On this day July 14, 1958
In a coup d’état, alternatively known as the 14th July Revolution, military overthrow Iraqi Hashemite monarchy under Faisal II and the regime of Prime Minister Nuri al-Said.
The dispatching of Iraqi army units to Jordan played into the hands of two of the key members of the Iraqi Free Officers movement: Colonel Abdul Salam Arif and the movement’s leader, Brigadier General Abdul Karim Qasim.
The Iraqi 19th and 20th Brigades (the former under the command of Qasim and the latter featuring Arif’s battalion) were dispatched to march to Jordan, along a route that passed Baghdad. The opportunity for a coup was thus presented to, and seized upon, by the conspirators.
Arif was to march on Baghdad with the 20th Brigade-which he had seized control of with the help of Colonel Abd al-Latif al-Darraji- while Qasim would remain in reserve with the 19th at Jalawla.
In the early hours of July 14 1958, Arif seized control of Baghdad’s broadcasting station (which was to become his H.Q.) and broadcast the first announcement of the revolution by radio. Arif “…denounced imperialism and the clique in office; proclaimed a new republic and the end of the old regime…announced a temporary sovereignty council of three members to assume the duties of the presidency; and promised a future election for a new president.”
Arif then despatched two detachments from his regiment; one to al-Rahab Palace to deal with King Faisal and the crown prince, the other to Nuri al-Said’s residence. Despite the presence of the crack Royal Guard at the Palace, no resistance was offered by order of the crown prince. It is uncertain what orders were given to the palace detachment, and what level of force they detailed. However, at approximately 08.00am, the King, crown prince and the other members of the Iraqi Royal Family were executed as they were leaving the palace.
With their demise, the Iraqi Hashemite dynasty ended. Meanwhile, Said was able to temporarily slip the net of his would-be captors, by escaping across the Tigris after being alerted by the sound of gunfire.
By noon, Qasim had arrived in Baghdad with his forces and set up headquarters in the Ministry of Defence building. The conspirator’s attention now shifted towards locating al-Said, lest he escape and undermine the coup’s early success. A reward of 10,000 Iraqi dinar was offered for his capture, and a large scale search began.
On July 15 he was spotted in a street in the al-Battawin quarter of Baghdad attempting to escape disguised in a woman’s abaya. Said and his accomplice were both shot, and his body was buried in the cemetery at Bab al-Mu’azzam later that evening.
Mob violence was to continue even in the wake of Said’s death. Spurred by Arif’s urges to liquidate traitors, uncontrollable mobs took to the streets of Baghdad. The body of ‘Abd al-Ilah was taken from the palace, mutilated and dragged through the streets, finally being hung outside the Ministry of Defence.
Several foreign nationals (including Jordanian and American citizens) staying at the Baghdad Hotel were killed by the mob. Mass mob violence didn’t begin to die down until Qasim imposed a curfew, yet this did not prevent the disinterment, mutilation and parading of Said’s corpse through the streets of Baghdad the day after its burial.
An assassination attempt in 1959 by dedicated pan-Arabists including Saddam Hussein and reportedly supported by the United States, led to a harsh crackdown on domestic opposition and the development of a personality cult. Qasim was a strong opponent of British military intervention in the Middle East, and repeatedly called for the removal of foreign troops.
Qasim was overthrown by the Ba’athist coup of February 8, 1963, motivated by fear of communist influence and state control over the petroleum sector. This coup has been reported to have been carried out with the backing of the British government and the American CIA.
Qasim was given a short trial and he was quickly shot. Later, footage of his execution was broadcast to prove he was dead.