An unassuming innocent mother of two, Mayada Al-Askari, ran her Iraqi printing business smoothly until one day she was seized by Saddam’s secret police and thrown into his notorious torture jail, falsely accused of printing anti-government pamphlets. Author Jean Sasson chronicles this woman’s survival in Baladiyat, the torture jail.
Here she is locked up in a cell with other women in-mates known as the ‘shadow women’ who support each other in times of strife, indeed proving that misery loves company. In the grime and darkness that is cell 52, they share stories of their lives and what might have been, bonding over their ill fate.
Mayada soon learns that it is more painful to hear others being tortured than being tortured oneself. Guards used rape as a brutal punishment against both men and women in Baladiyat, something Mayada herself witnesses. Prisoners screech as they are beaten, whipped, electrocuted and when their fingernails are savagely ripped out. This book is raw and riveting, narrating the harsh reality of Saddam’s regime in Iraq and how easily the law could be bent in his favour whenever he so desired.
I’d recommend this book to one and all, except perhaps the faint-hearted for the gruesome details in the book can be quite hard to digest. It makes one wonder how anyone could have survived such a thing.