Archive for July 14th, 2019

1958: King Faisal II of Iraq and his family

1 comment July 14th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1958, Iraq’s Hashemite dynasty got the Romanov treatment from coup-making nationalist officers.

Having already overstayed their welcome as agents of British-American control in the oil-rich Gulf State, the Hashemites were doubly burdened to be led by the inexperienced King Faisal II, who was all of 23 years old.

For much of the recent past, while this underaged grandson of the Arab Revolt hero matriculated at an English boarding school, his sovereignty had been exercised by his uncle and regent ‘Abd al-Ilah — a practitioner, like all of Iraq’s leadership, of a staunchly pro-British and -American policy that increasingly rankled Iraqis.

On July 14, 1958, a swift coup d’etat led by Abd al-Karim Qasim — and explicitly modeled on the Free Officers Movement that had raised the Arab nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser to power in Egypt — overturned the Hashemites, and made sure that it was for good.

Captured royal family members — including not only King Faisal but the aforementioned ‘Abd al-Ilah and al-Ilah’s wife and mother, plus a number of royal servants — were all summarily machine-gunned in the palace courtyard, after which the royal corpse was given over to public abuse.

“His legs and arms were decapitated, stomach disemboweled with his intestine gushing outside” recalled one of the king’s helpless royal guards of the late king. “His corpse was later suspended from a building until one came with a dagger in his hand to try to divide it into two pieces. The corpse was burned, cut many times until it was thrown in the Tigris river when night came.”

Today there’s an honorable tomb in Baghdad where Faisal reposes, and considering the many terrors that have befallen Iraq in the intervening decades, one can even find pockets of nostalgia for the monarchy.

Cold comfort that Faisal II lives immortally in the classic Belgian comic series The Adventures of Tintin as the inspiration for the puckish and spoiled Prince Abdullah of Khemed.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Execution,Famous,Heads of State,History,Innocent Bystanders,Iraq,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Power,Royalty,Shot,Summary Executions

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Daily Double: Iraq’s 14 July Revolution

Add comment July 14th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1958, the aptly named 14 July Revolution deposed the ruling Hashemite dynasty of Iraq — with the summary execution of the royal family and its chief ministers.

Iraq emerged from the World War I Ottoman breakup as a kingdom ruled by Faisal I.*

Independent in name, this kingdom in reality was a British client and its statecraft congenial to Anglo objectives in the Gulf grew increasingly obnoxious to its subjects. The reliably pro-British premier Nuri al-Said dominated Iraqi politics from the late 1940s, while Faisal’s teenaged grandson Faisal II “reigned” from a London boarding school.**

For an average Iraqi moved by the era’s stirring spirit of nationalism, the situation compounded grievance upon grievance: the suspicious “car crash” death of nationalist-minded inter-Faisal King Ghazi in 1939; the 1941 British invasion to block a nationalist coup, and the continuous British occupation that continued thereafter until 1947; and Iraq’s headline enrollment in the western-sponsored regional alliance meant to counter Soviet influence. Official Baghdad stood foursquare against the tide of Arab nationalism embodied by Nasser‘s Egypt, and very much many Iraqis’ similar aspirations.

Major protests rocked Iraq in 1948, in 1952, and especially when Britain, France, and Israel tried to seize the Suez Canal from Egypt in 1956; each time Iraq’s pro-British elites managed to suppress the immediate threat, but also proved constitutionally incapable of adapting the Iraqi state to the shifting world.

So, on the 14th of July in 1958, the shifting world adapted the state.


The bodies of ‘Abd al-Ilah (left) and Nuri al-Said (right) publicly mutilated after the revolution.

* The Alec Guinness character in Lawrence of Arabia.

** Faisal II schooled with Jordan’s King Hussein, his cousin; the two dreamed of combining their countries into an enlarged Hashemite state and had just begun such a project when Iraq’s revolution aborted the plan. Hussein was much the more fortunate ruler, dying in bed in 1999 after a 47-year reign; his son remains the king of Jordan to this day.

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Entry Filed under: Daily Doubles,Execution,Iraq,Mature Content,Themed Sets

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