al-Wafd: American Prison Guards are “Dark Angels of Hell”
As public revulsion at the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghuraib prison by American guards circles the globe, a second scandal hit, this time concerning British soldiers who abused their captives.
Most troubling of all, Afghan politicians are now suggesting that the prisoner abuse scandal could harm US anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan. Omar Samad, an Afghanistan foreign ministry spokesman, said according to AP, ‘ the allegations in Iraq will not resonate positively” in Islamic countries. “People could start questioning the motivation behind” the American campaign in Afghanistan, Samad said. Afghans were very sensitive to allegations of human rights abuses because of the brutality of the Taliban regime ousted by U.S. and allied Afghan forces in late 2001, he said. ‘
Al-Wafd’s (Cairo) headline referred to the American prison guards at Abu Ghurayb as Zabaniyat al-Ihtilal, the Punishing Angels of Occupation. The zabaniyah in Islamic lore are the angels who “thrust the damned into Hell” and then torture them. Actually I suppose we might call them dark angels or even demons in the West. A sidebar said “shame!” and several of the pictures were carried, though darkened so as not to offend Cairo audiences with nudity. Al-Wafd is associated with a conservative Egyptian party that groups Coptic Christians, entrepreneurs, and some Islamists, among others. It is not stridently anti-American.
In Iraq, the grand ayatollahs in Najaf issued a statement strongly condemning the abuse of prisoners by Americans at Abu Ghuraib. Several members of the Interim Governing Council, themselves American appointees, strongly condemned the abuse and demanded that the IGC be allowed to investigate the practices.
BBC monitoring picked up an interview at al-Jazeera with Interim Governing Council member Muhsin Abdul Hamid : ‘ “ These photos show a flagrant aggression against the Iraqi people’s dignity because most prisoners are innocent. How can the army and soldiers of a modern country, which claims that it came to liberate Iraq, commit these crimes against citizens and prisoners? This act is rejected. The Iraqi people are very angered by this act. We in the Iraqi Islamic Party categorically denounce this act and say to the United States government: you should bring those to a public trial.” (Al-Jazeera TV 2038 gmt 1 May 04). ‘ Abdul Hamid is leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, who has played a leading role in the negotiations in Fallujah.
Mohamad Bazzi of Newsday reports, ‘ ‘ When he heard about the photos showing U.S. troops abusing Iraqi prisoners, Ghaleb Ribahi fumed. After he saw them with his own eyes, he understood why some Iraqis are fighting the U.S.-led occupation. “These are the things that make Iraqis pick up a weapon and want to kill American soldiers,” said Ribahi, 32, as he sipped sweet tea at a Baghdad coffeehouse Friday evening. “When I saw those pictures, I wanted to pick up a weapon, too.” ‘ He notes that the most disturbing thing to Iraqis was the echo of the torture practices of the Baath Party at Abu Ghuraib. Saddam’s interrogators also hooded prisoners and made them stand on boxes with electric wires attached to them. ‘ “That picture showed exactly the type of torture that Saddam’s thugs used,” said Hassan Saeed, 27, who sat with five friends in a fish restaurant overlooking the Tigris River. “The Americans promised us that things would be different than they were under Saddam. They lied.” ‘
Reuters reports that Arab League spokesman Hossam Zaki said, ‘ “It is beyond the words of despicable acts and disgust that we feel at watching such photographs. The irony of it is that Saddam Hussein never really held a banner of spreading freedom…He was an autocratic ruler, a dictator, a repressive ruler, whatever you want to call him. It was expected to witness such atrocities under his rule . . . But to have the American soldiers supposedly bringing freedom and democracy and the American way of life to this part of the world, spreading this kind of shameful misconduct, that is an irony that to my taste is very sickening.” ‘ The Arab League groups dozens of Arabic-speaking countries and has its headquarters in Cairo.