Before the Iraq war Haj Ali was the mayor of the Al Madifai district, near Baghdad. After the U.S. took control of the area he was removed from his position. As an official, he was required to join the ruling Baath Party. Haj Ali then worked as an administrator for a mosque, until he was picked up off the street one day in October 2003. Today Haj Ali works for a prisoner's association. He says he has no part in the insurgency.
IN HIS OWN WORDS: THE MAN IN THE PHOTO
Q: How confident are you that you are the man in that photo?
HAJ ALI: Actually the hood covered my head, and they took almost a hundred photos. Because all those who were present-as those who speak English were telling me- that whenever a soldier is visited by a friend of his, they would pull a prisoner and take a photograph with him. They would put the prisoners in some abnormal positions and take photos with them. I experienced this situation. I am 100% sure of that.
I remember the American bean box, even the pipes behind me which were used to conduct electricity, they used two wires. I'm telling you what I remember from when they took the hood off my head, I saw the electric wires, one of them was black and the other was red. The end of the electric wires were hook shaped.
AFTERMATH OF THE PHOTO RELEASE
HAJ ALI: We were surprised that that an American [television] station broadcasted these photos. But we have two reasons to explain why the photos were released; the first is not that they admired the human rights, but because of the polarity of the American elections. And the second explanation for doing that is to instill fear in the Iraqi resistance, but it backfired on them to the nth degree.
Before that, a person was able to negotiate with them, but then these photos were published and the facts became clear about what the American Army is doing in Iraq and what the real occupation is.
What is more, is that the people who appeared in the photo and the process of their punishment occurred in such a jeering way. This meant the method insulted all of humanity. These have to be punished according to the Geneva [Conventions] or according to the American law.
AFTERMATH OF ABU GHRAIB
Q: When you were released, did anyone ever apologize to you? To this day, has anyone from the US military ever apologized?
HAJ ALI: No, never, they just said you were arrested by mistake … and they put a hood over my head. Then they put us in a truck with about 30- 40 other people. And they just pushed me off the truck.
Q: How are you faring today?
HAJ ALI: Definitely, nightmares come, because I stayed five days without food or water, with torture. I always have this feeling, like conscious dreams. Sometimes these scenes appear in front of my eyes, even while I am not asleep.
I put my faith in God. Our strength and our resistance come from our faith in God, especially a person who considers himself not guilty and he is the object of abuse and punishment. There were others who couldn't resist [the torture], and they gave up names of innocent people to trade for their release from prison. But God gave us the strength, and we believe in God. For a truly faithful man, God gives the person the great strength to be patient to endure the pain, abuse and insults that we were subjected to. But keep in mind that not all people are equal in their tolerance. As I told you, there were people who judged others.
HAJ ALI TODAY
HAJ ALI: I work full time for the prisoner's association. The association's mission is to follow up on the cases of prisoners who have been accused of resisting the occupation. The group's name is the Victims of the American Occupation Prisoners Association.
The group aims to follow up on prisoner cases, their families, the sick. We make contact with prisoners and try to help them, and try to get treatment for them through doctors who have made efforts to treat them free of charge. And to follow up cases of the prisoners.