Abu Ghraib is a city in Iraq located to the west of Baghdad. The city also lends its name to a prison, and many people think of the prison when they hear the term “Abu Ghraib.” The prison was an infamous location under the control of Saddam Hussein, and it was also the site of a prisoner abuse scandal at the hands of American occupying forces. As of August 2006, the prison is controlled by the Iraqi government.
The prison complex was built in the 1960s, and it sprawls across 280 acres (1.15 square kilometers) of land. Five separate complexes are enclosed inside Abu Ghraib Prison, along with support facilities which turn the prison into its own small city. Under Hussein's administration, the prison was used to house political dissidents, and reports indicate that prisoners were tortured and killed at the site; at least two mass graves are associated with Abu Ghraib Prison, and there may be more.
When American forces invaded Iraq in 2003, they took over the administration of the prison, changing the name to the Baghdad Central Confinement Facility (BCCF) and renovating some areas of the prison to adhere with American military standards. In 2004, several American media outlets broke stories of severe prisoner abuse and torture; the Abu Ghraib scandal attracted a great deal of public attention and shook public faith in the war.
Compared to abuses under Hussein's regime, the acts of torture committed by the American military were relatively tame, but still horrific. Prisoners were sleep deprived, subjected to immense emotional stress, and humiliated. Photographs of the abuses at the prison were leaked to the American press; one of the most enduring images is a photograph of Satar Jabar, a prisoner who was hooded and forced to stand on a box while attached to wires which may or may not have been electrified.
After reports of the abuses at Abu Ghraib reached the public, the American military reformed conditions at the prison and issued new operating orders for staffers at containment facilities all over Iraq. However, human rights activists continued to be concerned about conditions in the prison, where prisoners were held incommunicado for months or years with no proof of their guilt. In March 2006, the United States military decided to cede control of the prison, and it was emptied and transferred to the care of the government of Iraq.