Kurdish Imam Has Mixed Feelings About Execution

Kakahama Askary is an Iraqi-born Kurd who is now the imam of the Islamic Center of Shenandoah Valley in Harrisonburg, Va. Imam Askary had hoped to see Saddam brought to justice for crimes against the Kurds. He talks with Debbie Elliott about the execution of Saddam Hussein.

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Iraq's Kurdish population suffered as much as any from Saddam Hussein's crimes. We wanted to get reaction to his execution from the Iraqi Kurdish community here in the United States.

Kakahama Askary is the imam of the Islamic Center of Shenandoah Valley in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He joins me now on the phone. Welcome.

KAKAHAMA ASKARY: Thank you very much.

ELLIOTT: How large is the Kurdish population there in Harrisonburg?

ASKARY: Maybe were are more than 85 families.

ELLIOTT: Imam Askary, you led prayers this morning at your mosque. What did you say?

ASKARY: In the mosque, I tried to emphasize on the message of peace and reconciliation and that Islam's originally meaning peace and forgiveness.

ELLIOTT: Now, Saddam's Hussein's execution means that he will not be standing trail for his role in the Anfal campaign against the Kurds. During those attacks, Hussein's forces killed as many as 100,000 Kurds. Do you think that his death brings resolution for those crimes? Or did the Kurdish people want to see him stand trial?

ASKARY: Well, originally, Kurdish people want him to be on trial because we have a lot of a questions has not been answered, who did it, how was it done, who been supported, who cooperates with him? That's very important question should be answered. And with that, with the execution of him, I think the justice will be denied for the Kurdish people.

ELLIOTT: I understand you lost an uncle in the Anfal attacks and your sister-in-law lost her entire family?


ELLIOTT: Have you spoken with your sister-in-law today? What is her reaction?

ASKARY: Yes. I talked to her today. I asked what do you feel? She say, anyway, I'm looking forgiveness; if even if somebody killed my mother or my father, I prefer to forgive than to kill somebody.

ELLIOTT: What was your feeling when you first learned that Saddam Hussein had been executed?

ASKARY: It's originally - I woke up in the morning and I found out he's been executed and that was an emotional moment for me. I cannot say I am happy or I am sad, because I am looking for justice originally.

ELLIOTT: And you don't feel like his execution is in the end justice?

ASKARY: I don't think his execution, because his execution is what's political execution. That is one thing. And in Islam or in the Kurdish culture, we have to repel evil by good. I mean that is - his execution is ending the violence will be - I will be very happy for that, especially if his execution based on very legal system, clear legal system or very clear ordinance. But I don't think that's always done.

ELLIOTT: Kakahama Askary is an Imam in Harrisonburg, Virginia and an assistant professor at James Madison University. Thank you for speaking with us.

ASKARY: Thank you. Thank you very much.

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