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How to Lose a War

The Spokesman, 90

Seeking Missing Persons in Iraq


Eman Ahmad Khamas, an Iraqi journalist who lives in Baghdad, was interviewed by Amy Goodman on 6 March on the Democracy Now! radio programme in the United States.


EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: I work on the missing, a very big issue in Iraq, I work on the detainees. People disappear in Iraq. People especially men are arrested, and you dont hear anything about them. For example, during the first days of the war, between 20 March and 9 April [2003], when the Iraqi state collapsed, people disappeared. There are eyewitnesses that these people were taken by the American troops. Some of them may be killed. Some of them may be in jail. But now, they dont exist.


AMY GOODMAN: Well, how do you find out? I mean, if you want to find out if someone has been jailed, what do you do?


EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: There are eyewitnesses in the place that he disappeared, and they say that We saw him, he was injured and was taken in an American tank or vehicle, or He was taken, There are injured prisoners who are released and they say that in our room and the place, we had this man, and they give his description many things that no one else would know, only the person who was with him.


AMY GOODMAN: The American authorities in the US-run prisons will not tell you?


EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: We go to the American military bases, to the prisons, and we ask about these people. They deny them.


AMY GOODMAN: They deny that they are there?


EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: They deny they exist in that prison. For example, we have a story of a man. He was supposed to be in prison in Umm Qasr, you know, Camp Bucca in the south, deep in the south.


AMY GOODMAN: Camp Bucca is named for a fireman who was killed 9/11 in New York.


EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: Yes, but for Iraqis it is a very big prison. It is a camp where tens of thousands of Iraqis are arrested for three years now. So people come from there, and they say, We know this man, we know this man, etc. And we go there. Sometimes even the American themselves, they say the American authorities, the American officials, they say, yes, they put list of names. And when we go back, we ask about them, they say, No, we didnt do that. And we show them, I have a paper, I have a document, of one of these men. And now hes denied.


I dont know the number of these people. The number is between 5,000 and 15,000. But I had a meeting with a general called General Brandenburg in the Ministry of Justice. And he said that he has records of that period. And he asked me to give him the names that Im looking for. And I did. But when we had the meeting, and we had a date to go and to talk about these people, to give him the names, he did not show up, unfortunately. Im still waiting for an answer. They said, in the Ministry of Justice, they said that hes changed. Now, there is another one, called Garner. But I didnt meet him yet. And Im looking forward to meeting him and giving him the list of names and the stories of these people who disappeared.


This is a very big tragedy in Iraq, because there are families, mothers, wives, children, who are waiting to hear about their loved ones, if they exist, if they are dead, if they are alive. They simply wont answer. Thats all ...






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