This Week in History: October 19 – October 25

LIBYAN LEADER MUAMMAR GADDAFI WALKS WITH AN UMBRELLA AFTER HIS MEETING WITH SPAIN'S PRIME MINISTER JOSE MARIA AZNAR IN THE BAB AL AZIZIYA COMPOUND IN TRIPOLI.

Key events that shaped our social, political and cultural history

By Arfa Shahid 

October 19, 2005: Saddam’s Trial Begins
Following the capture of Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003, an Iraqi Special Tribunal was set up consisting of five Iraqi judges to try the toppled president, and his aides over charges of committing war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The first trial began on October 19, 2005 for Hussein’s role in the violent campaigns against Shiites in Dujail, following an assassination attempt by members of the Islamic Dawa Party. A second trial began on August 21, 2006 in which Hussein and his seven aides were tried for committing genocide against the Kurds during the Anfal campaign in northern Iraq. Many viewed the trial as a kangaroo court, one merely set up for show. On November 5, 2006, Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging. His appeal was rejected and he was executed on December 30, 2006, the first day of Eid Al Adha, a major Islamic holiday.

October 20, 2011: Gaddafi Killed
Muammar Gaddafi, the longest serving leader in Africa and the Arab world, was captured and killed by rebels in Sirte, Libya, on this day in history, following a violent uprising. Gaddafi became the leader of Libya following a bloodless coup in 1969 against the country’s pro-Western monarch, King Idris. Soon after, he forced the closure of American and British military bases in the country and took control of the nation’s oil industry. Gaddafi remained a controversial figure in the Arab world. His government was accused of various human rights violations and funding terrorism. However, biographers and historians agree that Libya flourished under Gaddafi’s regime, which combated homelessness and ensured access to food and safe drinking water to everyone. Libyans enjoyed free education to a university level and there was a dramatic rise in literacy rates in the country after Gaddafi came into power. There were also massive improvements in government-provided healthcare, with diseases like cholera and typhoid being contained and life expectancy raised.

October 22, 1979: Iran Hostage Crisis
The deposed Shah of Iran Mohammad Raza Pahlavi arrived in New York City to undergo cancer treatment. President Jimmy Carter reluctantly allowed the Shah to enter the U.S. The Iranians demanded that the Shah be returned to Iran to stand trial for crimes he was accused of committing during his reign. Specifically, Pahlavi was accused of committing crimes against Iranian citizens with the help of his secret police, the SAVAK. Iranians saw the decision to allow the Shah into U.S. as an American complicity in those atrocities. This led to the culmination of the Iranian hostage crisis, where a group of Iranian students took 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days who were later released following lengthy negotiations. Pahlavi left U.S. and was granted asylum in Egypt, where he later died from complications of cancer.

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