Middle East

Saddam Hussein's family sits in exile, scattered across the Arab world

AMMAN: When Saddam Hussein's "throne" crumbled after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, two of his sons were killed in the conflict and the rest of his closely-knit family was scattered across the Arab world. Throughout his rule, Saddam made it a point of honor to underscore the importance of family life in his public speeches, but he also fiercely protected his privacy from the public eye.

Even after he married three other women, Saddam never divorced his first wife, Sajida.

Sajida was his cousin and the daughter of his uncle, Khairallah Tulfah, who took young Saddam under his wing along with his widowed mother.

Saddam and Sajida had five children- sons Odai and Qusai who were killed by U.S. troops in July 2003 and three daughters, Raghad, Rana and Hala.

The five are the only offsprings who officially carry Saddam's name.

Another son, Ali, born of his marriage with Samira Shahbandar in 1982, had always been considered a taboo topic and journalists who dared mention his name faced death threats.

Saddam had fallen madly in love with Samira and forced her to divorce her husband, the then director of Iraqi Airways, Noureddine Safi.

Ali, now 22, fled Iraq with his mother following the 2003 invasion. They went first to Lebanon before settling in Canada.

As the U.S.-led attack grew imminent, Saddam ordered  his family members to safe havens outside Iraq and gave them money to help them start a new life.

Sajida, her three daughters and 11 grandchildren initially left for Syria but on July 31, 2003, a week after their brothers Odai and Qusai were killed, Raghad and Rana and their nine children sped to Jordan.

In August 1995, Jordan had provided safe haven to the two sisters, their children and husbands, General Hussein Kamel Hassan and his brother Colonel Saddam Hassan, as well as several other family members.

They had defected after the general was sacked as industry minister. It was the first defection by members of the Iraqi president's family, and Iraqi opposition leaders said it left Saddam weakened and isolated.

Saddam promised amnesties and lured the Hassan brothers back home, along with their father and other Kamel family members. They were subsequently killed on Saddam's orders in February 1996.

Jamal Kamel, the only one to survive Saddam's wrath, helped his sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces settle in Jordan.

"Jordan asked for a green light from the Americans. They did not have any objections because, after all, Saddam's daughters had nothing to do with the crimes committed by their father," he said.

But despite the murder of their husbands, Raghad and Rana have steadfastly refused to criticize their father in public.

After Saddam's arrest, Raghad, who has been often nicknamed "little Saddam," began organizing his defense.

Sajida and her third daughter Hala, whose husband Jamal Mustafa al-Tikriti is also detained by U.S. troops, have settled in Qatar. Raghad and Rana often visit them there.

Raghad, 36, and Rana, 34, bought homes in Jordan where their children go to school. They  keep a low profile after having been urged by the Jordanian authorities to avoid politicking.

Raghad has three sons, Ali, Saddam and Wahej, as well as two daughters, Haris and Banan. Rana is the mother of three sons, Ahmad, Saad and Hussein, and a daughter named Nabea.

Raghad's son Ali, 18, is said to be Saddam's favorite grandchild. Recently he received birthday wishes from Saddam in a message sent through the International Committee of the Red Cross. - AFP





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