A Joyful Welcome Home for Detainees

(Andrea Bruce/The Washington Post) VIEW FULL PHOTO GALLERY

Flipping back a canvas tarp, 12 men squint at the dusty sun and jump, one by one, off the bed of a U.S. military transport truck, dropping to their knees in prayer. They are free.

Before their arrival at the Iraqi police headquarters in Baghdad, they were transported, hands tied, from the U.S. detention facility Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq -- a full day's drive from here. Their ironed pants and stiff new shoes were donated for their homecoming, replacing the detention-orange jumpsuits from Bucca.

Slowly, they pull each other up, their tears falling, uncontrollable after years of waiting.

And then they are forced to wait a little more. Temporarily in Iraqi police custody, the men wade through an hour of bureaucracy while their families mill about just outside the compound. For security reasons, they are then transported in Iraqi police vehicles to another neighborhood.

The trip becomes a parade. Horns blare. Kids cheer. Women pelt the police pickups with hard candy. The detainees stand and wave in the truck beds, crying as they pass old men drinking tea and selling vegetables on the streets. One family follows behind in a rusted car, yelling, driving haphazardly, eyes on their loved ones and barely on the road.

Haqi Ismaeel Awad was detained more than two years ago because, he says, the U.S. military suspected his brother of participating in the insurgency. Now he has been cleared of involvement.

Awad faces into the wind, eyes closed, feeling its force on his face as the smells and sounds of Baghdad become a reality.

When the truck pulls into a neighborhood park, Awad's parents run alongside it with their arms open. The truck's rear gate is not opened fast enough. The men jump over it and down to the road, into the embraces of mothers, wives, brothers and fathers.

Weeping, Awad's wife grabs him, holding his face in her hands, kissing one cheek, then the other.

"You look old," she says, but she smiles.

He scans the crowd past her.

Their two children are waiting for them at home, she tells him, bringing his eyes down to hers. It is still too dangerous for them to be out on the streets.

By Andrea Bruce, Washington Post Staff Photographer

By Liz Heron  |  October 5, 2008; 11:33 PM ET  | Category:  Baghdad
Previous: Watching the Big Game, Far From Home | Next: The Tigris, Abandoned by Fish


Please email us to report offensive comments.

THANKS GOD!!! I really hope- you the american people- can say the same at the short time, when your soldiers come home after so many years fighting in a war without no sense.
The whole world has a new challenge: FIGHT AGAINST THE SPECULATORS.

Posted by: monicabergen | October 6, 2008 12:32 AM

The title of this article should be Iraqi's released form United States Prison Camps.

Posted by: Langx | October 6, 2008 1:37 AM

This is an AMAZING picture and an AMAZINGLY written piece. One of the best multimedia items I've seen.

As a journalism student, I think this is a really creative composition, joining two media in a new way journalistically. Taking writing beyond the bounds of the hard news format can make it a lot more interesting, and is perhaps more suited for the web. This piece shows that can be done without turning a piece into opinion. Thank you!

Posted by: Annie | October 6, 2008 1:38 AM

Just another reason why the Bush Administration, their generals, the Pentagon, CIA director, and civilian contractors should be tried for war crimes. They have no right in detaining someone just because they suspect a brother is involved with the insurgency. But, I doubt the insurgency had anything to do with detaining Iraqis. They kept some Iraqi men in prison because the Iraqi population were not accepting of the privatization of their country. They used imprisonment and torture to minimize opposition by the Iraqi population to the economy and government that the U.S. wanted to establish in Iraq.

Posted by: David | October 6, 2008 3:06 AM

truly written, david.

what the US has done there is horrendous.

no wonder carter is hounded for using the word apartheid.

in iraq, it is genocide.

Posted by: bloggod | October 6, 2008 4:01 AM

Great piece.

Please refrain from judging the specific circumstances of the man's detention from the detainee's one-sentence description. It may or may not have been just in this case, but if you weren't there, you have no idea.

Posted by: Reserving Judgment | October 6, 2008 4:12 AM

Oh yes..all innoncent....just like the criminals in America. It's difficult to find a guilty person in any jail..always innoncent.

Posted by: david | October 6, 2008 4:42 AM

it is good steep to release iraqi prisoners that they havenot any criminal act but the decesion must come from iraqis not from usa

Posted by: abdu | October 6, 2008 5:02 AM

it is good steep to release iraqi prisoners that they havenot any criminal act but the decesion must come from iraqis not from usa

Posted by: abdu | October 6, 2008 5:03 AM

This is funny. Foreign troops invaded their country. Captured and tortured them in their home territory. Then released them.

Posted by: thuctho | October 6, 2008 11:37 AM

"They have no right in detaining someone just because they suspect a brother is involved with the insurgency" I call attention to the above statement made by the author above. I find it amazing that those not "here" want to presume that the [USA] just gathers up Iraqi Citizens and "throw" them in "Prison Camp" as was described by another author above. Each detainee goes through an induction process to determine their "guilt" and a review process is done. The process is detailed and methodical. No one is kept because he is simply Iraqi. Instead of speculating on what you think you know, update yourself on the subject. Detention Operations is needed to stabilize the envirnoment and prevent unneeded loss to our forces as well as protect the Iraqi Population.

Posted by: On the ground! | October 6, 2008 1:30 PM

Is this the Washington Post or the Baghdad Post?

Posted by: Robert | October 6, 2008 2:04 PM

"Instead of speculating on what you think you know, update yourself on the subject."

Excellent advice "On the Ground!" for all of these self-righteous speculators who are determined to demonize every soldier on the ground in Iraq.
They would all be much happier if Saddam was still around gassing, torturing , and terrorizing the entire Iraqi nation.
Going to Iraq for the wrong reasons, poor intelligence, etc does not justify pulling out and leaving the country in a Civil War.
Insurgents are continually coming in from other countries and killing Iraqis in their attempt to kill Americans. While we are trying to have the Iraqi's stand up their own security and police forces, let's continue to protect them from insurgents who obviously do not value Iraqi life.

Posted by: Pat | October 6, 2008 2:38 PM

"No one is kept because he is simply Iraqi."
- "on the ground"

You don't know that at all! Just like you didn't know they were torturing prisoners! Your peon rank doesn't give you the "need to know" of what is really going on behind closed doors!

Posted by: the truth | October 6, 2008 4:25 PM

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