Iraq, 2013: The Horrors Remain the Same -- Rape, Executions and Torture Abound
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Baghdad - Heba al-Shamary (name changed for security reasons) was released last week from an Iraqi prison where she spent the last four years.
"I was tortured and raped repeatedly by the Iraqi security forces," she told Al Jazeera. "I want to tell the world what I and other Iraqi women in prison have had to go through these last years. It has been a hell."
Heba was charged with terrorism, as so many Iraqis who are detained by the Iraqi security apparatus are charged.
"I now want to explain to people what is occurring in the prisons that [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki and his gangs are running," Heba added. "I was raped over and over again, I was kicked and beaten and insulted and spit upon."
Heba's story, horrific as it is, unfortunately is but one example of what a recent report from Amnesty International refers to as "a grim cycle of human rights abuses" in Iraq today.
The report, "Iraq: Still paying a high price after a decade of abuses", exposes a long chronology of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees committed by Iraqi security forces, as well as by foreign troops, in the wake of the US-led 2003 invasion.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because her nephew remains in prison, an Iraqi woman told Al Jazeera how he was arrested by Iraqi security forces when he was 18-years-old, under the infamous Article Four which gives the government the ability to arrest anyone "suspected" of terrorism, and charged with terrorism. She told, in detail, of how he has been treated:
"They beat him with metal pipes, with harsh curse words and much swearing about his sect and his Allah (because he is Sunni) and why God is not helping him, and that they will bring up their mothers and sisters to rape them," she explained to Al Jazeera. "Then they use electricity to burn different places of his body. They took all his cloths off in winter and left them naked out in the yard to freeze."
Her nephew, who was released after four years imprisonment after the Iraqi appeals court deemed him innocent, was then arrested 10 days after his release, again under Article 4.
While he was free, he informed his aunt of how he and other detainees were tortured.
"They made some other inmates stand barefoot during Iraq's summer on burning concrete pavement to have sunburn, and without drinking water until they fainted. They took some of them, broke so many of their bones, mutilated their faces with a knife and threw them back in the cell to let the others know that this is what will happen to them."
Her nephew was tortured every day because he would not confess to a crime he did not commit, nor give any names for who had done it because he allegedly did not know.
"Finally, after the death of many of his inmates under torture, he agreed to sign up a false confession written by the interrogators, even though he had witnesses who have seen him in another place the day that crime has happened," she added.
He remains in prison, where he has told his aunt he is now being tortured by militiamen that are brought into the prison to torture detainees, and one of his eyes has been lanced by them.
Yousef Abdul Rahman has an equally shocking story, from being detained in 2011 and spending four months in "the worst of prisons."
"I was kept in a Maliki prison, where they dumped cold water on me and used electricity on me," he told Al Jazeera. "Many of the prisoners with me were raped. They were raped with sticks and bottles. I saw the blood on that place of their bodies from when it happened, and I saw so many men this happened to."
In today's Iraq, it is unfortunately all too easy to find Iraqis who have had loved ones who have been detained and tortured, and the trend is increasing.
‘This was really harmful to me'
Ahmed Hassan, a 43-year-old taxi driver, was detained by Iraqi police at his home in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad in December 2008. He was charged with "terrorism", and held in a federal police prison in nearby Khadimiyah.
Hassan told Al Jazeera the prison was run by the Ministry of Interior, but alleged it was overseen by Prime Minister al-Maliki himself.
He said he was regularly tortured and held in a six-by-four metre cell with "at least 120 detainees, with a small toilet that has no door, and scarce running water."
Prisoners received one meal a day that was often undercooked. And it was so crowded that "most of us would be forced to sleep standing", he said.
Hassan explained that his jailors had "various techniques of torture."