Surviving Hell

In 1982, a close friend of Kurdish freedom fighter Salah Ameydi was captured by the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi Secret Police. They brought him back to his village, and seized his wife and eight-month-old son. The new parents were then tied up and made to watch as their baby was burned to death in front of them with a hot iron. When the agents were finished with the child, they forced the husband to watch as his wife was brutally raped by four Iraqi soldiers. The husband was then dragged off to Abu Ghraib and tortured for years on end as a “political prisoner.”

Kurdish resistance fighters, or peshmerga, some of whom have been fighting Saddam since 1960, tell of guerilla battles against a well-armed Iraqi foe. In the early years they fired at Iraqi jets with nothing more than old bolt-action British rifles. Kurdish women tell of being forced to watch their husbands and sons tortured, or, just as often, being taken away in the night, never to return. Sons tell of stories of fathers they will never know. One man tells of hiding from the Iraqi army in a cave with a pregnant woman who had to go through the pain of childbirth without making a single sound – any noise would have alerted the Iraqis, and they all would have been summarily executed. A father tells of a daughter so tormented by marauding Iraqi killers she literally went mad.

“Oh, I cried on April 9, 2003, I wept,” a Kurdish man, Kawa Fathi Massom, tells Tucker. “My daughter asked me, ‘Why are you crying?’ And I looked into the eyes of my children and I told them that all their lives I’d lied to them. That I’d always told them they’d have promising futures but that I knew I was lying and I hated myself for that…I can say, with my soul at peace, that now, my children, you have a future, and we have the Americans to thank for this.”

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