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German paper: Iraqi forces are 'monsters not heroes'

Iraqi security forces are seen on a military vehicle as the operation to retake Mosul from Daesh continues on 20 February, 2017 [Yunus Keleş/ Anadolu Agency]
Iraqi security forces are seen on a military vehicle as the operation to retake Mosul from Daesh continues on 20 February, 2017 [Yunus Keleş/ Anadolu Agency]

Iraqi forces "are monsters not heroes" and the US stood by and watched as they tortured civilians, German magazine Der Spiegel reported.

The publication's German-Iraqi journalist, Ali Arkady, who accompanied the forces at the start of the Mosul offensive, returned with numerous stories of torture, looting, rape of both men and women and executions.

Arkady stated that he was an eye witness to the first torture and execution session on 22 October 2016 when the Quick Reaction Force arrested two young men at the Qayyarah Airfield south of Mosul and tortured them for several days before executing them.

He said civilians were regularly assassinated for mere suspicion without concrete proof of their guilt.

In the case of the village of Qabr Al-Abd near Hamam Al-Alil, Arkady said intelligence squads arrested several individuals, including Ra'ad Hindia, a watchman at a mosque in the village. They took him, interrogated him, beat him for several hours then released him.

On November 22, while the US forces were nearby watching what was happening using a drone, a force of ten armed soldiers made a raid at night and took Ra'ad Hindia, who was asleep with his family, for the second time. They had tortured him for hours before they transferred him to the intelligence bureau, where he was physically assaulted again for a week.

"The mosque watchman was killed shortly after."

In another case, a father was tortured "in front" of his 16-year-old son who could hear his screams. "I was there shooting [a video], and they did not try to prevent me. The soldiers have beaten the youngster in front of his father and then killed him."

Eventually, I deduced that these soldiers did not think like journalists, and that such aggressions were taken for granted as an ordinary routine of their job.

Unlike other reporters from the West, Arkady remained with the soldiers in the evening instead of heading to a hotel in the northern city of Erbil. "I was left alone with the forces of the Ministry of Interior. In mid-December, we were moved to another headquarters in Bazwaya, in the eastern outskirts of Mosul. There were two brothers, Laith and Ahmed, who were arrested by Iraqi Special Operations Forces. They were released for lack of evidence and now they have been arrested again and brought here."

In the evening there were no officers, only soldiers and they were responsible for torture.

"They first began beating the two, first by beating and then they put a knife behind Ahmed's ear. It was a technique they learned from American soldiers… In the morning one of the soldiers told me that both brothers had been tortured to death and showed me a video of their bodies. He even sent it to me via WhatsApp and told me what happened with him. "

In Bazwaya, the Quick Reaction Forces entered a house by force, Arkady explained: "They pulled out a man named Fathi Ahmed Saleh, they had dragged him out of the bedroom where he was next to his wife and three children."

One of the officers, called Haydar Ali, entered the room and said he would rape the woman.

"After 5 minutes I saw the so-called Haydar Ali in front of the open door and the woman inside crying," he continued.

"American forces were aware of everything," Arkady explained, as when the soldiers returned to headquarters, "the American supervisor asked them via the radio: What have you done? Captain Omar Nizar answered: 'Everything, we have arrested men and women and looted homes.' The American supervisor replied: 'Well, you know what to do'."

In the end, Arkady feared for his life and that of his family.

I imagined that this might be my wife or my daughter, and when the captain and one of the soldiers were beating the detainees, they asked me to join them and participate in beating the detainees. It was absurd.

"I pretended that my daughter was sick and I returned to my family in Khanaqin. I stayed there for few days and then I took my family to a safe place outside Iraq."

It was clear that my life would be at risk as soon as I published evidence that proves these crimes.

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