Dark Truth in Sadaam’s Iraq

On August 18, 1994 President Saddam Hussein promulgated Law 109. It read: “According to Section 1, Article 42, of the Iraqi Constitution, the Revolutionary Command Council has decreed that . . . the foreheads of those individuals who repeat the crime for which their hand was cut off will be branded with a mark in the shape of an X. Each intersecting line will be one centimeter in length and one millimeter in width.” The crimes “for which their hand was cut off” were theft and desertion. Branding with a red-hot iron was being introduced in Saddam Hussein’s post–Gulf War Iraq as a new form of punishment for these crimes.

Soldiers and car thieves were singled out for prosecution on the basis of Iraq’s new punishment laws. Iraqi newspapers reported that thirty-six thousand cars had been stolen in 1993, many of them in broad daylight on the main streets of Baghdad. This, in a police state that took pride in the fact that the crime rate under its regime, especially since the middle 1970s, had plummeted.

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