Iraqi Dentist Learns of Torture, Death of Friend

Hassan Khaliday, a 24-year-old dentist struggling in war-torn Iraq, tells of the torture and decapitation of a close friend. His corpse was left in one of the markets. Khaliday says this is the reality of Baghdad; happiness is destroyed. He sought refuge in Jordan but was refused entry.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We bring you now the final diary entry of Hassan Khaliday. As NPR's John Burnett explains, things have taken a turn for the worse in the life of this young dentist in Baghdad.

JOHN BURNETT: Dr. Hassan was just about through with his audio journal in late July when he received a phone call...

Dr. HASSAN KHALIDAY (Dentist): Hello.

BURNETT: ...that changed his life.

Dr. KHALIDAY: So sorry. I have to cut the - this recording now because my friends call me and I thought that the news is not okay. It's not good. I will tell you what the news later. Bye-bye.

BURNETT: We didn't hear from Hassan for nearly a week because his best friend, Mohaned(ph), a civil engineer working for an American contractor, was kidnapped. He was shopping in the market when two cars pulled up and two armed men took him away.

Dr. KHALIDAY: I felt very sad because Mohaned is one of my best friends. And I'm so afraid about him. I prayed for the god to help him, to reduce the suffering of the torture that maybe he faced now. Pray with me. Okay. Thanks.

BURNETT: A week elapsed with no word from the kidnappers.

Dr. KHALIDAY: Hi. I'm very tired from thinking about what is going on with Mohaned. I don't know why the kidnappers not answer.

BURNETT: Finally, the kidnappers contacted Mohaned's father and demanded $70,000. He negotiated the ransom down to $20,000 and was given two days to collect it from neighbors and relatives. The next message we received from Hassan was more hopeful.

Dr. KHALIDAY: So now I felt okay because my friend will be released the next day, tomorrow morning. And he can return back to his home and we'll see him again. Oh, my God. I think that this long hard way will be finished tomorrow.

BURNETT: Another week passed before Hassan picked up the microphone for the last time and told us what happened to his friend.

Dr. KHALIDAY: His family is waiting. The time passed 9 o'clock a.m., and there is no news. The kidnappers turned off their mobile. From time to time, we went to the markets and see if Mohaned will be released or not. Suddenly, we heard shooting and crying, and see many people gathered around something, it was a slaughtered man. The head is separated from the body. He was our best friend, Mohaned.

(Soundbite of crying)

BURNETT: After taking the ransom, the abductors dumped Mohaned's beheaded corpse in the market. He had apparently been tortured. His body showed burns and broken bones.

Dr. KHALIDAY: I'm so sorry that my story is very sad, because this is the reality in Baghdad. Maybe you catch happy events, but mostly sad. And our happiness is destroyed by these bad events like this. Okay. Thank you for everything and goodbye.

BURNETT: Fearing for his safety, Hassan's mother and father bought him a ticket to Jordan shortly after he made this final recording. At the Amman airport, he was refused entry and put back on a plane to Baghdad, where he remains at this reading, in hiding.

Dr. Hassan Khaliday's friend, Mohaned, was one of 656 civilians killed or found dead in Baghdad during the month of August, according to figures compiled by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior.

John Burnett, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: Dr. Hassan's diary was produced by Joel Riddle.

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