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Iraq: Cemetery Worker Tells Of Burying Hussein's Victims

Zuhayr al-Amidi, manager of the Sayyid Al-Sadr Cemetery in the Shi'ite holy city of Al-Najaf, spoke to Radio Free Iraq (RFI) on 18 October 2005 following a memorial service for relatives of people killed under the reign of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

RFI: What is the number of the victims [of Saddam Hussein's regime] whose burial you have witnessed in the cemetery?

Al-Amidi: It is a very large [number], due to the [large] number of executions from 1970 until the fall of the regime. An extremely high number of people were executed.

RFI: Since what year have you been in charge of the cemetery?

Al-Amidi: Since 1977 I have been burying people here. I am now standing here, surrounded by families who have come to the graves of their relatives. Some of them have only imaginary graves [as the dead bodies were not received]; in some of them there are bodies [that have been reburied] from mass graves. At the moment I am standing near the grave of martyr [Imam] Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr [after whom the cemetery has been called]. Around his graves there are about 155 graves of other martyrs from among prominent and distinguished personalities, clerics, intellectuals, and doctors.

RFI: As a manager of this kind of cemetery, what is your opinion on the [Hussein] trial starting tomorrow?

Al-Amidi: My feeling is that I am one of the victims because two of my brothers were executed. One was executed in 1986, the other was among those killed [and buried] in a mass grave. Today, I have seen a woman who came to the grave of her son. She brought candles and henna with her. I asked her: "What are these candles and the henna?" She replied: "These candles are for sorrow. When I heard about the Saddam trial [pending], I though I must go to my son's grave. It has been some four years since I last visited [the grave of] my son. But the media reports have reminded me of the Saddam trial so I am coming now with this tray of candles and henna." The feeling of Iraqis now is that if the trial were fair, Saddam would deserve more than an execution. What can I tell you that he deserves? That [execution] would be too little for him.

(Translation by Petr Kubalek)