along with the whole policing system. The reorganized "Popular Militia" or "People's Army" fell under the authority of the Mukhabarat. The Militia took on the role of party recruitment and the promotion of Ba'athist values among youth. It also provided an important counterbalance to the army. Members of the Militia undergo two months of annual military training in the Militia's own schools, where studies include lessons in political vigilance and Ba'athist ideology.





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21 Aug 2007 / 7 Elul 5767 0