On Saturday I went back to Amna Suraka, along with my friend Jin, to see the actual Amna Suraka museum. It was worth it.
The Red Security buildings are in a compound, an ex-Baath government compound. Many buildings are hollowed out and pockmarked, but a few have been converted into museum rooms. The tour took us from building to building. A Kurdish tour guide led us, taking out his ring of keys to let us through each door. Although he only spoke Kurdish, Jin translated for me.
The first stop was the hall of mirrors. It was beautiful, until we learned what it meant: each of the nearly 4,000 shards of mirror represents one Kurd who was buried alive by Ba’ath troops. Each of the fairy lights stands for a Kurdish village which was wiped out by Hussein. I looked up and thought: Halabja is one of these lights. Just one. And 5,000 people died there in one afternoon.
We walked out of the hall of mirrors into broad daylight. The odd thing was, it was gorgeous outside, and the pathways of Amna Suraka are groomed and beautiful. We’d come out of the most horrific rooms into a fairy garden. I didn’t really know how to feel.
Another building we visited housed the prisoners’ cells. These rooms were often miniscule, you could touch opposite walls with your arms outstretched, but perhaps 6 people were kept in there. There were so many creative ways to torture people, too. It was sick. You’d think there would be one or two, but there were dozens of disgustingly creative ways. For instance, this:
The best/worst hall I saw was the hall of photos. One side contained photos of Kurdish protesters, and the other photos of Kurdish victims taken by Ba’ath members.
The Ba’ath members took photos of prisoners before they killed them, and after as well. It was a sort of score-keeping. Often men would rise through the ranks according to how many Kurds they had killed, so they wanted to keep track of their kills. Foul.
This is an amazing museum. I’m not a huge fan of museums, but I was really moved. It hit close when, in the hall of photos, I saw Jin looking at the photos closely and asked her what she was doing.
“I’m looking for my dad,” she replied. “He was peshmerga.”