I’m very proud of my father. He stood firmly against the fascist
regime when it launched its suppressive campaign in 1978, which
escalated and reached its peak in the early eighties. Throughout, my
father refused to leave his country or hide, especially as he was a
politically and socially known figure. He was a well known member of
the Iraqi Communist Party. He used to say “We can’t leave these poor
people, who depend on us, to the mercy of the regime”.
On the 14th August 1980, my parents were arrested at home. That was
the last we heard of them. My aunts told me when they went to the
house they found it had been taken over by the intelligence. A
neighbour told my aunts that a fleet of cars and a large number of
Intelligence officers had raided the house in the evening and taken
my parents away. They occupied our house and confiscated everything,
personal effects, documents, records, books. A home holds many
precious memories and mementos. They’re all lost to us. We don’t
know anything about them.
Karim had just been accepted at university. Circumstances meant that
he didn’t even get to go there. He was born in 1958. The poor boy
was only twenty years old when arrested. He was taken by force from
my aunts’ house, five months after my parents were arrested. I think
the intelligence had been informed he was hiding there. Nothing was
seen or heard of him until the regime fell and archives came to
light. His name was found on a list of those executed in 1982.
My cousin Nabil was even younger than Karim, 17 or 18 years old. He
was arrested a month before my parents were. Nabil came out prison
almost dead. He had been injected with a substance nobody knew
anything about. He survived, after prolonged treatment, during which
his father took him from one hospital to another. But he remained
very ill. Just as he had begun to recover he was arrested again.
Nothing was heard of him until his parents were informed he had been
executed. The authorities continued to harass his parents, taking
his father in for questioning by the head of the Yarmuk District
Intelligence. That man was so vile. He represented the Intelligence
all over Iraq. Beatings and insults were a normal daily practise for
Nabil was in high school, no more than eighteen years old. What
could he possibly be accused of? That his uncle Hamid Sheltagh
wasn’t a Ba’athist? That he wouldn’t become a member of the
students’ union. He was a good, simple, well educated human being,
loyal to his friends. Karim and Nabil were always together. In those
difficult circumstances there was no opportunity for young people
for political activity. The regime was a fascist one which killed
tens of thousands of innocent people for the most senseless reasons.
People were cut down in their youth for unbelievable reasons. If the
world was told of some the reasons they would think the stories were
exaggerated or untrue. The crimes committed by the regime went
beyond human comprehension.
The situation was very difficult in the eighties and nineties.
Iraqis who had left the country could not have put with the severe
conditions of state terror and control and the economic hardship. I
would imagine the suffering my parents and brother and cousin
endured in prison. I would hear every now and then of a prison
“cleansing” campaign through thousands of executions. You start to
expect the worst. The worst scenario was that they wouldn’t make it
out alive from the Intelligence prison cells after so many long
years. But I would cling to the hope that I would see my parents and
younger brother again one day. That will never happen. How and where
they were buried, I still don’t know.
End Khalid Sheltagh