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Abu Ghraib "Curse" Still Haunts Iraq Neighbourhood

Posted Dec 31 2010 11:46am

To many of the residents of the quiet Baghdad neighbourhood where the prison is located, it's still known as the "House of Satan".

Despite having its name changed to Baghdad Central Prison , the detention facility formerly known as the Abu Ghraib prison continues to be remembered for the shocking revelations of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse of prisoners that occurred at the hands of U.S.  military police.   The prison gained international notoriety in 2004 with media accounts of alleged torture, rape, and homicide of prisoners accompanied by pictures showing U.S. military personnel committing abusive acts.  In the subsequent investigation, the United States Department of Defense eventually removed seventeen soldiers and officers from duty and prosecuted eleven of them for charges ranging from dereliction of duty to aggravated assault.   

While the prison was transferred to Iraqi control in 2006 and reopened in 2009, the legacy of the Abu Ghraib revelations continues to  haunt the people living nearby.  As far as the predominantly Sunni Mulim residents of the area are concerned, the prison is to blame for the various emotional, economic, and social problems that have affected the area in recent years.    While only a few of the more supersititious residents talk about being haunted by the ghosts of those prisoners who died in the prison, rumours about supernatural occurrences are common gossip among local schoolchildren and housewives.   There is also a massive vacancy rate as only  thirty percent of surrounding houses are currently occupied with many current homeowners being willing to sell their homes at a deep discount.   According to one local real estate agent, "Some people rent one of these houses, but they end up moving after a while because of what they believe is the curse that affects this area around the prison. People talk of ghosts inhabiting these houses and some say they heard screams of torture. They believe that these voices were of detainees who were tortured and then killed in Abu Ghraib prison."  A recent homebuyer even went to court alleging that the previous homeowner had failed to mention that the house was haunted before selling.

Many insurgents have promoted the story that the land surrounding the prison had been cursed by the suffering of the prison inmates. One Muslim cleric has gone on record as stating that, "As Muslims, we believe in spirits, but we don't believe in roaming, lost spirits that wander aimlessly. Evil spirits can be exorcised by reciting the Koran and praying to God in the house."  He views the answer to the current problem would be for the residents to return and live in their home as before.

Although the prison currently houses 4200 prisoners, the Abu Ghraib legacy will likely persist for years.

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