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Tales of Torture
Here's the transcript from Show 143 of weekly Outside The Lines - Tales of Torture
ANNOUNCER- December 22, 2002.
JEREMY SCHAAP, GUEST HOST- As U.N. inspectors scour Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. is preparing for another war with Saddam Hussein. Saddam's brutal treatment of the innocent Iraqis is well documented. Less well known, the systematic torture of Iraqi athletes.
CHARLES FORREST, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE- Well, this man was beaten repeatedly with a cable.
SHARAR HAYDAR, FORMER IRAQI SOCCER PLAYER- Every single day I have been beaten on my feet. Twenty a day.
SCHAAP- Uday Hussein, Saddam's oldest son, is in charge of Iraq's National Olympic Committee. Iraqi defectors say he enjoys torturing athletes who fail to meet his expectations.
ISSAM THAMER, FORMER IRAQI VOLLEYBALL PLAYER AND COACH (through translator)- He would send police dogs into the cells. There was a lot of noise, and he took pleasure to watch this.
SCHAAP- A look at Uday Hussein through the eyes of his former body double.
LATIF YAHIA, FORMER BODY DOUBLE FOR UDAY HUSSEIN- It is like he is having fun when he sees the peoples tortured and hitted.
SCHAAP- Today, on Outside The Lines, Iraqi athletes share their tales of torture at the hands of Uday Hussein, and a human rights groups that's working to expel Iraq from the Olympics.
I am Jeremy Schaap, filling in for Bob Ley.
According to most international human rights groups, Saddam Hussein's regime is among the world's most oppressive. He notoriously ordered a chemical weapons attack on his own citizens in Iraqi Kurdistan and has executed thousands of political opponents. His oldest son, Uday, is not only the commander of a widely feared paramilitary unit, he also runs Iraq's National Olympic Committee. In Iraq, his reputation for brutality equals or exceeds his father's. Among his alleged victims, Iraqi athletes whose supposed crime was often merely losing. After years of silence, several of those athletes now living in the U.S. and Europe are sharing their stories.
Tom Farrey of ESPN.com has more on their tales of torture.
TOM FARREY, ESPN.COM- They are two words rarely heard together in the history of sports. Athletes tortured.
FORREST- Well, this man was beaten repeatedly with a cable. He was forced to kneel on hot asphalt and then just whipped with this cable over and over and over again.
FARREY- That's what happened to an Iraqi table tennis player. Sharar Haydar played soccer for the Iraqi national team.
HAYDAR- Every single day I have been beaten on my feet. Twenty a day. And I am not allowed to eat or drink. Just a glass of water and a piece of bread.
FARREY- Volleyball coach Issam Thamer was imprisoned with a marathoner.
They made him run on pointy nails?
THAMER- Without shoes.
FARREY- With bare feet?
FARREY- For how far?
THAMER- Fifty feet.
FARREY- For fifty feet?
FARREY- On the left is Raed Ahmed, a former Iraqi weight lifter. On the right, Muhsin Hassan, a former boxer.
MUHSIN HASSAN, FORMER IRAQI BOXER- The entire team was punished for a month. They had their heads shaved. They were beaten. They had their heads pushed in the water so that they couldn't breathe.
RAED AHMED, FORMER IRAQI WEIGHTLIFTER- One of the worst type of torture is not being allowed to use the restroom, and being forced to go in your pants. Humiliating a person.
FARREY- This is sports in Iraq under Uday Hussein, president of the nation's Olympic Committee. He is the eldest son of Saddam Hussein, who gave him the Olympic position in 1984 at the age of 21. Uday, now 38, also oversees a state security unit called "Saddam's Revolutionary Fighters," whose job is to protect his father.
FORREST- He is renowned for his brutality from a very early age.
FARREY- Charles Forrest is head of "Indict," a London based human rights group that seeks criminal charges against top Iraqi leaders including Uday.
FORREST- His father used to give him guns. He supposedly carried out his first execution for his father when he was 18 years old.
FARREY- How well do you know Uday?
YAHIA- Very well.
FARREY- Latif Yahia is Uday's former body double. His trained look-alike and associate.
YAHIA- I think Saddam; he is more human than Uday.
FARREY- Saddam is more human than Uday?
YAHIA- Oh yes. Sometimes Saddam, he can forgive you. What you did. Sometime he comes, he say, OK, you know, just small slap and he says you go. With Uday, no. Uday, he don't have respect for anybody.
THAMER- He used to urinate on the athletes. He urinated on them. He would get drunk, and urinate on them. This is painful. This is painful and hurts one's dignity.
HAYDAR- He's mad. He is not normal.
FARREY- Sharar Haydar played for the Iraqi national soccer team for 12 years. He also played for Uday's personal soccer team, al-Rasheed, one of the top club teams in Asia.
How many times in all were you punished or tortured or imprisoned?
HAYDAR- Yes. Four times.
FARREY- Four times?
HAYDAR- Yes. And I was lucky.
FARREY- And you were lucky?
FARREY- Why were you lucky?
HAYDAR- Because I -- just four times. I mean -- and...
FARREY- Other players got it a lot more?
HAYDAR- Oh yes. Oh yes.
FARREY- Haydar says the first time he was tortured was in 1993 after the Iraqi national team lost 2-0 to Jordan. He says he spent a week behind bars with three teammates.
HAYDAR- We had been beaten and everything and nobody knows why. Why just, you know, four of us? I mean, where is the rest of the players? Is that, you know -- are we being chosen from the coach or from Uday -- nobody knows. And then when we finished our punishment we went to the national team as usual to continue. And then the coach, he says, well, he choose you.
FARREY- Haydar tried to resign the next year, but says Uday wouldn't allow it.
HAYDAR- And he says, he asked me, why you don't like to play in great Iraq? I said, well, I been playing on the Iraq national team five years now, but I feel I don't -- I don't feel very well. I've got an ulcer -- bleeding ulcer, so I can't continue.
FARREY- That answer got him thrown in prison again. This time his feet were whipped 20 times a day. Then he was dragged on his back until it was bloody.
FARREY- After Haydar defected in 1998 and arrived here in London, he wrote a letter to the world governing body for soccer and shared his story. But FIFA declined to investigate. A year earlier FIFA had gone to Baghdad and talked to some players, none of whom said they were abused.
ENTIFADH QANBAR, U.S. DIRECTOR, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS- It is like going to the streets of Chicago in the 1930s and ask the shop owners, do you like Al Capone or not.
FARREY- Entifadh Qanbar runs the Washington office of the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of opposition groups.
QANBAR- Do they think a player inside Iraq has the guts and the capability to talk against Uday and say -- he will be killed immediately? They should know better.
FARREY- In 1996, Qanbar orchestrated the defection of weightlifter Raed Ahmed, who carried the flag for Iraq in the opening ceremonies of the Atlanta Olympics.
AHMED- Athletes around the world take steroids to do well. In Iraq they take them for different reasons. They take them so that they won't fail and get punished by Uday.
FARREY- What is this?
THAMER- This is the chains.
FARREY- The chains.
THAMER- Yes, the chains. When I move, you know, it leave this mark on my leg.
FARREY- Issam Thamer says these faded scars serve as a constant reminder that he was placed in iron shackles and tortured 12 years ago. The former Iraqi volleyball star says Uday locked him up when he was coach of Uday's personal volleyball team in the Iraqi club league.
THAMER- How wide...
FARREY- Yes, how wide were the ankle bracelets?
THAMER- Like that.
FARREY- They were like that?
THAMER- Yes. I was chained from the front to the wall.
FARREY- Chained to the wall?
THAMER- To the wall, yes.
FARREY- And behind you, your hands...
THAMER- Behind me...
FARREY- ... were chained as well?
THAMER- ..chained and to the...
FARREY- And there was a rope going from your hands all the way to the ceiling?
THAMER- ... and they were tight.
FARREY- He says he was forced to stay in this awkward position for three straight days as apart of a three-month prison sentence. His crime, rejecting Uday's orders to go to Kuwait and steal that nation's sports equipment after Iraq had invaded and seized control of the neighboring nation. Uday's body double says he participated in the looting.
YAHIA- We took from Kuwait, over $125 million. This is just for Uday. The cars, the furniture, the gold, every single thing. And all was stored in Iraqi Olympic.
FARREY- Stored in the Iraqi Olympic headquarters in Baghdad, that is. Yahia and others say the Iraqi Olympic building is actually the headquarters for Uday's criminal business operations, and has little to do with sports.
YAHIA- The smuggling, the whiskey, the cigarettes, the drugs, the cars that was stolen from Kuwait. Every single illegal you find in this place.
FARREY- Athletes say Uday even has a secret prison on the first floor of the Olympic headquarters, his private jail.
HAYDAR- It is a normal room, I mean, normal size, and sometimes you find five people -- six people there. All different kinds of sports. For different reasons.
THAMER- He would send police dogs into the cell. There was a lot of noise and he took pleasure to watch this.
YAHIA- It was like he's having fun when he see the people tortured and hitted.
FARREY- He enjoys it?
FARREY- So it is not because he is trying to make them win games?
YAHIA- The world would (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from a sadist.
FARREY- This is a list of famous athletes and other Iraqi sports leaders who allegedly have been executed since Saddam rose to power in 1979. It includes more than 50 names, and was compiled by the Iraqi Olympic Council, a group of exiled Iraqi athletes. Abid "The King" Kadhum, an Iraqi soccer star from the 1960s and 1970s, knew many of the players on the list.
ABID KADHUM, FORMER IRAQI SOCCER PLAYER AND COACH (through translator)- The teammate of ours named Bashar Rashid. He played for the Iraqi national team. Was executed by the regime. He was my teammate. Another friend killed was captain of the Iraqi basketball team. Fahr Ahmadparmen. He was a general and his father established the Iraqi Olympic committee.
FARREY- Most of the athletes were allegedly killed for political reasons. Like cursing Saddam. But some argue the athlete's high profile status also made them greater threats to Uday.
THAMER (through translator)- Uday cannot stand to think that someone in Iraq believes he's smarter, more famous and more popular than him. And since athletes are well loved by the people, Uday managed to get rid of them one way or another.
FARREY- Issam Thamer, who heads the exiled athletes group, plans to submit the list to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC can add it to mounting allegations against Iraq. Earlier this month, "Indict," the London-based human rights group, filed a complaint with the IOC asking that Iraq be expelled from the Olympics. The dossier from "Indict," which is funded by the U.S. government, included an affidavit and photos from a former national team table tennis player allegedly tortured on orders of Uday.
FORREST- And the idea that this man, who is a sadistic killer, should have the respect which comes from being president of an Olympic committee, and to use the Olympic Rings to support this corruption and brutality, I think is something which -- which seriously causes the credibility of the Olympic movement to come into question.
FARREY- If the IOC does take action against Iraq, it's because the wall of silence about the torture of athletes is coming down, but not without risk. Those who are speaking out know that relatives back in Iraq could be harmed. Sharar Haydar says his family has told him that even he is being watched in London by Iraqi agents.
HAYDAR- I don't care anymore. That's why I'm speaking now. I mean I don't care anymore. Because we have to speak. Otherwise, they're going to continue from generation to generation, same family. We had enough. Now we had enough.
FARREY- Uday Hussein did not respond to Outside The Lines' request for comment. In a brief telephone interview, Jabar al Hadushi, who identified himself as an Iraq National Olympic Committee deputy, offered a blanket denial that any Iraqi athletes have ever been tortured or unfairly imprisoned. While there are those who say Iraq should be banned from the Olympics, historically the International Olympic Committee, which put the Olympics in Hitler's Germany and is awarded the 2008 games to China, has rarely allowed human rights to affect its decisions. That is the topic for our panel discussion when we return.
SCHAAP- Welcome back to Outside The Lines, where today we're discussing the alleged abuse of Iraqi athletes. As you can see, Iraq's presence in the Olympics has dwindled since the 1980 summer games in Moscow. From 43 athletes to three in Atlanta and four in Sidney.
Joining us now to discuss Iraq and the Olympics, Peter Galbraith, the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, and a member of the board of "Indict", the U.S. funded human rights organization based in London. "Indict" is petitioning the International Olympic Committee to expel Iraq.
David Wallechinsky is also with us, an eminent Olympic historian. He is the author of the "Complete Book of the Olympics."
And also joining us, one of three American members of the International Olympic Committee, Bob Ctvrtlik would was also a captain of the U.S. Olympic volleyball team in 1996 at the summer games in Atlanta.
Bob, let's starts with you. What are your thoughts about the campaign to ban Iraq from the Olympics?
BOB CTVRTLIK, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE MEMBER- Well, I'm very interested and obviously the IOC takes these things very, very seriously. I mean, as a former athlete, I was a three time Olympian, what could be a greater atrocity than having some athletes tortured? But at the same time you have to realize the IOC is compromised of 130 members, 80 different countries, and everyone has different cultural differences and ways they look at things and we're a very slow, methodical body before we take action. So -- but once again, these are very serious allegations, and if they're substantiated, we'll definitely take some action.
SCHAAP- David, correct me if I'm wrong, but only twice before has the Olympics banned a nation; South Africa in the age of apartheid, and Afghanistan under the Taliban. Considering historical precedent, what do you think the IOC will do in this situation?
DAVID WALLECHINSKY, OLYMPIC HISTORIAN- Well, actually that is not quite right. The IOC banned both South Africa and what was then known as Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, for their racial policies under great pressure from the world. The IOC's also banned, for example, North Korea at one point because they participated in a meet that wasn't sanctioned. A meet that had banned Israel.
So there are a couple other examples. And also the Afghanistan situation was actually because all the members of the Afghan Olympic Committee were in exile, and the Taliban hadn't paid their dues. They hadn't gotten involved. I think that the IOC will probably look into this, as well they should. I think they should do it cautiously, because once they enter the subject of human rights, it's a whole can of worms. For example, not that far from Iraq is Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, all of whom do not allow women to compete in sports and have never entered a woman in the Olympics. So once you open that can of worms, what you are going to do about these other countries?
SCHAAP- Mr. Ambassador, with U.S. apparently moving toward war with Iraq, this issue can easily become politicized. Most human rights organizations say the human rights situation in Iraq is not significantly different now from what it was five years ago. Why has "Indict" chosen now as the time to push for Iraq's expulsion from the Olympics?
AMBASSADOR PETER GALBRAITH, INDICT BOARD MEMBER- It's a matter of having gathered the evidence, which you have so eloquently presented in the words of the athletes themselves in that excellent report that you have done. The issue here is not the human rights situation in Iraq, which is appalling, and there are other countries that have terrible human rights records, maybe not as bad as Iraq's. The issue here, though, is the conduct of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, which is headed by Saddam Hussein's son, Uday, who is known as a drunk, a torturer, a sadist, and a serial rapist. And it is the way in which he has behaved toward the athletes and the officials in the Iraqi National Olympic Committee.
SCHAAP- Is that the important distinction, Bob, the distinction between the abuse of ordinary citizens and the abuse alleged in this case of Olympic caliber athletes?
CTVRTLIK- Yes, I think that is an important distinction. I mean, the athletes -- you know, we don't want anyone sort of bastardizing the Olympic Rings. We have some ideals we stand for, some values we stand for, and if people are using that in the wrong way, yes, we want to take some action.
SCHAAP- David, the new president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge from Belgium, obviously very different sensibilities than his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was after all a member of Franco's fascist regime in Spain.
SCHAAP- Bearing that in mind, how likely is that it that Rogge will more likely consider humanitarian issues when making decisions like these?
WALLECHINSKY- I think he will. But at the same time I think being an ex-Olympic athlete himself, that Dr. Rogge will also want to do what is best for the athletes, which is to balance these allegations of torture with not allowing athletes to take part in the Olympics. And I would also be very cautious.
You mentioned that "Indict" is funded by the U.S. government, or partially funded by the U.S. government. This is something I -- if I were the IOC, I would look into these allegations separately. I happen to believe that, you know, what "Indict" is -- their agenda is to establish war crimes trials for members of the Iraqi government, which I think is very good thing. But I cannot help but feel the timing is not a coincidence. If you look on the "Indict" website you'll see there is no mention of Olympic athletes.
SCHAAP- Ambassador Galbraith, would you like to respond?
GALBRAITH- Well look, this is a matter of collecting evidence. "Indict" has been in existence for five years. It was founded before it had any U.S. government funding. It was not founded at the behest of the U.S. government. But obviously U.S. government funding has greatly increased our ability to accomplish our goals.
And let's be realistic, the prospect of war has encouraged some of these athletes to come forward. These are incredibly brave people who are putting their own lives at risk because the Iraqi secret services have a reach that goes outside of Baghdad, outside of the country. Their families are at peril. And with the prospect of regime change, yes, I think some of them are coming forward. But the issue is not who funds "Indict." The issue is the facts. And the evidence is overwhelming, and you've heard from these people in their own words as to what happened.
SCHAAP- Bob, one final question for Bob Ctvrtlik. Beijing will be the site of the 2008 games. How will the IOC justify expelling Iraq and rewarding China, which most organizations say has a poor human rights record.
CTVRTLIK- Well, a lot of people have already kind of criticized the IOC for giving the Olympics to Beijing. But, you know, there are two sides to every coin. As an American you may feel one way, but looking at it from a worldview, it might have been the best thing that IOC has ever done. Beijing is in a crystal ball right now. They're on the world stage. And actually they're making some very, very good changes and doing good things for the Olympic movement as far as...
SCHAAP- Bob Ctvrtlik, thank you very much for joining us. David Wallechinsky, Ambassador Galbraith, gentlemen, thank you as well.
For more on this story, log on to ESPN.com. Keyword: Iraq. You'll find first-person accounts from Iraqi athletes and on Monday, a live chat with Uday Hussein's former body double.
When we return, some viewer's thoughts on last week's show. Our topic was the increasing coverage and exposure of high school sports and athletes.
DICK VITALE, ESPN COLLEGE BASKETBALL ANALYST- What about kids like Rod Grizzard, Marcus Taylor? All these kids who got bad advice, who listened to guys on the street filling their heads up, who thought they were going to be first round draft choices, and they are not drafted, and they are thrown to the wayside...
BILLY PACKER, CBS COLLEGE BASKETBALL ANALYST- Dick, Dick. Look in the mirror...
VITALE- That's the problem.
PACKER- Dick, look in the mirror. You are one of the guys that hyped these players...
SCHAAP- A week ago on Outside The Lines, ESPN's Dick Vitale and Billy Packer of CBS sounded off on the increasing visibility of high school athletes. In particular, the decision by this network and other TV outlets to televise prep basketball games. Here's what some of our viewers thought...
A viewer in Wisconsin wrote- "This past week's show on LeBron James was particularly interesting and entertaining. To listen to Billy and Dick go at it once again is truly worth the price of my monthly cable subscription."
A viewer in New Mexico wrote- "Young athletes now seem to only care about their exposure and what is in it for them, they lose focus on the fact that only 1 in 35,000 makes it to the professional ranks. The results in all of this is that they and society in general forget that their education is what is important, and in the long run they lose out because they care more about a pipe dream of going pro than the dream of becoming a productive citizen in society."
And finally, a viewer from Washington state wrote- "That poor kid that was being promoted doesn't have a chance to be a teenager the way everyone kept promoting the game. Shame on your station for getting caught up in the hype."
And we should note that ESPN is considering televising another high school game featuring LeBron James. Those letters came to us online where the key word is otlweekly at ESPN.com. We look forward to your thoughts on the campaign to ban Iraq from the Olympics. Our address, once again, firstname.lastname@example.org.