Welcome To The Terrordome: Saddam Hussein’s NYC Torture Chamber Revealed

Amidst the posh homes of the Upper East side, Saddam’s people were torturing political prisoners.

By Jeff Vasishta October 20, 2016
Exterior of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Iraq to the United Nations. Photo courtesy of Chad Rachman

It sounds like the plot from a James Bond movie—a foreign dictator getting his henchmen to torture his adversaries in the basement of his nation’s embassy. That, though, according the NY Post, is what went on in The Mission of Iraq’s swanky Upper East Side HQ during Saddam’s reign of terror. Hussein’s heavies known as Mukhabarat agents, beat and killed local Iraqis right here in NYC, often detaining them for two weeks at a time. The goal of this abuse was to force families back in Iraq to yield to Saddam’s wishes.

Related: Drunk(With Power) Architecture: What Happens When Dictators Make Buildings

“It was a dark room. The doors were reinforced in a way that nobody could break in or out. You didn’t need to soundproof it,” one official said to the NY Post. The other official added, “You’re not going to hear someone screaming down there.’”

The Mukhabarat employed their old school torture tactics in Iraqi embassies around the world using copper wire, rubber hoses and wooden planks. Pulling out prisoner’s fingernails was also not uncommon, one official said. If a torture victim died, the murder was concealed by the Embassy’s diplomatic immunity.


“They just put [the body] in a diplomatic box and it can be shipped. This is diplomatic — nobody has the authority to examine it or open it,” an official said, confirming that Saddam’s secret police had committed such atrocities in countries outside the US. “Mukhabarat does whatever the hell Mukhabarat needs to do. They were the last people you ever wanted to meet during the Saddam era,” one official said, referring to acts of violence.

Beyond the basement from hell, things couldn’t have been more different. The embassy is based particularly chic neighborhood, with the former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg living across the street. From the exterior, or even the inside, visitors would have no idea what was happening.  A skylight was blocked out on the roof to avoid satellite detection. The first room acted as their office; the second was a communications center, where they used an encryption system to send messages back and forth to Baghdad. However, it was three main rooms in the basement, where the horrors went down.

The building was stormed in 2003 after the US assumed power in the Iraq. In 2014 in a rehab that you won’t see on HGTV, the basement was turned into a kitchenette at a cost of $120,000. Expect diners to be scarce.



Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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