by Joe Scarangella
While the details may be a little fuzzy, pretty much everyone is now aware that Saddam Hussein was not a nice guy. While the global focus remains on his threat on regional security, it is his domestic policies that should be in the spotlight. While many lived in fear during the regime's reign, it is the Kurdish population of Northern Iraq that suffered the greatest. Mass killings like the one at Halabja are most likely to garner media attention, but it is the day-to-day atrocities that are perhaps the most disturbing. And nowhere in Iraq is this better displayed than at the Red Security Prison in Sulymaniyah.
Locally known as Amna Suraka, the Red Security Prison was actually the local office of Saddam's Ba'ath Party. But it is not what happened in the offices of the politicians that make this place infamous. In the back buildings, shielded from on-lookers and passers-by, countless thousands of Kurdish individuals were brought here, tortured, and more often than not, killed. This is a place of death similar to those of the Nazi concentration camps in Europe. But much in the same way, instead of razing the place to the ground in the hope of burying the past, the Kurds have left it standing as a testament of what they have overcome to get where they are today.
It seems whenever a foreign visitor arrives, the place springs to life with the hope of showing the world what happened here. A local guide, with good English, gives a personal tour of the cells, rooms and hallways where the "prisoners" were taken. Various displays attempt to depict the crimes against humanity which occurred on a daily basis. In the back room, a photo exhibition goes one further to show some of the greater acts of genocide like the bombing of Halabja or the mass killings in Anfal. All the while, your guide tells you of his father or cousin or friend who died. Although tremendously depressing, a visit is mandatory to understand the region better.
Outside bullet holes and broken building lie as a testament of the 1991 uprising that closed the facility. Old Soviet tanks and anti-aircrat guns litter the garden in a military equipment graveyard. To me, it was rather odd to see the locals more interested in taking a picture in the tanks than walking through the museum. Different strokes for different folks.
Any visit to Amna Suraka should end with a walk through the hall of mirrors. The unique memorial has some 182,000 broken pieces of glass on the wall to represent the fallen in places like Anfal. And on the ceiling, 5,000 little fairy lights depict the number of Kurdish villages destroyed by Saddam's forces. The end result is a rather pretty monument. It may just be the uplifting sort of place needed after the endless images of death and destruction. Although, the typical Kurdish home recreation in the back room seems a little out of place. It is usually here the guide leaves you to your own wanderings, you can walk through the shelled out government offices, although there is little to see there. The great thing is no money is asked for. No money for the guide, no money for admission to the museum. So really, there is absolutely no excuse not to visit if in Sulaymaniyah.
You can read more by Joe here: http://www.joestrippin.blogspot.com/.
More by Joe ScarangellaIraq (Kurdistan Region)
Stumblin' over History
Goin' without Knowin'
Fallin' in Northern Iraq
Charmed by Koya
Doublin' Up on Dohuk
Za-kho, Za-kho, Off to the Bridge I Go
Divine Lunchin' (Mar Mattai)
Shaqlawan Sugar Coatin'
Al Kosh, of Course!
A Day at the Museums (Erbil)
Parkin' it in Erbil
Suly the Sequel (Sulaymaniyah)
Duckin' into Dukan
Crackin' the Citadel (Erbil)
Takin' the High Road (Dohuk - Erbil)
Iraq's B-Side (Amedi)
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