The World’s Most Depressing Museum Is in Iraq, of Course
"They used the wood so that nobody could hear the screams," explained Bawer, a smartly dressed Iraqi Kurd. He stood over a desk that once belonged to Ali Hassan Al Majid—Saddam Hussein’s right-hand man, better known as Chemical Ali—and ran his hand over the room’s wood-panelled walls.
On the other side of the room, a plaster mannequin hung on a hook from the ceiling, its hands bound behind its back and electrodes running from its head to a metal box on the desk. “And here,” Bawer said, as he walked towards the model, pointing directly at its groin, “is where they would attach the weights, usually 20 to 30 kilograms [about 45 to 65 pounds]. Sometimes more.”
Most cities have monuments to the past, so it seems appropriate, given the bloody history of Iraqi Kurdistan, that Sulaymaniyah’s main tourist attraction is a torture museum. Tucked away in a now relatively quiet and leafy suburb, Amna Suraka is the former headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency, and a building known to all Iraqi Kurds. Until the armed Kurdish fighters (known as the Peshmerga) liberated it in the early 1990s, the prison held students, dissidents, and Kurdish nationalists, as well as anyone else who happened to attract the attention of Baathist authorities in northern Iraq.