‘How many times did you blow yourself up?’

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By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, January 25, 2013

The question “How many times did you blow yourself up?” is part of a joke doing rounds in Iraq. It refers to a prisoner who under duress and in order to prevent his interrogators from torturing him any further had to admit that he had blown himself up several times.

For his tormentors the response was ‘good’ enough to brand him ‘terrorist’ and keep him behind bards without proper trial for many years.

Many Iraqi prisoners, some of them still languishing in their prison cells and other released, speak of their torture and imprisonment in Iraqi jails in these terms.

Hurling empty and ridiculous accusations is part of the skill which U.S. troops and their jailers have bequeathed Iraqi security forces.

The shortest way for an Iraqi in custody today is to quickly confess to the accusation hurled at him to escape humiliation and torture.

The issue of tens of thousands of jailed Iraqis is at the top of demands of Iraqi demonstrators and protesters.

Stories of families being destroyed following the arrest of their breadwinners without charges and proper trial are common in Iraq.

Some of the prisoners started their terms at the age of 19 or even younger and have been in jail for so many years without trial.

Would the government have the guts to ponder the future of a young generation in prison for so long and of children whose father have been jailed simply on suspicion and for so long? What kind of future awaits them?

The government should listen carefully to the demands of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets of major cities in central Iraq.

Freeing prisoners and putting an end to jailing people without proper trial will be a good measure that will not only meet the protesters demands but help the government rectify its blunders.