It is 9am on December 8th 1998 in the city of Nasiriya in Southern Iraq. An order is given to Fedayeen Saddam – ‘Saddam’s Men of Sacrifice’ - to behead Abdul-Hassan Misbah, Ehsan Hussain and Mohammed Subhi. Their hands are tied behind their backs, their feet tied together and they are blindfolded. They are carried to a concrete block with their heads hanging over the road like sheep to the slaughter.
Fedayeen, over a dozen of them all dressed in black with masks covering their faces, crowd the condemned. They hold them in place and shift their bodies accordingly to get the ideal position. Before the victims are executed a member of the Fedayeen uses a set of tools to pull out their tongues and then proceeds to cut them. The three men seem resigned to their fate and do not put up any resistance. They do not shake, jolt or even twitch. It is almost as if they died before they died. Whilst one is having his tongue cut off the other is already being hacked to death by a sword-wielding Fedaye who starts from behind the neck until the head is decapitated.
Once they conclude with the heads the Fedayeen hold onto them as trophies and start dancing around them with the enjoyment, excitement and amusement you would expect in a wedding. Their bodies were not even returned to their families. When the mother went to the Fedayeen centre asking for her son she was told he was a traitor to his country and that his body should not just have been thrown to the dogs, but also burnt. The mother finally found her son’s body after Saddam was toppled. Head buried beside body.
This was just another day in Nasiriya.
The execution video, parts of which have since been uploaded on YouTube, was shown to members of the Ba’ath Party and Fedayeen paramilitaries on trial in Baghdad last Thursday and after one of the defendants closed his eyes in horror at the video the presiding Judge, Mahmoud al-Hassan, could no longer hold back his anger. While the video was still playing he remarked ‘Yes look away, as if you never saw it. Look how he closes his eyes. Go on close your eyes, close your eyes! It’s a sickening scene? Now you see? Now you see?’
The Judge orders the video to be stopped and returns his attention to the defendants, a few of which were present when the execution took place eleven years ago. He is furious at the men and tells them even if someone had killed his own father it would be difficult for anyone to carry out a murder in that fashion. He asks how they could have heard of such a thing and accepted it. He declares ‘will you say you didn’t hear? Will you say you didn’t know? Go on, let one of you tell me he didn’t know about this. We used to hear about the Fedayeen and their unit, which beheads people, but we have never seen. We have never seen with our own eyes.’
There was pin drop silence and no one dared to interrupt him. The Judge was visibly shaken by the video. Between his shouts, the only sound that can be heard is the weeping of the mother of Ehsan Hussain, who came to bear witness and had to watch every horrible moment all over again as the video was resumed. She cries as she watches the men dance around her son’s head. The video is then paused and an unmasked face becomes clearly discernible. His name is Falah and he is a member of the Fedayeen. He denies he beheaded any of the men but admits he was one of those celebrating the deaths of these ‘traitors’.
This was just another day in Baghdad.