THOSE WHO took Ken Bigley hostage demanded the release of all the women prisoners held by occupation forces in Abu Ghraib and Umm Qasr jails.
The US and British governments dismissed these demands, claiming that they held only two women prisoners in Iraq.
Socialist Worker can exclusively reveal that this is a lie. A list of Iraqi prisoners seen by Socialist Worker includes at least 70 women, as well as scores of children and old men.
One prisoner, Fadil Dalani, is just six years old.
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) drew up the list of 10,389 prisoners handed over to “Iraqi government control” on 30 June. The prisoners are described “persons considered a direct threat to security”.
Statements from US officials in Baghdad and the Iraqi government also contradict the official report on women prisoners.
As news of the kidnapping of Ken Bigley and two US hostages spread, a military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt Col Barry Johnson, told the press that he did not “rule out” the possibility that women were held at the Umm Qasr prison—but described them as “criminals”.
Yet the CPA list names two women held in the Umm Qasr prison camp as being there for “security reasons”.
An Iraqi justice ministry official, Nouri Abdul Raheem, also contradicted US claims when he said on 19 September that a US-Iraqi committee “was reviewing the cases of all women and juveniles within the next two weeks”.
A report by a senior US official, the Schlesinger report, on detentions in Iraq was released in August. It outlines how US troops are “rounding up all suspicious looking persons—all to often including women and children”.
The report says how, since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, “the flood of incoming detainees contrasted sharply with the trickle of released prisoners.”
The report also confirms reports by human rights groups in Iraq of a new and disturbing pattern of “hostage taking” to undermine resistance to the US occupation.
Women are seized and only released when a male relative wanted by the authorities surrenders.
The human rights groups describe an “unknown number” of people held by occupation forces at “undisclosed locations”.
One such location was discovered by members of the Oregon National Guard, when they stumbled on a camp deep in the woods.
The soldiers photographed through the sights of a sniper rifle around 100 Iraqis being beaten and tortured.
They intervened, drove off the Iraqi police and gave medical treatment to the prisoners.
They were later ordered to hand back the prisoners by a senior US officer and were disciplined. The soldiers gave the images to the Oregonian newspaper on their return to the US.
Other images were shown to the US Congress but not made public when the scandal of torture in Abu Ghraib prison broke earlier this year.
The pictures showed the systematic rape and sexual abuse of women prisoners in Abu Graib prison. Women were forced at gunpoint to parade naked in front of US prison guards. Some of the women were released after the scandal broke. Many have committed suicide.
There has been no official update of the prisoner list since the handover to Iyad Allawi’s government.
The fate of many of the prisoners remains unknown—including that of six year old Fadil, his 14 year old brother Firas, two 15 year olds, 30 boys aged 16 and a 99 year old man.
Nor do we know the fate of two young women, 19 year old Salma Rabye and 18 year old Ranaa Nabil, held in a Baghdad prison.