1980: Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr’s father-in-law

Add comment April 9th, 2015 Headsman

Iraqi cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr was hanged on this date in 1980 in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

One of the greatest Shia scholars of the 20th century, Sadr laid the groundwork for modern Islamic banking. During the ascendancy of Arab nationalism, Sadr wrote sharp critiques of the rival Cold War systems and helped to found the Islamic Dawa Party.*

As a Shia religious party, Al-Dawa stood starkly at odds with the Sunni-based and secular Ba’ath dictatorship — and Sadr faced state harassment throughout the 1970s. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, whose leadership explicitly took inspiration from Sadr, Baghdad eliminated Sadr fearing he might lead a similar uprising in Iraq’s Shia south. (Sadr’s sister Amina al-Sadr — known as Bint al-Huda — was also arrested and executed around the same time.)

And Saddam Hussein may have been quite right to fear this. The name Sadr, of course, will be familiar to any observer of contemporary Iraq — for Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr’s son-in-law Muqtada al-Sadr today holds sway in the south and in Baghdad’s Shia stronghold, Sadr City.

* Iraq’s president from 2006 to 2014, Nouri al-Maliki, represented the Dawa Party. He was known to show off to guests the ring Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr wore when he attained his martyrdom.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,Intellectuals,Iraq,Martyrs,Notably Survived By,Power,Religious Figures

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1980: Erdal Eren, leftist student

Add comment December 13th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1980, 17-year-old Turkish student radical Erdal Eren was hanged as a terrorist by the military regime.

Eren (Turkish Wikipedia link; most other links here are also in Turkish) was one of about 50 people executed following the military coup of September 12, 1980.

After a decade of bloody left-right civil strife, the Turkish generals toppled the civilian government on that date. Hundreds of thousands of arrests with rampant torture marked the period, but it did quell the endemic street fighting and terrorism of the 1970s.

Erdal Eren was actually arrested during the chaotic pre-coup period. February 1980 student protests after the murder of Sinan Suner, an activist of the communist Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Association, turned into a melee that resulted in an officer shot dead under confused circumstances. Eren was among 24 students rounded up.

Despite his youth, Eren was sentenced to die in a March 19 trial — but his appeals had legs until the post-coup military junta abruptly sent him to the gallows on December 13.

Eren went to his death with a brave step, gamely writing his family that he had witnessed so much torture in prison that death was a relief and not a terror.

He’s very warmly remembered today. A number of cultural artifacts pay tribute to the young martyr, including two different songs (“Two Children”, “Seventeen”) by Teoman, a relative of Erdal Eren’s.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Children,Crime,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Martyrs,Murder,Popular Culture,Torture,Turkey,Wrongful Executions

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1980: Kim Jaegyu, intelligence chief

3 comments May 24th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1980, the former intelligence chief of South Korea was hanged for assassinating President Park Chung-hee.*

In this surreal affair — known after its date as the “10.26 incident” in South Korea — the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency popped the autocratic head of state during a private dinner party at a secret KCIA compound.

He then returned to another dinner party at the compound and, without disclosing what he had done, reported an “accident” and started dropping suggestions to a general that this might be an opportune moment to arrange martial law. Instead, the two repaired to a bunker. There, several hours’ confused wind-gauging by a hastily assembled cross-section of the country’s power brokers (not knowing their own chief spook had pulled the trigger) gave illustration to the Ovid maxim that “treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? If it prosper, none dare call it treason.”

Only two participants, Kim Chae Kyu and Kim Kye Won, had witnessed the assassination, and neither disclosed the killer … Without an explanation from these two, the others present were left to speculate whether the killings were truly accidental, organized by North Koreans, or perpetrated as part of a South Korean conspiracy, large or small. They could not rule out the possibility that some among them … were part of a plot. Without knowing the balance of power, both civilian ministers and military officers worried about making a wrong move … (Source)

The truth, eventually, would out. But the reason for this shocking internecine turn by a supposed confidante of the president? The murder was too well-planned to square with initial reports of an argument gone out of control. It seems a coup, but if so, our assassin disastrously — almost delusionally — miscalculated the post-Park lay of the land. Maybe we have to entertain the defendant’s own far-out claim to have struck against the authoritarian concentration of presidential power.

I shot the heart of Yusin Constitution like a beast. I did that for democracy of this country. Nothing more nothing less.

The controversial 2005 flick The President’s Last Bang offers a darkly comic look at the twisted mise en scene in the intelligence compound that fateful 10.26 … and doesn’t find a lot of participants worth admiring.

Whatever its cause, South Korea’s unanticipated transition was a wobbly one. Even as the spymaster who had set it in motion was hanged this date with some of his conspiring security men, successor dictator Chun Dwoo-hwan was crushing a student uprising in Gwangju.**

* Park had survived previous assassination attempts, often authored by North Korea — including one that slew his wife in 1974.

** This uprising resulted in a death sentence against future South Korean president Kim Dae-jung — obviously not carried out. Under Kim’s administration years later, Chun was himself condemned to die for the massacre; Kim returned the gesture of clemency.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,Infamous,Korea,Mass Executions,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Politicians,Popular Culture,Soldiers,South Korea

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1980: Four Iraqi Turkmen

Add comment January 16th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1980, a professor, a soldier, a bureaucrat and a businessman were hanged by Saddam Hussein in his campaign to cow Iraq’s Turkic ethnic minority.

The ethnic and religious quiltwork of Iraq is much more nuanced than Sunni vs. Shia — and this blog has noticed its deadly potential before.

This day’s hangings belong to an earlier era, of the Ba’athist secular pan-Arab aspiration that had Hussein quashing minority national aspirations. (Though the anti-minority stance was hardly unique to him.)

Nejdet Kochak, Abdullah Abdurrahman, Riza Demirji and Adil Sherif were ethnic Turkmen (or Turkomen), ethnically and linguistically distinct Moslem descendants of those far-flung peoples of the Eurasian steppes.

More to the point, they were relatively prominent voices for Turkoman civil rights in the face of harsh state suppression.

This being Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the problem had an easy solution. The four were made examples of, convicted of spying for their brother Turks in Turkey, and hanged — but not forgotten.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Espionage,Execution,Hanged,History,Intellectuals,Iraq,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Soldiers,Torture,Wrongful Executions

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1980: Islamic extremists for the Grand Mosque seizure

15 comments January 9th, 2009 Headsman

At dawn this date in 1980, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded over 60 Islamic extremists who had seized Mecca’s holy Al-Masjid al-Haram the preceding November — one of the formative and strangely forgotten events in the birth of radical Islam.

Saudi Arabia’s uneven but unmistakable modernization generated friction extending to the royal family itself.

On November 20, 1979, with 100,000-plus pilgrims bustling in Islam’s holiest shrine on the hajj, a few hundred multinational messianic militants took it over with a cache of smuggled firearms.

For two embarrassing weeks, the Saudi government struggled to respond, bumbling a couple of military operations and delicately negotiating the ecclesiastical permission it would require to commit violence within the Grand Mosque. (Strict Moslim prohibitions against same had left the kingdom’s unarmed guards essentially defenseless against the initial takeover.)

In exchange for that fatwa, the House of Saud struck a Faustian bargain: agreeing to roll back secularization and impose strict Islamic law.

The balance of military materiel, of course, would prove to be no contest at all; Riyadh had troops, heavy armament, and now, permission to use them (and to damage the mosque … which they did). Most of the Mahdists were slain in the decisive assault; the survivors* (except for a few who were underage) were publicly beheaded in various cities around Saudi Arabia on this date, including the operation’s leader, Juhayman al-Otaibi.

But their deed — second-tier news at the time in a United States distracted by the Iranian Revolution — would have dramatic long-term repurcussions. Though intimations of deeper bin Laden family involvement** seem sketchy, it certainly appears to have inspired the 22-year-old Osama bin Laden; he soon made his way to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, a war that began in earnest just days after the end of the siege and to whose prosecution Saudi Arabia and the west would gratefully direct Islamist energies.

Meanwhile, the Saudi government’s pact with the clergy that gained it permission to assail the Grand Mosque saw it subsequently bankroll Wahhabi religious instruction in Saudi Arabia and beyond … arguably the hand that rocked the cradle of present-day Islamic radical movements like al-Qaeda.

Much of what is latterly recalled about this affair by Anglophones comes courtesy of journalist Yaroslav Trofimov’s recent book The Siege of Mecca: The 1979 Uprising at Islam’s Holiest Shrine. (Review | Another | Book home page).

In this clip, the author discusses the legacy of the siege with Fareed Zakaria.

* The Saudi government put out the figure of 63 executions. Some sources now report 67.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,God,History,Known But To God,Mass Executions,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Saudi Arabia,Terrorists

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