Saturday, May 28, 2005

Kurd chief who taught mercy to Saddam's men

Kurd chief who taught mercy to Saddam's men

Jailed militia leader counselled ex-foes

Michael Howard in Irbil
Friday May 27, 2005
The Guardian

When Sheikh Ali Bapir saw his fellow prisoners at the US-run detention centre near Baghdad airport he was angry. They were the men he had fought against most of his life. Now he was in prison with them.

He knew their faces from TV: Ali Hassan al-Majid, aka Chemical Ali, the alleged mastermind of gas attacks on the Kurds and of the brutal suppression of the Shia; Taha Yassin Ramadan, the former Iraqi vice-president and a confidante of Saddam Hussein; Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister in the Ba'athist regime; and Barzan al-Tikriti, Saddam's half-brother.

In the near distance, separated from the others by a barbed wire fence, was Saddam.

Released without charge at the end of last month after 22 months in custody, Sheikh Ali, 44, the leader of the Komala Islami Kurdistan (Kurdistan Islamic group), spoke to the Guardian about his encounters with the former Iraqi leadership.

"Why did you put me in here with criminals and mass murderers?" he would ask of his interrogators. "I have never been a Ba'athist and I am not a terrorist. I even killed my brother because he spied for the Iraqi intelligence."

But as the weeks progressed, he channelled his rage into pity and became a spiritual guide to the ex-Ba'athist leaders, teaching them the Qur'an and leading them in prayer.

"At first I was hostile to them," he said. "What they did to my people and the Iraqi people in general was not to be forgiven. But they were also in prison and in a weak position. It was my duty under Islam to show mercy, even to these people who had never shown mercy to others."...