Touring Amna Suraka in Sulaymaniyeh, Iraq
For those of you not familiar with the past Iraqi War or with Persian geography, you may not have heard of a couple of places that have played a part in its history. You may not have heard of Amna Suraka. This place is located in Iraq and is considered as one of the more impressive museums in Iraq. It has however, a fairly dark and horrible past.
Being a former prison, the museum houses not only memories but painful incidences in Iraqi history as well. It has been the location wherein thousands of Kurdish prisoners were punished and tortured just because they were Kurdish or for some form of political crime or another. Its name basically means Red Security House when translated from Kurdish to English.
The former prison itself is located within a security compound in the city of Sulaymaniyeh. It still is colored red as its namesake implies, and also people have retained the bullet holes that are reminiscent of the 1991 uprising. The courtyard is still full of weapons of war like tanks, artillery pieces, mortars and what not. Retained by the people, it stands as a reminder of what used to be and what should not be again.
The first area that will greet one when entering the building will be the Hall of Mirrors. This hall contains 182,000 shards of glass comprising one enormous sort of installation art. Each shard represents one life taken from the Kurds under the rule of Saddam. On the ceiling of the same room are twinkling lights numbering 4,500, each light representing one village destroyed during the Anfal campaign.
The room next to the Hall of Mirrors is a room that shows a replica of a typical Kurdish village and is passed when one enters the main building. Here in the main building visitors will feel a bit uneasy as this is where the torture chambers and prison cells are contained. One part in the area is recreated with gruesome statues and sculptures of Kurdish prisoners. Probably the most heart wrenching is a lifelike diorama of two children being tortured to extract information from them.
As one goes down to the basement, a photo gallery depicting a chemical attack on the town of Halabja is shown. This basement presentation is somewhat reminiscent of the Holocaust museum in Israel that not only has a historical effect, but a humanizing one as well. One will really feel the plight felt by the Kurdish nation under the rule of a former dictator that hated them.
Thus if you would be backpacking on the way through Kurdistan, this is one place that should be visited. It is one way to connect with the past of Iraq and what the people went through in the past twenty years.