August 7, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 408

Iraqi Physician: Saddam's Orders to Cut Off the Ears of Defecting Soldiers and Officers Were Implemented in Iraqi Hospitals

August 7, 2002
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 408

The daily newspaper Al-Hayat published an article by Dr. 'Adel Awadh, an Iraqi physician who worked in a hospital where the ears of military defectors were surgically removed at the orders of Saddam Hussein. Awadh fled Iraq to avoid performing such surgeries. The following are excerpts of his account:

"The problem started in 1994 when Saddam Hussein issued a presidential order to cut off the ear of any military person who failed to report for military service, or defected from the army. Unfortunately, I had just started my residency after graduating from medical school. I never imagined that an Iraqi physician would be forced to perform mutilating surgeries… But this is exactly what happened… the day came when Iraqi military physicians… were forced to cut off the ears of officers and soldiers…"

Dr. 'Awadh relates his first experience when he witnessed military personnel being driven to the hospital at night, their hands handcuffed and their eyes covered, and led to the operating room "like sheep to the slaughter." He goes on to say that about an hour later he saw the same soldiers being carried on gurneys to the same cars that brought them in; they were unconscious, and their heads were bandaged. "On the following day… the hospital director summoned all the surgeons to the OR… because a conflict brewed among them, as some of them were trying, as much as possible, to distance themselves from performing this crime… and one of them even said that most of the non-surgical physicians had the ability to perform such an operation… I was told later that he [the hospital director] forced all the specialists, with no exception, to perform the mutilating surgery. It seemed to me at the time that this was one way to spread the responsibility among all the surgeons… and [to try] to alleviate the burdens of the crime from the shoulders of those who performed it…"

Dr. 'Awadh wrote that he constantly asked himself what would his reaction be if he was asked to perform the operation, "but fortunately I was never asked to do so…" He maintains that: "Some of those physicians were even afraid to walk on the streets where they lived and practiced their profession …" [1]

[1] Al-Hayat (London) August 4, 2002.

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