Middle East

Iraqis Wait for War

A Cruel Amnesty Charade

An Iraqi woman stands outside the Ministry of Information demanding news of her missing relative, who was meant to be released as part of a general amnesty.
Relatives of missing Iraqi prisoners protest in Baghdad, Oct. 22, 2002, after Saddam Hussein declared a general amnesty (Photo: Laura Boushnak/AFP).

Last Sunday, the propaganda minister of Iraq’s regime read out Saddam Hussein’s amnesty statement in which all the prisoners incarcerated in the Iraqi jails, whether political or otherwise, domestic or foreign, were pardoned. The statement, accompanied by an intensive and excessive propaganda onslaught, was designed to soften and contain the ever-increasing popular opposition to the Baathist gang currently holding sway over Iraq, as well as to improve Saddam’s standing internationally.

It was also timed to put pressure on America and to frustrate her in the attempt to get a strongly worded United Nations resolution against the illegitimate regime of Saddam. But despite the widespread propaganda efforts of the regime and the flashing of pictures showing prisoners being released, the actual data from the field purport to say that such reports are false and that the whole charade is a cynical and demagogic exercise.

Unfortunately, not a single political prisoner—whether domestic or foreign—has been released. In fact, only a handful of individuals, whose term in prison had been over or whose sentences were light, were freed. In truth, there is no news about any single one of the tens of thousands of individuals who were thrown into jail during the past 23 years of the Baathist fascist government. As a matter of fact, up till now, there has been no definite or reliable news on more than 5,000 Iranian youths who were imprisoned without any legally admissible charges. There is absolutely no doubt that, notwithstanding the regime’s all-embracing and loud propaganda campaign on the alleged amnesty for prisoners, all the dear ones put in jail have most probably been killed by the regime’s death squads.

Among these, we believe, are about 600 theologians and students of the theological seminaries, as well as the offspring of the grand ayatollahs—Mohsen al-Hakim, Abolqassem Kho’i, Mirza Hassan Shirazi, Morteza Qomi Ansari, Javaheri, Sadeq Khalkhali, Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, Mara’shi Najafi, and Sayyedan, among others. In addition, tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqi citizens have already been ruthlessly slaughtered by Saddam’s henchmen. The recent pronouncement regarding the alleged amnesty offered by Saddam is nothing but pure propaganda, devoid of truth. There is another, more sinister side to this, and that is why we call it the pronouncement of death: The fact is that the prisoners who have not been freed must now be presumed to have been killed.

The Documentation Center for Human Rights in Iraq, which has gathered tens of thousands of documents implicating the Iraqi Baathist regime, is fully prepared to extend every cooperation. It is hoped that human-rights organizations in the Islamic Republic of Iran, whether governmental or nongovernmental, will pursue the matter and endeavor to clarify the fate of thousands of Iranian nationals who have been incarcerated in the dungeons of the Iraqi regime under difficult and inhuman conditions—on charges of simply being Iranians.