Reports surface of rape and torture in Iraq

By — March 20, 2013

It has been 10 years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and stories of torture and sexualized violence are still coming to light. As Al-Jazeera reported Tuesday, Amnesty International’s recent publication, “Iraq: A decade of abuse,” is a horrifying, pain-filled heap of rape, sexualized torture, and other forms of sexualized violence. And the rights group is still gathering evidence.

The report chronicles painful testimony after painful testimony, from both women and men, of abuse of detainees by Iraqi and Western security forces. Many of the detainees, Amnesty says, are imprisoned due to reportedly coerced confessions. Al-Jazeera has collected first-person accounts from former detainees as well.

U.S. coalition forces search a detainee in Iraq in 2007. (U.S. Army)

“I was kept in a [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki prison, where they dumped cold water on me and used electricity on me," one man, Yousef Abdul Rahman, told the media outlet. “Many of the prisoners with me were raped,” he said. “They were raped with sticks and bottles. I saw the blood on that place of their bodies from when it happened, and I saw so many men this happened to.”

Another former detainee, a woman who spent four years in an Iraqi prison before being released last week, relayed her own gruesome experience to Al-Jazeera.

“I was tortured and raped repeatedly by the Iraqi security forces,” she said. “I was raped over and over again, I was kicked and beaten and insulted and spit upon.”

The woman, whose real name has been withheld, was in prison on charges of terrorism. But Amnesty’s report states that many Iraqis imprisoned for terrorism say they “confessed” because they were tortured. Female detainees are in a “particularly vulnerable position,” Amnesty explains, given that any allegation they make of rape will be “almost impossible to prove,” while interrogators can use threats of sexualized violence as a “powerful inducement to force ‘confessions.’”

Some male detainees, meanwhile, in addition to being raped with broken bottles and sexually tortured with painful manipulation of their genitals, are coerced via threats to their female relatives, according to Al-Jazeera. Amnesty and Al-Jazeera report that security members tell these men during interrogation that their wives, mothers, or sisters will be brought in and raped in front of them, something we are hearing is happening in Syria right now.

Iraq’s detention system, the rights group says, “creates conditions in which such abuse, when committed, may be readily concealed.” Amnesty details a decade of cover-up of the abuse in these prisons, both by Iraqi authorities and coalition forces: “U.S.-led coalition forces were well aware of much of the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi security forces,” the group says.

For more on this story, see Al-Jazeera’s coverage and Amnesty International’s report.