NEWS 2002-2003

08 November 2002 :

An investigation by Channel 4´s Dispatches team, a UK television outfit, uncovered an eyewitness account of the execution of 15 women in a market square in the port of Basra. Ashraq Jabr, a 32-year-old Iraqi exile, claimed she was willing to testify to the United Nations that she witnessed the public beheadings of 15 women accused of being prostitutes in October 2000. She and hundreds of others were ordered to attend the execution carried out by members of "Fedayeen Saddam" (Saddam´s Redeemers), the private militia operated by Uday Hussain, Saddam´s elder son.Ashraq, who had been ordered to attend by Saddam´s Baath party, said she was told the women were being killed because they were prostitutes - although prostitution is not normally considered a capital offence in Iraq. The Dispatches investigation uncovered further witness testimonies of the state-sanctioned execution from a number of Iraqis in Basra, as well as political exiles in Europe. Officials in Baghdad say the beheadings never happened. However opposition human rights groups named one of the women murdered in October 2000, Najat Mohammed Haidar, and said she was a middle-aged obstetrician who was killed because she complained about the black market in medicines at her hospital.Witnesses have also come forward to detail the public execution of Umm Liq´a, a mother-of-three whose husband was a jailed Shi´ite activist. It is claimed the wife was abducted by Uday´s men in 2001 and taken to a dusty square near the Baghdad Sheraton Hotel, where her head was virtually removed with the single stroke of a sword embossed in gold with the words: "For the honour of Saddam Hussein." According to an eye-witness to the execution , there were signs of torture on her body due to beating and slashing. Rasha Juma, 34, a mother of two, who saw the execution from her flat overlooking the pitch and now lives in Britain said: "I knew the woman and she had blonde hair, but it had been shaved off. After she was executed, her head remained attached to her body by a thin layer of skin. When they lifted her, the head separated from the body. They picked up the head and placed it in the rubbish container." (Sources: Scotsman 09/11/2002)