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Murder of a Father

Helen Williams | 03.08.2004 21:42 | Anti-militarism

Welsh Activist, Helen Williams, based in Baghdad, reports on a family's personal tragedy. Their father, Ahssan Abdul Aziz, is killed by American troops. A friend of the family - Helen can vouch for his innocence. The authorities will not even take the name of the deceased. This is a very moving account.

Ahssan Abdul Azziz with daughters
Ahssan Abdul Azziz with daughters


25 June 2004

Bad things happen in Iraq all the time. The tragic events that

happen as a daily occurrence, although deeply upsetting and

Horrible, happen to people that are 'anonymous' to me. This is

not a report, like I usually make, but it is the story of the

heinous murder of a beloved father by American soldiers

occupying this country - the father of a friend, Shafaq -

which makes it all the harder to bear. Shafaq has been so

brave telling me what happened to her father, although it was

clearly difficult for her to do so. Please take the time to

read the following account in memory of my friend's father.

When Kevin and I travelled to Iraq as Human Shields on the Red

Buses in February 2003, there was an Iraqi lady who lived in

Norway, who was also travelling with us as a Human Shield. Her

name was Nama'a, and although she had left Iraq because of

Saddam Hussein, she still knew that the impending war would be

wrong, and felt strong enough about this to return to her

homeland at great risk to her personal safety. During the

journey to Iraq and our time spent here as Shields, we became

firm friends with Nama'a and when we returned to the country

in November 2003 we were overjoyed to find Nama'a here

visiting her family. We met her lovely family and were lucky

enough to be invited to the wedding of her niece, Ishraq, 29,

which took place on 27 November 2003.

I first met Shafaq, sister of the bride, at the Hennah (the

party for the female members of the bride and groom's

families), the night before the wedding. I also met Shafaq's

and Ishraq's other 4 sisters -Nawr, 27, Shahad, 18, Mays, 14,

and Hala, just 10 years old. All 6 sisters were beautiful

girls - friendly, welcoming and outgoing. I remember how some

had them had made their own dresses for the Hennah and wedding

- fantastic creations and far better than any clothes anyone

could buy in a shop anywhere.

It is Shafaq who I have kept in touch with and who has told me

about the murder of her father at the hands of hateful

American soldiers.

Shafaq Ahssan, 25, lives in Adhimaya, Baghdad with her sisters

and mother. She is a pretty woman - confident, bubbly, chatty,

kind hearted and intelligent with excellent English. she is

studying computer science in University and is in the second

year of a four year course - she will move on to the third

year in September, if she passes her exams, recently taken.

Her father was Ahssan Abdul Azziz, 49 years old. He was

divorced from her mother, but the sisters regularly saw their

father who they loved - he lived near them in Adhimaya. Shafaq

was particularly close to her father, calling him 'not just a

father, but a friend'. She used to see him all the time and

talk to him about everything. She described a sort of

telepathy between them - even if she was not with her dad,

they knew what each other was doing and he always knew if she

was unwell, even if she had not told him so. She said that she

had so many fond memories of him, saying that when she was

sick, he would just hug her and she would feel well again. She

talked movingly of her father saying how gentle and

intelligent he was - a friend to all, especially to his

daughters and his neighbours - he was a very special man. His

death had clearly left this strong woman sad and destroyed in

her heart - she loved him so much.

Then she told me how her father loved to write things, like

poetry and he was good at it. He used to draw beautiful things

and he was a good cook, creating delicious food. He was also

like a professional at car repairs and was even skilful at

sewing clothes.

Before the war he had been an import merchant, but after the

war he had no job - things became so hard for him. Just 2

weeks before he was killed he had found a new job as a customs

official. He was looking forward to starting this new job so

much, beginning a new life, perhaps with his daughters going

back to him - he had been full of hope.

Shafaq told me how her father's life had been full of

suffering. He had been a soldier in the Iraqi Army, though not

through choice - men in Iraq do not have the right to choose

not to fight. He had been in the Army all through the

Iran/Iraq War and had been injured twice, once in the leg.

During the Iran/Iraq War he had seen all of his closest

friends die in front of his eyes. Then during the Gulf War, he

had witnessed the deaths of yet more of his friends. He did

not fight in the last 'war'(I mean the illegal invasion and

slaughter of this country) in March 2003 - he was too old to


Even during the occupation Ahssan Abdul Azziz suffered. One

day, while walking along a street in Adhimaya, with some of

Shafaq's cousins, he was stopped by American troops. They

accused him of being a Ba'athist and of being in the

Resistance. They arrested him and took him to the notorious

Abu Gharib Prison, 20 kilometres from Baghdad and scene of the

gross violations of human rights and torture by American

soldiers on the Iraqi detainees. He was held there for 5

months and, during his 'disappearance', his family, beside

themselves with worry and anxiety, asked about him and

searched for him. After 3 to 4 months he managed to get a

message out of the prison with a friend, saying that he was in

Abu Gharib Prison and could someone help to get him out. Even

though the family knew where he was then, they were still not

allowed to visit him. After 5 months the Americans released

him with no charge - he had done nothing wrong, he was

innocent. Shafaq said that she did not know whether or not her

father had been abused or mistreated in the prison. She said

he came out a quiet man - he said nothing about his capture or

his time in detention - he was hurting inside and could not


During the evening of Thursday 10 June 2004, Asshan Abdul

Azziz experienced chest pains and, worrying about his heart,

he set off for the hospital in Medical City for tests at

midnight. He was accompanied by 2 of Shafaq's cousins:

Mohanned, 22 years of age, a Biology student in his 3rd year

and studying at the same University as Shafaq - he was driving

the car with Shafaq's father in the passenger seat next to

him; and 16 year old Shawqy, still in high school - he was

sitting in the back seat of the car. On the way to the

hospital they passed the old Iraqi Army Officers' Club on Al

Magreb Street - this is right next to the drama college

theatre where Yahya took us in March, which I have mentioned

in a previous report. On the way, Shafaq's father was telling

stories of happy and sad memories with Shafaq's mother. Right

by the old Officers' Club there was a spot where he used to go

and sit with his wife and children and this is where he was

murdered on this night.

Two soldiers, possibly drunk or on drugs, shouted and

indicated to the car to stop on the side of the road. Mohanned

did as he was told. The soldiers pointed rifles at the car and

left them sitting there for half an hour. Mohanned took his

shirt off and waved it out of the window like a white flag. He

shouted out of the car window "Don't shoot, we need to go, we

want to speak to you".

Shafaq's father spoke English well so he tried to open the car

door to ask if they could continue to the hospital. This is

when the American soldiers opened fire and started shooting at

them. Ahssan (Shafaq's father) pushed Mohanned down and then

tried to turn himself around in the car to push Shawqy, his

young nephew, down as well, so he would not get hit by a

bullet or get hurt. At the exact moment that he tried to push

Shawqy down, Ahssan was hit in the neck by a bullet. The

bullet entered by the voice box and travelled through the neck

to the side of the neck. Another bullet hit him in the chest.

Mohanned shouted "Stop shooting, don't shoot, we don't have

any weapons, you're hurting my uncle, please help us, show

some mercy". The shooting continued for 10 - 15 minutes -

there are 2 bullet holes on the car door on the driver's side

- one above and one to the side of Mohanned. There are also

many other bullet holes in the car. Mohanned's cries for help

and mercy were futile to these murderers. The soldiers pulled

them roughly out of the car, including the injured father, now

bleeding to death and in urgent need of life saving medical

attention. They dropped Ahssan, Mohanned and Shawqy to the

ground and beat them with their hands and the backs of their

guns and stamped on their heads. Then the soldiers searched

them and the car - all the while Ahssan lay there bleeding -

this continued for a full 2 hours. The soldiers then shot at

another passing car, which, thankfully, managed to speed off.

During the 2 hours lying in the road, Mohanned managed to get

to Ahssan and wrap his shirt around his uncle's neck in an

attmept to stop the bleeding. Someone called an ambulance -

Mohanned doesn't know if it was neighbours or a passing car.

When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics rushed to Ahssan to

treat him and take him to the ambulance. The soldiers then

shot at the ambulance in an attempt to make it impossible to

drive the victims to hospital. They even shot at the police

car accompanying and guarding the ambulance.

Half an hour after the father and cousins were able to leave

for the hospital, the same soldiers shot and killed 2 more

people in another car. It is well known here that many

American soldiers brag about how many Iraqis they have killed

and will kill - often making bets on innocent people's lives.

So the Ambulance managed to get Ahssan to hospital. In the

hospital, like in all hospitals here, the hospital staff were

frightened to treat him as he was a victim of the American

troops. They did treat him, but not that well - just First Aid

in the emergency room, basic life saving treatment. This was

in Al Karkh Hospital. Ahssan had been in the road for 2 hours

and in the ambulance for 15 minutes travelling to the

hospital. His blood was everywhere - on the road, in the

ambulance, in the hospital -everywhere. After a few hours, he

was transferred to another hospital - a specialist hospital

for this sort of wound in Medical City, Baghdad.

Mohanned and another cousin came to Shafaq's house early the

next morning to inform the family of the horrific events

during the night. The family left immediately for the

hospital. Shafaq told me how the treatment was so bad in the

hospital - the wards are dirty, they do not have the correct

equipment and the staff are terrified to treat anyone wounded

by coalition forces. The doctors were careless and not good in

their treatment of the father and arrogant in their attitudes

and would not answer the family's questions. The doctors would

not even say if Ahssan had a chance of life or not, but Shafaq

said that when she saw her father, she just knew that he was

not going to live.

Ahssan spent 4 long days in a coma. During this time, there

was always someone from the family in the hospital with him.

Shafaq told me how she held his hand all the time and talked

to him constantly - hoping that he would hear his beloved

daughter's voice and wake up. He tried to squeeze her hand

even though he was in a coma. She said that when she held his

hand she felt that he was trying to say something to her. When

she released his hand she saw tears in his eyes - he was

trying to say something, but couldn't.

Ahssan died at 5 am on 14 June 2004. Shafaq was just leaving

the hospital after a hard night when he passed away.

Shafaq said she feels so sad and so angry - 'They destroyed

his hope, destroyed him, they killed him. I feel so hurt, so

broken inside. When the whole world gets hard you need someone

to turn to - now I feel I have no one to turn to".

The funeral took place over 7 days. Shafaq's last exam had

been on 10 June, the day of the shooting in the night, so she

had (luckily!) finished her exams. But 3 of her sisters still

had exams to do including her younger sister, Mays, 14, who

still had 2 to do. This brave young lady still tried to do

them even though it was so hard for her to do so. This meant

she had to leave the funeral on 2 of the days and it meant

that she had no chance to study for these last 2 exams.

Because of this tragic event Shafaq has lost her job. She was

a hard worker as a researcher on the internet, looking for

contracts. The problem is that there is so much work to be

done that the employers need the workers there all of the

time, with no days off. They need her work and they need her

reports daily. So they had to let her go and employ someone

else to do her work - they could not be down one member of

staff for one day and Shafaq could not work for 2 weeks. When

I suggested that she needed a break, some time to mourn and

come to terms with what happened she agreed, but said how she

badly needed another job as she is a student.

Shafaq's aunt is trying to make a complaint and claim

compensation, which will prove extremely difficult, if not

impossible. Shafaq does not want money, saying that money

cannot bring her father back. she just wants justice. This

will also be impossible - they do not know who the soldiers

are and they dare not make inquiries for fear of arrest and


Two days later, Shafaq took us to the home of her aunt and her

cousins, Mohanned and Shawqy. We met these 2 young men and I

felt so sad for them, so upset about what they had been

through as I shook their hands. The car they had been in on

this dreadful night was parked outside and I was invited to

take photographs of it. It was the first time Shafaq had seen

her father's car since his death and she became so upset.

There were bullet holes all over - in the bonnet, in the

radiator, in the doors, in the door frames - and one in the

windscreen. This was the hole from the bullet which had

entered Ahssan's neck and killed him. It was a horrible sight.

Even though her aunt had washed the car thoroughly, we could

still see small spots of blood in the door frame and the seats

of the car were still badly stained - I will be emailing the

photographs home.

Imagine this happening to you. You live through wars, Saddam's

regime, sanctions and the last war and you loose your dear

father in this terrible way. A father who also suffered

through his whole life, but who was still brave enough to have

hope in his heart for the future. Imagine - how do you carry

on after all this. This is the suffering of the Iraqi people

and it goes on and on and on.

All for now

Helen williams

Living in Baghdad, From Newport, South Wales.

Helen Williams