The Duality of the Victim and Torturer in Two Works by Fādil Al-'Azzāwī

Geula Elimelekh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on the cycle of violence that has characterized modern Iraq, with emphasis on the complex relationship between the victim and the torturer as depicted in al-Azzāwī's novels al-Qal'a al-khāmisa (The Fifth Castle) and Madīna min ramād (City of Ashes). Al-'Azzāwī paints Iraq's modern history as an endless cycle of violent revolutions and counter-revolutions. In each period, there is a group of revolutionaries who rebel against a tyrannical regime and eventually manage to seize power, upon which they become the new tyrants, brutally punishing their former rivals and suppressing any opposition. This means that the line between oppressor and oppressed, or between torturer and victim, can be very blurred, for today's victim can be tomorrow's torturer, and vice versa. Al-'Azzāwī shows that the line can be blurred in another way as well: a single individual can be both a victim and a torturer at the same time. Thus, the torturer in a tyrannical regime, who has no choice but perform his terrible job, sometimes suffers almost as much as the people he tortures. The two novels explore this state of duality from two different perspectives: al-Qal.a al-khamisa from the viewpoint of the prisoner and Madina min ramad from the viewpoint of the jailor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-464
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Semitic Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

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© 2017 The author.


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