Amna Suraka, The Museum of Torture - Remembering the Evils of Saddam
Today has not been an easy day.
After a quick foray into Iraq proper as we bypassed Kirkuk en route to Kurdistan’s second city, Sulymaniyah, we made for the Amna Suraka, the Red Security building.
It was once used by Saddam’s most feared guards to imprison, interrogate and torture (not necessarily in that order) anyone they suspected of being involved in any anti-Saddam activity of any kind or anyone they just didn’t like the look of.
And they rarely liked the look of any Kurd.
Growing up only a couple of blocks from this high security installation, Karwan remembers not only the midnight raids but also of being terrified to even go near the building.
You could be taken from the street and subjected to an indefinite period of incarceration without your family being informed of your arrest and without even a glancing nod towards any sense of justice. If you were lucky, you’d be released within a few days or weeks, but many never left at all, and ended their lives in about as miserable a circumstance as can be imagined.
It all sounds very medieval but this was happening in the 1980s, at the same time that I was a teenager listening to the mindlessly happy songs of Stock, Aitken & Waterman with little to fear other than perhaps an upcoming Latin vocab test.
The contrast between mine & Karwans’s childhoods couldn’t have been more different and as we wandered around the buildings which have been turned into a sombre and respectful museum not dissimilar to Tuol Sleng (for those who have been to Cambodia and have seen the horrors of the Khmer Rouge).
I became increasingly ashamed that I had known so little about the sufferings of the Kurds.
The museum includes a photographic display of the mass exodus of Kurds in 1991 as they fled for their lives following years of brutal attacks and massacres from Saddam’s forces.
Over 175,000 Kurds are said to have perished at Saddam’s hand. “Thank god for the First Gulf War” asserts Karwan, for without Allied intervention which ultimately led to the creation of a no-fly zone, he believes that there might not be a single Kurd left today in Iraq and that the world powers would once more be facing the reality of having allowed another genocide to occur under their watch.
This is a difficult place to see, as I’m sure will tomorrow’s visit to Halabja but it is an essential stop on any visit to the region and is humbling in its unadorned representation of atrocities which have happened far too recently at a time when Saddam was supposedly one of our allies in the Middle East.
I doubt I will sleep too well tonight.
Travel diary shared by Wild Frontiers