From the rise of Saddam Hussein through the U.S.-led invasion, the life of an Iraqi citizen has been a dangerous existence. Now an upcoming series of reports brings the abuse Iraqis have faced into the light.
DePaul University's Iraq History Project collected more than 9,000 testimonials over a six-year period. The stories of rape and torture fill several secure databases housed at the school's Chicago campus.
Daniel Rothenberg, director of international projects at DePaul's law school, says the testimonials show subtle differences between the abuse suffered under Baath party rule and what the civilian population experiences today.
"Under the prior regime, the violence was largely perpetrated by a centralized state," Rothenberg says. "Now it's more disparate." But, he says, the methods are the same: kidnapping, rape and torture.
To obtain access to this sensitive information, the project paired subjects with interviewers from similar ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs and social networks.
In one testimony, a man from Tikrit was hired by the Baath party to torture alleged dissidents. The man recounts how he didn't have the stomach to torture people at first — and was beaten for it.
According to his testimony, which Rothenberg's group aired on an Iraqi radio program, the man became cold-hearted. "I used to hit my victims until I was exhausted," he said. "I was unconcerned. Not with their pleading, not with their begging, not even with their weeping."
The project is due to release its reports in June. Rothenberg hopes the testimonies will increase aid for victims and encourage the U.S. to accept more Iraqi refugees.