The Massacre of Rashdiya

“I will never forget that night. I have seen how people were savagely slaughtered. I have seen three wars, but nothing like this,” said Dr.Mahmood Khdeir Yasin Al-Mishhadani, an Iraqi surgeon. He was on duty at the military hospital of Hammad Shihab, a few kilometers to the north of Baghdad, near a village called Rashdiya, on the night of Sunday, April 6 to Monday, April 7, 2003, during the final days of the war.

“The American bombing of the district of Rashdiya began at 3 p.m. They used cluster bombs. It continued until 9 p.m. During these hours casualties began to be carried to the hospital in civilian cars and pickups because there were no ambulances in this district. We received a great number of casualties, all of them women and children. I did not see one single injured man in this incident. The injuries were very severe, like all four limbs cut off or fatalities or very severe injuries in the chest or the abdomen. After 9 o’clock, when the bombing was lighter, we were able to send our ambulances to bring the casualties.

“The ambulances kept on bringing the casualties until 3 p.m. the next day. The ambulances were also bombed while they were leaving the hospital, on the highway that leads to the district. The ambulances’ special signal lights were on, but this did not prevent the Americans from shooting at them from airplanes. One of our drivers was injured; I do not recall his name now.

“I was responsible for receiving and attending to the casualties. I saw as many as 250 of them or more. 85 of them died. All of them were women and children. I saw more than one family whose members were all exterminated. I recall a family of seven women: a mother and six daughters. The father was not nearby during the bombing. When he came to the hospital later, looking for his family, searching among the bodies, he was uncovering them one after the other saying this is so and so, mentioning his daughters’ names.

“I will never forget a young mother who was embracing two of her children. One of them was already dead. His head was completely torn, and his brains were covering her chest. The other was injured in his leg. We tried to take the children from her hands, to treat the injured one, but she refused to let them go. She was hysterical, not responding to anybody or anything.

“The whole situation was very bad, I will never forget. I have been a doctor for a long time; I have seen thousands of injury cases, very difficult ones indeed. But what happened that night was some thing completely different. It was genocide against civilians, unarmed people who were unable to defend themselves. Innocent people in their houses and wearing their pajamas. Most of them were refugees from Baghdad, who’d run away from the heavy bombing in the city. They came to this village to hide from death, which they met here.

“The hospital refrigerators, with a capacity of 100 bodies, were filled that night. I ordered that the parts of bodies, or bodies without heads be buried in the garden of the hospital. We could not keep all the injured too. We have the capacity to handle 50 emergencies at a time, so we transferred many people to the other surgery hall or to ordinary halls, not to the emergency section.

“The surgery halls began to receive emergency cases directly; we supplied them with medicine that night. The next day we sent them to the civilian medical center in Baghdad.”

Q: Is this the most distinct incident in your professional life?

“Yes, I will never forget it, because in this incident I have seen how people are savagely killed, without any mercy or any humane feeling, guiltless children and women exterminated.”

Q: How many wars have you seen?

“Three. Gulf I (the Iraq-Iran war), Gulf II in 1991, and this one. But in the first two, I saw soldiers. Soldiers go to war, they kill and they get killed or injured. We treated them on that basis. I did not treat civilians then. But to see all these wounded women and children in one night. Only in the Iraqi-Iranian war did I see such numbers of casualties at a time, during the heavy battles. But again they were not civilians; they were men, soldiers, young and old, not infants, children, and old women. The impact of these scenes was different – children without limbs. I have seen a child of 6 without legs and arms.”

Q: How do you see the American forces now?

“Armies wage wars, this only natural. But the impression I’ve got about the American army in the image I’ve seen, is that these people do not know the meaning of mercy or humane feelings. They came with a gall; they wanted to take out this gall even on the bodies of all the Iraqis. When they crushed the bodies of 250 children and women just for a suspicion that there might be Iraqi forces in the area, that gave me the impression of how inhuman they are.”

E.A. Khammas is the co-director of the Occupation Watch Center in Baghdad.