Conditions of Iraqi prisons during Baath Party

Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


In the chains of detentions, it was my turn to be arrested. I was in the Imam's house when I was informed that the Ba'athi agents were looking for me everywhere to arrest me including the School of Ayatollah Boroujerdi where my shop was located, and all the places they knew I was going and coming, even they had referred to Kufa and next to Euphrates where the clergies were swimming and they have monitored everywhere to find me. 

I hid in the Imam's house for three days; but they were still looking for me, and they pressured Mr. Sheikh Nasrollah Khalkhali, the trustee of Boroujerdi School, that he had to introduce himself. I enquired the Imam (God bless his soul) about my duties and while being deeply affected, the Imam (God bless his soul) said: "What should I say ?!" I also talked to Haj Agha Mustafa and other friends, but I did not reach a specific conclusion; It was neither possible to escape, nor could it be hidden for long, nor was the fate and end line of the arrest known. Unlike inside Iran, where it was possible to move and hide in any city or village, in Iraq we were limited only in Najaf and in well-known places. The situation of the prisoners and the way the Ba'athists treated the prisoners was worse than in Iran.

Martyr Montazeri came to the Imam's house on the third night and we went to house of Mr. Shahriati in Kufa at late night and he argued until late at night that it would be preferable for me to introduce myself to the Iraqi Security Service. Finally, the next morning, he escorted me to the entrance of the Public Security in Najaf, and I entered the building on my own feet and went to the chairman's room. After a few minutes, the clashes became violent and an hour later, I was transferred to Karbala, where I was imprisoned. Meanwhile, officers broke the lock of my shop, searched it, and confiscated my passport. On the way out of Karbala, I asked the officers to pass by the courtyard of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and Hazrat Abolfazl (PBUH) to offer my last greetings, but they refused, although some of them wholeheartedly agreed and were impressed, but said that they were not allowed.

In the first phase, I was transferred to a prison in Baghdad and from there to Baqubah prison. The heat was at its peak, and large crowds of prisoners, mostly Iranians, sometimes for many years, lived outdoors without a roof. There, the most pleasant blessing was the possibility of settling in the shadow of the wall, where there was no shadow at the peak of the heat in noon.

After a while, I was transferred to Khanaqin prison. As I was entering the prison, for a few moments, I saw the late Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Emlaei leaving the prison compound. Khanaqin Prison had a large covered hall with a suffocating air and almost dark, and full of prisoners. I was unaware of everywhere and everything, and the answer to every question was accompanied by violence and insults, but the path I had taken was a sign of deportation to Iran. I was heartbroken by the assurance of being arrested on the other side of the border by SAVAK and being grounded in Iran, and the strong impact of not visiting the Imams' shrines and permanent separation from Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul). Hojjat al-Eslam Sibooyeh, the prayer leader of the holy shrine of Hazrat Abolfazl (PBUH) was also in this prison. One evening, when we were talking about the deprivation of pilgrimage of the Imams and the distance from the Imam (God bless his soul), he taught me a good nazr or vow, and after the Maghrib or evening prayer, I recited the nazr and then said the Isha or night prayer. While praying, I heard the sound of a guard from behind the window who was shouting my name. after finishing the prayer, I went out, but there was nobody. I told the guard, "I am the one who was called." He ran immediately and called them. They went back and said, "Why didn't you answer?" I said, "I was praying." They moved me in a hurry; they did not even allow me fix my turban. I put on my clothes half-finished and ran. I was escorted to a pickup truck behind which a machine gun had been mounted and one person standing behind it, along with four other officers sitting on either side of the rear of the pickup truck. They prostrated me on the back floor of the van, put four Uzis on my back, and drove with insane speed. After about an hour later, I found out that I have arrived in Baghdad. We entered a large building. From the way the officers transferred and treated me, it seemed that they had dissuaded from deporting and that they were going to execute me. When I was taken to the officer’s room, I said hello; but the officer took the tasbih or beads from my hand and threw it on the ground, crushing it with his foot and cursing the holy things. Although I was a prisoner, he still ordered me to take everything I had and then ordered them to take me away. They opened the door of a room on one of the upper floors, I entered and the door was locked again. A few people were in the room. A Kurd whose whole body was bloodied as a result of torture, and the stench of rotten flesh of his body had filled the air, and an Arab who had gone mad as a result of torture and was utterly raving, cursing everything and even the sacred things, and sighing in pain. A young and stylish Iranian who said: "I am a pilot who fled to Iraq with a phantom and had taken refuge, but they did not trust me and imprisoned me." The intense heat and stench suffocated everyone. The Iranian pilot talked about the methods of torture, interrogation, nail biting, etc. until the morning. The door opened early in the morning and they called me. I got ready for execution and went out. I was taken to the boss's room. A general had been sitting behind a desk. I greeted him, he stood up respectfully and answered my greeting warmly. I could not believe, I thought it was a joke, and an introduction to future plans. He called, they brought tea. As another thought came to my mind, he started talking and said, "Forgive us, there has been a mistake! Send our greetings to Seyed. (They interpreted the Imam as Seyed.) Tell him that there has been a mistake, that there was a misunderstanding and ... "and continued:" In a few minutes, Seyed Hassan will come and you will go together. “I neither believed his words nor know who Seyed Hassan was, but I did not say anything. “You are free”, the general said. “You can walk in the compound.” And at the same time a plainclothes officer came in and we went to his room together. Now everything and everyone in that environment had changed one hundred percent, whatever it was, it was respect and kindness! "We are like-minded and brothers with you, the Shah is our common enemy, we give you everything," he said. "We provide weapons, we train."

The same general scenario of threat and alluring was repeated. Direct message to us and indirect message to the Imam (God bless his soul). At the same time, Seyed Hassan arrived. The prefix of Seyed here means agha, meaning Agha Hassan or Hassan Agha. We met in such a way that they did not understand that this was the first time we saw and knew each other. We came to the boss's room again and said goodbye, left the center and went to Seyed Hassan's house. It was near noon. I soon realized that the atmosphere there was not in line with my beliefs. "I have to go right now," I said under the pretext of rushing to Najaf. He took me to the garage and car station of Najaf and I arrived in Najaf that evening and could visit the holy shrine of Imam Ali (PBUH) and the friends were informed of my release and return.

Later, I found out that Haj Agha Mustafa, according to the Imam’s decision, had indirectly and in such a way as to show that the Imam did not interfere, through the same Seyed Hassan who was in charge of the Iranian Students Confederation in the region, had acted for my release and in this way, I returned to Najaf.

Source: Hadih of Growth (memoirs and notes of Hojjat al-Eslam Valmoslemin Mohammad Hassan Rahimian), Tehran, the Center for Islamic Revolution Documents, 1382 (2003), pp. 213-216.

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