Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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Monday, June 02, 2003

Iraqis in Michigan gathered to remember their missing and dead.

The table to the left of Mehsin Jawad al-Busail was covered in papers bearing dozens of names recorded in ornate, flowing Arabic script.

One sheet listed the names of three brothers killed under the Saddam Hussein regime. Al-Busail said he sympathized, shared the pain. But his attention focused on a photograph of a solemn-faced young man. He was al-Busail’s son.

Like the three brothers, 23-year-old Eskander al-Busail was taken from home one otherwise ordinary night and killed.

The elder Al-Busail was one of several hundred Iraqi-American Muslims and Christians who gathered at a Dearborn hotel Sunday evening to honor the thousands slain during Saddam’s rule.

Since Saddam’s ouster by U.S.-led coalition forces, mass graves have turned up across the country. The biggest, in the village of Mahaweel, in central Iraq, is said to contain the remains of more than 3,000 people killed during the 1991 Shiite revolt after the Gulf War.

“He was a good man,” al-Busail, who had been a leader of a village in southern Iraq’s Diwaniya province, said of his son. “He had honor, dignity. He opposed the regime in ’91. And for his honor, dignity and opposition, they killed him.”

The expression of collective grief helped Iraqi-American Shiites, Sunnis, Chaldeans and Kurds set aside religious and political differences that are causing rifts among the groups in Iraq.

“There are no differences between us here,” said Mowafaq Katto, a 48-year-old Chaldean who lives in West Bloomfield Township. “This tragedy has cast a shadow over all of us.”

Katto, too, said he had friends who fell victims to the now-defunct regime.

“They are the reason why we’re here today,” said Emad al-Kasid, vice president of the Iraqi Youth Reunion, one of the groups organizing the event. “It’s time to apologize to the people who died.”

Souad Mansour, a Chaldean who lost two brothers, a sister and a nephew under Saddam, briefly fainted.

“She couldn’t handle it,” said her surviving sister Hadiya. “None of us can really handle it.”

The American-British occupation of Iraq has allowed investigators and families to steadily uncover the extent of the political and ethnic killings under Saddam.

“The crimes this fallen regime has perpetrated have not left one home in Iraq untouched,” said Taleb al-Refaie, the imam, or religious leader, of the Imam Ali Mosque, which serves the area around Toledo, Ohio.

Salem al-Nouri, an artist from Dearborn, said a close friend was one of the few who managed to escape from a mass grave.

“The soldiers brought him in a dump truck, with scores of others piled beside him, some dead, others wishing they were,” al-Nouri said. “Then, they dumped the bodies into a deep ditch, formed a circle around the perimeter of the hole and machine-gunned anyone who appeared to be alive.

“He escaped by pretending to be dead. He waited until they went off to have their dinner and then crept out. He did all this with a bullet in his shoulder and another in his leg.”

< email | 6/02/2003 10:45:00 AM | link




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