March 1999 Shi'a demonstration in Basra concerning the assassination of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq-al-Sadr [IRQ39404.E]

In the period following the assassination of Muhammed Sadiq al-Sadr on 19 February 1999, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported "there were widespread reports of at least four days of heavy clashes between protesters and security forces in ... majority Shi'a cities such as ... Basra" (1999). Foreign Report reported in May 1999 that "[p]eople coming from Basra speak of daily confrontations with the army there and add that three areas of the city are under a daily curfew" (13 May 1999). The Iraqi government did not acknowledge that unrest had broken out in Basra until mid-March (Austin American-Statesman 15 May 1999; AI 24 Nov. 1999).

Describing the situation in Basra in March 1999, the Iraq Foundation reported in October that

on the night of March 17-18, there was heavy fighting between Basra citizens and government troops, prompted by a wide-spread revolt by the residents of the southern city. The reports indicate that the revolt encompassed several Basra neighborhoods and that government troops reacted ferociously" (1 Oct. 1999).

According to one Jordanian-based newspaper, officials played down the Basra events "saying that their perpetrators were Iranian revolutionary guards who crossed the border disguised as civilians to carry out these acts of sabotage" (Al-Khalij 21 June 1999). However, the same report stated that people arriving in Jordan from Iraq

confirmed ... reports that armed groups carried out a large-scale operation in Basra City on the night of [17] March, bringing down several police stations and party offices, and killing some members of the ruling Ba'th Party, Saddam Fida'iyyin, and security men. They also said that some police stations and party offices were occupied by armed groups, which then withdrew the following morning (ibid.).

In May 1999, the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) published a release entitled "The City of Basra Calls Upon World Public Opinion." In addition to naming 14 individuals detained or disappeared and ten individuals whose homes were destroyed, it described the events following the March 1999 uprising as follows:

The dicatorial regime is continuing its campaign of terror against the sons of Basra city, with vengeful mass arrests and killings, under the direct command and supervision of Ali Hassan al-Majid, the absolute military ruler of the southern region.
Saddam's bandits are, until this very moment, continuing to terrorise citizens, detaining whole families and refusing [to] reveal their fate.
Our party sources confirm that Basra's prisons and detention centres still hold thousands of young men, woman, elderly people and even juveniles and children. They are subjected to torture and acts of vengeance at the hands of elements of the so-called "Feda'iye Saddern" security forces and Mukhaberat.
The butcher Ali Hassan [al-Majid] has been personally directing these formations to sexually abuse and rape detained girls and woman, subjecting them to the most brutal types [of] physical and psychological torture which has led to the death of many of them.
The cowardly authorities in the city brought special interrogation committees from the capital Baghdad, which are working day and night. These committees send those who are accused of participating in the clashes last March to execution grounds in the Bergissiyya district west of Basra, where they are then buried in mass graves.
Several sources confirm that the past two weeks have witnessed a number of execution campaigns, in addition to breaking into more homes, colleges and educational institutions. Random arrests have included several lecturers and students who were subjected to beatings and insults in front of everybody... (18 May 1999).

HRW described a statement issued by the Centre for Human Rights in late September as

provid[ing] the names of twenty-one persons whose bodies they said were among scores discovered in a mass grave near the southern town of Zubair. According to the group, they had been extrajudicially executed after being detained following a "popular revolt" lasting several days in Basra in mid-March (1999).

The report to which HRW refers was published by the ICP focused on the executions of individuals suspected in the March uprising, which they described as follows:

Information recently obtained from reliable sources has revealed that the bodies of tens of people from the city of Basra, who were executed by firing squads of the dictatorial regime in late March 1999, are buried in a mass grave in the Burjesiyya district near the town of Zubair, about 20 km south east of Basra.
The victims, mostly young people, were executed without trial [based on] arbitrary decisions. In many cases, they had only been detained on suspicion of participating in the popular revolt against the regime, which erupted in Basra on the night of 17 March 1999, and continued for two days.
Some of the victims fell into the hands of security forces after being wounded, or when their ammunition had finished. But, most of the arrests took place during the following days when the authorities, on the orders of Ali Hassan [Al-Majid] the military governor of the southern region at the time, unleashed an unprecedented campaign of police raids, house searches and detentions.
The detainees, who were numbered in their hundreds, were then held at the detention centre of the Security Directorate of Basra governorate, in Al-Ashar district. They were subjected to barbaric torture over many days.
The first batch of about 100 detainees w[e]re transported in buses to the Burjesiyya district where a site had been hastily prepared to carry out the horrible crime. The notorious criminal Ali Hassan Al-Majid (Saddam's cousin) in person was present to supervise the proceedings. He was accompanied with another leading member of the ruling party, Abdul Baqi al-Siadoon, and the Basra governor Ahmed lbrahim Hamash. The massacre was also overseen by Basra's security director and heads of ruling party branches in the governorate.
Family members of security men who had been killed in the heroic revolt were brought to the scene, each was handed a machine gun, and they were told to avenge their dead by firing at the youths and men lined up before them. The massacre culminated with security men firing their hand guns at the [h]eads of their victims.
The horrific scene ended with throwing the bodies of victims in a deep pit dug with a bulldozer, which was used later to cover up the site in an attempt to hide the traces of the crime.
Our party sources have been able to compile the names of some of these victims (a list is attached to this statement ) . The authorities, as part of the policy of collective punishment, demolished their houses, and detained their families, including women and children. The fate of these innocent detainees is still unknown.
Reliable sources in Basra have estimated the total number of victims of the campaign of mass executions, which followed the suppression of the popular revolt, to range from 400 to 600 people.

List of Names: Some of the Victims of the Firing Squad Executions

1-Mustafe Khanjarai-Majedi [a resident of Jumhouriyya district]
2-Maltham Bani [a residentof Muwafaqiyya district - an electric engineer- brother of Diwan Bani, the secretary of the ruling party branch in Jumhouriyya district]
3-Ahmed Fadhel [a resident of Zahra' district]
4-Abbaee Fadhel [an engineer - an officer, the rank of major, in the naval base in Basra]
5-Dawud Saiman [a resident of Jumhouriyya district]
6-Reyadh Mutashar [3rd year student at the Science College in Basra University - was in charge of the college branch of the official student union (NUIS)]
7-Jaafar Al-Haj Abdul Hussein Jaafar [a resident of Jumhouriyya district]
8-Sayyed Ali Sayyed Faleh [a resident of Muwafaqiyya district)
9-Sayyed Hameed Sayyed Faleh [a resident of Muwafaqiyya district]
10-Jawad (Father's name is unknown) [a resident of Aballah Al-Qadimah district)
11-Ammar Dawud (a resident of Jumhouriyya district]
12-Hussein and Mohammed (two brothers, known as "Al-Mullayah's sons') [ residents of Jumhouriyya district]
13-Dawud Al Uzearij [a resident of Sabi'a neighbourhood/Jumhouriyya district]
14-Hussein lbrahim [a resident of Khamsa Meel district]
15-Salem Mahmoud [an engineer in Al-Janoub (southern region) Oil Company]
16-Wadhah Abdul Ameer [a resident of Gzaiza distdct]
17-Ismael Falehal-Nour [a resident of Hayaniyya district]
18-Mohammed Falehal-Nour [a resident of Hayaniyya district]
19-Jassem Lu'eabi [a resident of Al-Hay Al-Nafti (oil) district /near the Military Hospital]
20-Ali Jassem Lu'oabi [a student at Basra University - a resident of Al-Hay Al Nafti (oil) district / near the Military Hospital]
21-Mohammed Jasaem Lu'eabi [a student at Basra University - a resident of AI-Hay AI-Nafti (oil) district/ near the Military Hospital] (ICP 27 December 1999).

While The Guardian noted that, according to diplomats, there was "no independent confirmation of the [ICP] claim" of 400-500 deaths, the report stated that "[a]bout 100 people are estimated to have died in the Basra clashes in March," (28 Sept. 1999). The article also quoted "one government expert" as stating that "[t]here's no doubt that there were serious disturbances in Basra and this [information revealed in the ICP report] sounds like the clean-up campaign" (ibid.).

A number of subsequent ICP human rights reports mention individuals from Basra as being executed by the Iraqi government, however, these do not specify whether the executions were related to the 1999 demonstrations in Basra (ICP 25 Oct. 1999; ibid. 18 Feb. 2000; ibid. 5 Apr. 2000).

For recent Responses referring to Mohammad Sadiq-al-Sadr and/or his assassination, please consult IRQ38951.E of 12 June 2002 and IRQ33271.E of 9 December 1999.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International. 24 November 1999. (AI-index: MDE 14/010/1999) Iraq: Victims of Systematic Repression. [Accessed 5 August 2002]

Austin American-Statesman. 15 May 1999. "Iraq Admits to Recent Riots." (NEXIS)

Foreign Report [London]. 13 May 1999. "Opposition to Saddam Grows: Iraqis are Restive About Their Never-Ending Dictatorship." (NEXIS)

The Guardian [London]. 28 September 1999. Ian Black. "Mass Execution Claim After Iraq Revolt.",3604,259863,00 [Accessed 6 August 2002]

Human Rights Watch. 1999. World Report 1999. Iraq. http://www.wr2k/Mena-05.htm [Accessed 5 August 2002]

Iraq Communist Party (ICP). Centre for Human Rights. 5 April 2000. "Lists of 223 Victims, Including 46 Convicted with Political Charges." [Accessed 6 August 2002]

_____. 18 February 2000. "26 Executed in Abu Ghraib Prison: 13 Die in Makaseb Detention Centre." [Accessed 6 August 2002]

_____. 25 October 1999. "Mass Executions Continue ... 19 Political Detainees Executed in Abu Ghraib Prison." [Accessed 6 August 2002]

_____. 27 September 1999. "Mass Grave Horror of Victims of Firing Squad Executions in Basra." [Accessed 5 August 2002]

_____. 18 May 1999. "The City of Basra Calls Upon World Public Opinion." [Accessed 6 August 2002]

According to The Guardian "Iraq's Communist party, with clandestine networks inside Iraq proper, and a base in Kurdistan, is normally a reliable source of information, and unlike many other opposition groups, is not backed by any western government" (28 September 1999).

Iraq Foundation. 1 October 1999. "ICP Reports Executions Following Basra Revolt." [Accessed 5 August 2002]

Al-Khalij [Sharjah UAE, internet version]. 21 June 1999. "UAE Paper Reports Assassinations in Iraqi Cities." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases


Internet sites including:

Iraqi National Congress
Radio Free Europe,

Iraq Report

World News Connection