Research Notes

Iraq Memory Foundation

Documentation Project

Regional Command Dataset – Boxfiles

Research Note 1: Taha Yasin Ramadhan

Research Notes are brief highlights of the contents of selected holdings of value and relevance to on-going academic research and political and humanitarian work

The highly-centralized Ba‘th regime in Baghdad was dominated by the absolute authority of Saddam Husayn. The official organ through which this power was exercised was the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). RCC members were closed associates of Saddam Husayn who were expected to display total loyalty. They were routinely rotated in nominal positions of authority, as ministers, regional commanders, and regime figures. Taha Yasin Ramadhan was such an associate.

Born in 1938 of a Kurdish background in the northern province of Nineveh, Ramadhan was a loyal Ba‘th party member for decades, eventually reaching the level of Vice-President. He was captured by the Coalition forces on August 19, 2003, and is currently awaiting trial.

The RCDS includes a 347-page boxfile [RCDS: 002-3-7] of notes and documents to serve s a basis for a documentary on Taha Yasin Ramadhan. The information was collected in 1979 by the Film Archives of the Ba’ath party and focused on the personal and political life of Ramadhan. This boxfile is as much a political biography of Ramadhan as it is a brief retelling of the events that led to .Saddam Husayn’s rise to power.

The compilation begins with a 1992 Presidential decree signed by .Saddam awarding Ramadhan three medals of courage. While the official request by the Film Archives to obtain information on Ramadhan was issued sometime in 1979, the fact that a 1992 document is archived in the same folder suggests that the documentary project was still a work-in-progress.

The majority of the documents in the box file tells Ramadhan’s story from autobiographical sketches written in a chronological order. The autobiographical articles are divided into sections, each dealing with a certain period in Ramadhan’s life and that of Iraq’s Ba’th. In one of these sketches, Ramadhan recalls a day when he was a student at the fifth stage of secondary school when another student, Lu’ay Tawfiq Thabit asked him to join the Ba’th party. Thabit, now diseased, had thought that Ramadhan was involved in the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Ramadan relates his motivations and the circumstances of his joining the Ba‘th in 1956 (.Saddam joined the party in 1957).

In another handwritten autobiographical sketch, Ramadhan describes his social background. He was born to illiterate parents in the neighborhood of Nu’maniyyah in the province of Muosil (Nineveh). He completed his elementary and secondary stages of education in Muosil (several of Ramadhan’s school report cards are appended, some with his childhood and adolescence photos affixed).

The box file also contains letters that the archivists had collected from childhood friends and school teachers of Ramadhan’s. One such letter is written by one of Ramadhan’s classmates from Muosil, another letter was written by a family friend who, at the request of his father, taught the young Ramadhan the Quran.

A 1962 document shows that Ramadhan was working at the Rafidain Bank in Muosil earning twenty one Iraqi dinars a month. On September 4, 1963, a medical report from the Muosil Military Hospital indicates that Ramadhan, then a lieutenant in the Iraqi Army was wounded.

While one document dated April 28, 1964 signed by both President Abdlsallam Arif and Defense Minister Tahir Yahia shows that Ramadhan had retired from the military, another document dated November 6, 1968 shows that he had become a Captain in the army. As Iraq’s political atmosphere underwent major changes, so did the military career of Ramadhan. A later document indicates that Ramadhan’s military service was interrupted due to retirement not only in 1964, but also once in 1959. After the 1964 retirement, Ramadhan was forced to live in Na.siriyyah where he states that he continued his involvement with the Ba‘th party.

Ramadhan describes the period between 1966 and July 1968 as a very significant period for him personally as this was the time when he began working with .Saddam directly. Due to the secretive nature of Ba’th activities at this time, Ramadhan claims that .Saddam would suggest that he visited him wearing pajamas so that any surveillance units would think that Ramadhan is entering or exiting his own house.

July 17-30, 1968 was the period during which the second Ba’ath coup took place. Ramadhan, in 15 pages discusses his role in what is constantly referred to as the “17 July Revolution.” According to Ramadhan, he was informed of the various dates that were scheduled to carry out the coup, some a whole year earlier than the actual date. The actual execution of the coup is well detailed by Ramadhan who was present for the takeover of power when President Abdlrahman Arif surrendered himself, was taken to Hardan Tikriti’s house and later left the country to go reside in Turkey. Ramadhan describes this period as a difficult one mainly because of the presence of Abd al-Razzaq Nayif, the then Prime Minister.

Taha Yasin Ramadhan has a long list of posts he held while serving the party. It was after the sixth Ba’th Party Congress of 1966 when Ramadhan was elected member of the Regional Command. On November 9, 1969, Ramadhan was appointed member of the Revolutionary Command Council, he kept that post until the fall of the Ba’th in April of 2003. He also served as acting Minister of Planning in 1974. In 1976 Ramadhan was appointed minister of Public Works and Housing. Per a Presidential decree, Ramadhan was appointed Iraq’s Vice President on March 22, 1991.

This boxfile provides a first-hand account from one of the central figures of the Saddam Husayn regime. While by necessity hagiographic and self-aggrandizing, many of the autobiographical notes offer a window into the mindset as well as the events of the Ba‘th era.

v. 1.0 VA 05.02.05, ed. HM 05.02.10