Ronald OPHUIS

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Ronald OPHUIS

Bulldozers buried them
17 November - 22 December 2006

Bulldozers buried them

Iskandar Jawad Witwit is the mayor of Hilla. He is continually chain smoking. Hardly surprising, in neighboring Al Mahawil they are currently digging up thousands of bodies from a mass grave. For twelve years the mayor had to keep quiet. Finally he can tell his story: `After the Gulf War, the Kurds in the north and the Shi'ites in the south rose up against Saddam Hussein. The American president of the day, George H.W. Bush, incited us to do this in a television broadcast.* The uprising began in the southern cities of Zubair and Basra and within a week it spread to all the important populated areas. The uprising in the south received the support of the Shi'ite population, who had suffered greatly at the hands of the Sunni dominated regime of Saddam. Vengeance killings occurred and people worked off their rage on everyone who could be associated with the Iraqi regime, hundreds of Baath party members, bureaucrats and secret agents were murdered.' `The U.S. didn't honour their promises, and didn't support our uprising. Saddam and his government were able to reorganize their troops, and after two weeks they counterattacked. Towards the end of March 1992, Saddam loyalists had broken the resistance. In the process, thousands of unarmed civilians were shot dead. After the resistance was repressed, the government hunted down the members of the uprising. Tens of thousands of people were arrested on suspicion of supporting the resistance. They were driven together on the town square of Hilla: women, men, the handicapped and also children.' recalls the mayor. `They were brought to the army base of Al Mahawil. The strange thing was that American helicopters flew overhead and did nothing. At the base, many were tortured, and ultimately thousands of people were executed. Everyday between 9:00 and 17:00, three groups of between 120 to 150 people were brought by bus to the mass graves; every day from the seventh of March to the sixth of April, 1992. Before the people arrived, a bulldozer dug a pit. With their hands tied behind their backs, and blindfolded, they were pushed into the pit. Then they were fired upon with machine guns until everyone was dead. The bulldozers buried the them.' The mass murders under Saddam Hussein's regime cost approximately 250 thousand lives.

By Geert van Kesteren. "Why mister, why?" Iraq 2003-2004

* George H.W. Bush, 15 February 1991: `There is another way for the bloodshed to stop. And that is, for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside and then comply with the United Nations' resolutions and rejoin the family of peace-loving nations.'

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