Prisoner In Baghdad

by Parish, Daphne

It was while Daphne (Dee) Parish was working in a Baghdad hospital in 1989 that she was arrested by the Iraqi police and accused of spying. Dee’s crime was that she had spent a day in the country, with a friend, “Oberserver” journalist Farzad Bazoft, and they had stopped by an air base where there had been a mysterious explosion. Farzad took samples of ash dust from the scene, in containers – rejects from the hospital – supplied by Dee. Both Dee and Farzad were imprisoned and relentlessly interrogated. After a travesty of a trial conducted in Arabic, which neither of them understood, both Dee and Farzad were found guilty of spying. Farzad was executed, to international outcry. Dee was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. For six months, Dee was kept in appalling conditions, in solitary confinement, ants and cockroaches her only company. She was then transferred to a women’s prison where she shared a cell with three others, one of whom to her joy could speak English. She kept her spirits up by giving yoga classes, playing Scrabble and advising on medical problems – but she remained in constant fear of her life. Tirelessly campaigning on Dee’s behalf was Michelle, her 21-old-daughter, the British Government in London and the British Embassy in Baghdad. Michelle’s visits were a lifeline. But by the time of her unexpected release, just a year after her arrest, Dee had become so institutionalized that she was barely able to leave. In this story, Dee Parish shares her experiences.