‘Horrendous killing’ of monarchs ended Iraqi politics, says ex-Royal Guard

Falih Hanthal tells Al Arabiya that the Free Officers threw corpse of Prince Regent Abdul al-Ilah to an angry crowd during the 1958 coup.

Falih Hanthal, who was a 23-year-old officer in Iraq’s Royal Guard, said “politics ended” after the coup d'état that saw the toppling of the country’s monarchy in what is dubbed as the 14 July revolution of 1958.

On July 14, a group identified as the Free Officers, a secret military group led by Brigadier Abd al-Karim Qasim, overthrew the monarchy, paving the way to what is now the Republic of Iraq.

The Free Officers led an attack on the monarchy’s Rihab Palace, leading to the killing of Iraq’s Crown Prince Abdul al-Ilah, who served as regent to the 19-year-old King Faisal II.  Prime Minister Nuri al-Said and Faisal II were also assassinated.

The violence that saw the slain prince’s corpse defiled and humiliated where “his legs and arms were decapitated, stomach disemboweled with his intestine gushing outside,” recalled Hanthal, during an interview aired on Al Arabiya News Channel’s Political Memory program on Friday.

“The violence was not a good omen,” Hanthal said, recalling the mayhem that took place on July 14. “That day brought thousands of killings, it brought bloodshed, and ended politics.”

He said since that day violence has brought more violence

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Hanthal, who was able to change his Royal Guard insignia on his uniform into a regular officer’s one that day, remembered jubilant crowds giving him a kiss, celebrating the end of the monarchy.

The young officer witnessed the gruesome violence and the parading of the prince’s corpse as to head to the Iraqi Defense Ministry at the time to “surrounding” after the success of the coup on July 14.

“His [the slain prince] jaws were split apart,” he added, as his corpse was dragged by six to seven men who tied ropes around their waists.

“As they dragged the corpse, they sang their scary, boring, revolutionary chant.”

“His corpse was later suspended from a building until one came with a dagger in his hand to try to divide it into two pieces,” he added. “The corpse was burned, cut many times until it was thrown in the Tigris river when night came.”

The officer said he was “disgusted” that nothing from the prince was left, only “some strands of hair.”

“Until now, from time to time, I dream of that incident. I dream of the decapitated Abdul al-Ilah waking up, blaming me why you and others did not defend me.”

Hanthal said the coming of a “revolution” in Iraq was common knowledge especially in 1958 and didn’t come as a surprise.

He said if the palace was able to defend against the Free Officers’ attack, “the [Army’s] First Band” was “ready” to fight back. Iraqi police at the time was pro-monarchy, he added.

The primary goal of the coup was to sever Iraq from its imperial ties with the British and the United States.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
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