1963: 21 Iraqi Communists

Add comment July 31st, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1963, Iraq’s infant Ba’ath government executed at least 21 soldiers — all Shi’a — who had participated in a Communist coup attempt on July 3.

The Ba’ath were newly in the saddle after overthrowing Qasim earlier that year, and would be ousted again a few months hence before their definitive seizure of power several years later.

For the moment, they were a fledgling government trying to tilt away from the Soviet bloc and towards the west while navigating a minefield of domestic politics. If the coup really occurred as described, it was the fruit of an Iraqi Communist Party with daggers drawn for the regime after the Ba’athists had massacred their membership with CIA help in the course of offing Qasim. (The name is also transliterated Qassim or Kassem.) If it was bogus, it was probably an official cover story to keep massacring Shi’a Communists.

The affair, in either guise, amounted to a minor hazard in the jagged path of the Ba’ath — but of course, we come by that judgment with benefit of hindsight. Far more interesting to follow, courtesy of this site‘s library of historic cables, the perceived unfolding of the situation through the anxious American diplomatic pouch:

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Iraq,Known But To God,Mass Executions,Power,Public Executions,Revolutionaries,Shot,Soldiers,Treason

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1850: The Bab, Prophet of Baha’i

3 comments July 9th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1850, a Persian merchant who claimed to be the Islamic messiah was shot in Tabriz for apostasy.

The Bab — the handle means “Gate”; he was born Siyyid `Alí Muhammad — started preaching as a young man in 1844 and attracted a following unwelcome to the orthodox Shi’a clergy and the powers that were.

The Bab would claim to be “that person you have been awaiting for one thousand years”: the Mahdi. And in a John the Baptist-like pose, he would also pledge to be preparing the way for another, “He whom God shall make manifest,” to follow his footsteps.

Authorities cracked down on this subversive faith and its heretical claim to have a divine messenger, hailing the Bab before a clerical tribunal that found him a blasphemer and an apostate. After dawdling a couple of years, the government finally ordered him shot … to which punishment a young disciplie submitted himself voluntarily as well.

Reputedly, the public execution by firing squad was quite a fiasco for the government, and/or a miracle for the Bab. It is said that the entire sizable regiment deployed to volley at the Bab and his devotee managed to miss everything, but to shoot through the rope that was holding the prophet suspended a few meters above the ground. In the Baha’i version, he miraculously disappears from the first execution attempt and is found later calmly conversing with a secretary in his prison cell, at which point he’s (successfully) executed a second time.

A less pious version of the story commencing from the same starting point of unmarksmanlike executioners has the Bab shot out of his rope and availing the smoke of the discharge to scramble out of the courtyard, only to be detained before he could make good an escape.

Inevitable disputes about the succession to this charismatic figure ensued his death, and several claimed to be the Bab’s Promised One. The main current of the tradition evolved into the Baha’i faith, accepting the claim of Baha’u’llah to this position. (A tiny remnant of Babism still persists who dispute Baha’u’llah’s legitimacy and still await the Promised One.)

July 9 is a major holiday for Baha’i, for whom the Bab is a revered figure.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Executions Survived,Famous,Famous Last Words,God,Heresy,History,Iran,Martyrs,Myths,Notably Survived By,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Shot,The Supernatural,Wrongful Executions

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2007: 23 Shia hostages

Add comment January 7th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 2007, during Iraq’s sectarian civil war, Sunni gunmen avenged the execution of Saddam Hussein by hanging 23 Shia hostages in Baghdad’s Haifa Street.

It was but one instance of retaliatory violence ensuing upon the former dictator’s hanging Dec. 30, with scores killed around the country — many in a similar fashion.

London’s Telegraph reports:

The residents of the city’s Haifa Street will long remember the events of Sunday morning. As shop owners raised their shutters and stall holders set out their stock, three minibuses roared to a halt.

Gunmen jumped out and pulled blindfolded prisoners on to the street. Ropes were tied to lampposts and electricity poles. Those hostages who resisted were shot. Others who were still alive had nooses tied around their necks and were then suspended in mid air to choke to death.

All were left hanging, and the victims received little sympathy from those who witnessed the events.

“We watched as all these blindfolded men were hung up and some were shot in the head,” Imad Atwan, a supermarket worker said.

“Altogether there were 23 bodies. We are all Sunni people here so we supported the gunmen. Some of them are the guards of our neighbourhood.”

The discoveries were not limited to Haifa Street. People murdered in the same way had been found in Al Doura district and Amriya, in western Baghdad.

The interior ministry estimates that 200 Iraqis were taken hostage after Saddam was sentenced to death.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,God,Hanged,Hostages,Innocent Bystanders,Iraq,Known But To God,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot

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