The Suffering CO of Baghdad
Jim Loney was a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq who was kidnapped and held hostage, along with three others, from November 2005 to March 2006. This excerpted selection is from Salaam, Shalom, Solh: Nonviolence and Resistance in the Middle East and Beyond, War Resisters League's 2008 Calendar, $13.95 + $3.50 S&H, 877/234-8811, www.warresisters.org.
Bahr Kadhin Al Saady was conscripted into the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein in 1993 at the age of 18. In 1994, he refused an order to join an army patrol to fight the people of Kurdistan. He told the army, "If I kill them, God will be angry with me. I do not want to kill anyone." He was accused of treason and jail[ed] .
After three months [of torture], Bahr was released and ordered once again to join the patrol. Rather than obey, he deserted, but was captured, and, on his 20th birthday, after more lashings, he was taken to a hospital and anesthetized while his ear was cut off.
He spent the next two years in prison. "I found many friends," he said. "There were 19 soldiers who were exposed to the same treatment." A total of 3600 war resisters and deserters were thus maimed by Saddam's regime.
Bahr was released in 1996. Legal restrictions and his disfigured ear made education, jobs, and car and home ownership unattainable. Asked how he had decided to refuse war, Bahr struggled to find language. "I don't know," he said. "It is something primitive in me. I cannot kill."
As president of the Committee of People Who Refused Wars, he spent his days organizing for compensation and arranging surgical reconstruction for fellow war resisters. Internal conflicts have since pulled the committee apart, and Bahr is homeless, jobless, and penniless . Sometimes he struggles with whether or not to continue living.