Monday, April 28, 2003[posted by jaed at 8:16 AM]
The most terrible things:
It's easy to talk about torture or, more glibly, "human rights violations", in the abstract, to debate it, to put it into a calculus of pragmatic political action, risk, "blowback", tradeoffs in regional stability. It's much harder to be cold and practical about it when you hear the testimony of a victim.
In 1985, Iraqi lawyer Lahib Nouman offered to defend a man Udai Hussein had falsely accused of a crime. For crossing him in this fashion, over the next eighteen years, he did this to her:
In prison, she endured rape, beatings and unspeakable torture. In the hospital, she was subjected to countless sessions of shock therapy and powerful sedatives. Along the way, her mind became unhinged, her memories scrambled and her face frozen in a mask of permanent terror. "They have turned me into a witch," she says, ruefully pulling at her stringy hair, which she has dyed the color of tea. "They have made me horrible."Lahib Nouman is brave, indomitable. A hero, in fact. Her name ought to be celebrated for that, for her example of defiance to a tyrant. But the price she has paid for her courage.... It makes me sick to think of it.
"I said what every Iraqi was thinking," she says. "I just had nothing to lose. What could they do to me that they were not already doing?"
In Baghdad's working-class districts, Nouman gained a certain amount of fame as the crazy woman lawyer who dared to stand up to Uday. Even some of the staff at the mental hospital came to admire her tenacity. "She never stopped speaking against Uday, not even when she was getting shock treatment," says Jabar Rubbaiyeh Lefteh, an ambulance driver at the mental hospital. "She was braver than any man I know."
I'm a pragmatist in these matters. I've written before that I supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein for reasons of American security, not because of Iraqis; I was moved by their stories but I've never considered cruel tyranny, in itself, enough reason for war from another country. My reasons for believing that are still good. But a story like this shakes them. I read this and I ask myself where we were all this time, while this was going on. Where I was.
Go read the whole thing. Bear witness to the martyrdom of a hero of our time.
It's the very least we can do, isn't it?
(via Tim Blair)