Saddam ... a year after

On the first anniversary of his hanging we look at the legacy of the once unchallenged leader of Iraq.

  • Saddam Hussain making it clear who's in charge during a military parade in Baghdad. Image Credit:AP
  • The final moments of the former Iraqi leader. Image Credit:
  • Iraqis in Tikrit protesting Saddam's execution. Image Credit:AP
Gulf News

In the wee hours of December 30, 2006, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussain was hanged. The news of his hanging - on the first day of Eid Al Adha - evoked mixed emotions.

The speed and manner with which the sentence was carried out aroused both cheer and outrage around the world.

Even Iraqis were not sure whether Saddam - who ruled the country for 23 years, and jailed for about three years after his regime was overthrown by the US-led coalition forces - deserved such an end.

Today, the people of the country, torn by sectarian strife, violence and suicide attacks, seems to be even more divided than during Saddam's rule.

But how will he be remembered in the annals of history? Will he be known as a dictator who ruled his country with an iron fist and made catastrophic miscalculations abroad, or as a national hero who succeeded in keeping a divided nation united?

On the first anniversary of his hanging we look at the legacy of the once unchallenged leader of Iraq.

In Tikrit, Saddam Hussain's birthplace, hundreds of citizens are preparing to organise a ceremony to mark the first anniversary of his death.

"Saddam is a hero and a brave man who did not submit to Israel's and the United States' will and held his national position until the last moment of his life. He is more honest than those who came on American tanks," Salah Faiz Al Nassiri, told Gulf News.

"If his trial and execution had taken place after a popular uprising or a military coup by national figures in the Iraqi Army or the Baath Party, there would be unanimity in describing Saddam as a traitor and dictator who destroyed the country with his off-hand policies and decisions. The way and the circumstances he was executed in made him a real hero," Ahmad Jabara, an employee at the Department of Education, told Gulf News.

However, in Dujail, a town with a Shiite majority, people are preparing to celebrate the execution of Saddam who was convicted of the Dujail massacre.

"Saddam was tried by an Iraqi court and executed by an Iraqi official and we do not need to cover up his crimes on the pretext of American occupation.

"Saddam was an offender, a murderer and a tyrant; he was not merciful with the Al Dujail people and implemented collective punishment against them with no mercy towards women and children. He deserved a public hanging," Bashir Hussain, a Dujail citizen told Gulf News.

In Shiite neighbourhoods, supporters of Shiite leader Moqtada Al Sadr, the Supreme Council led by Abdul Aziz Al Hakim and the Dawa Party led by Nouri Al Maliki, began putting up posters showing the hangman's noose around Saddam's neck to express their happiness on that day.

In stark contrast, in some Sunni neighbourhoods in Baghdad such as Al Jamea, Al Qadisiya and Al Saidiya people started to display Saddam Hussain's pictures describing him as an heroic leader.

"I think if his trial did not go as it did, it might have contributed to achieving a national consensus because everyone, Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, the Baath Party, the Dawa Party and the Islamic party have suffered from Saddam's regime and thus I expect the discord regarding Saddam's legacy will continue for a long time because his trial was based on revenge and sectarianism," Abdul Salam Al Samrai, an activist of the Sunni Islamic Party told Gulf News.

In Iraq, the Ministries of Education and Higher Education have asked students to buy new course books because Saddam's pictures and phrases still feature in their current textbooks.

"Some course textbooks still contain Saddam's pictures and phrases; many teachers and students recall Saddam's era and his birthday on April 28 each year. We used to celebrate a week before and after the date.

"Schools were closed to celebrate; we cannot erase this memory. Some Iraqis will remember him with love and sympathy; others with bitterness because he did good to some and hurt others," Zakia, a secondary schoolteacher in Baghdad, told Gulf News.

Saddam : Timeline

  • April 25, 1937: Born to impoverished farming family in Awja, Sunni Arab village near Tikrit.
  • 1947: Flees from abusive stepfather to live with uncle
  • July 1952: Egypt's Jamal Abdul Nasser becomes political inspiration to young Saddam
  • July 1957: Saddam joins uprising against British-backed King Faisal II of Iraq and becomes militant in pan-Arab, secular Baath Party
  • 1958: Iraq's monarchy overthrown in coup led by Brig. Abdul Karim Qasem and Col Abdul Al Salam Mohammad Arif.
  • 1959: Saddam wounded when United States-backed attempt to assassinate Qasem fails. Saddam flees to Syria, then Lebanon and finally Egypt
  • 1962: Marries his cousin Sajida while in exile. Enrols in Cairo law school
  • February 1963: Qasem killed in coup by Baath Party. Saddam - now head of Al Iha Al Khas, the Baathist secret intelligence apparatus - presides over mass executions of communists. Arif becomes president until 1966
  • 1964: Baath Party collapses. Saddam detained until his escape in 1967.
  • July 1968: Leads revolt that restores Baathists to power. Saddam becomes power behind Iraqi President Ahmad Hassan Al Bakr
  • July 16, 1979: Saddam overthrows Al Bakr.
  • September 22, 1980: Iraqi troops invade Iran, where Islamic revolution has toppled US-backed Shah. Saddam boasts he will be in Tehran within three days. Resulting war lasts eight years
  • 1982: US government removes Iraq from list of alleged sponsors of terrorism, enabling Saddam to buy American helicopters. Iraq rapidly becomes world's largest retail purchaser of arms with US supplying up to $1.5 billion (around Dh5.5 billion) worth of weapons by 1990
  • March 16, 1988: Saddam's forces accused of killing some 5,000 people in Kurdish town of Halabja with poison gas
  • August 20: UN-sponsored ceasefire agreed. Iraq left with war debts of $30 billion (around Dh110 billion) to its former Arab backers, including $14 billion loaned by Kuwait
  • August 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait over long-standing territorial dispute.
  • February 1991: US-led international alliance drives Saddam's army out of Kuwait
  • March: Saddam uses his Republican Guard to ruthlessly crush rebellion by Shiites in southern Iraq and Kurds in north. Tens of thousands of civilians are killed
  • April: Iraq accepts terms of UN Security Council resolution 687, which demands dismantling of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and payment of war reparations. Disputes over compliance lead to successive crises and keep sanctions in place for years
  • January 30, 2002: President George W. Bush brands Iraq, along with Iran and North Korea, part of an "axis of evil"
  • March 20, 2003: US and Britain invade Iraq, claiming Saddam has failed to comply with UN demands to get rid of WMD. No evidence is later found of such weapons
  • April 9: US forces sweep into Baghdad. Saddam's 24-year rule crumbles into chaos
  • July 22: Saddam's two sons, Uday and Qusay, killed by US forces in Mosul
  • December 14: Saddam captured near Tikrit
  • July 2004: Former president told he faces seven charges
  • October 19, 2005: Saddam goes on trial. Pleads not guilty
  • November 5, 2006: Found guilty in Dujail trial. Sentenced to death by hanging
  • December 3: Lawyers lodge appeal against death sentence
  • December 27: Appeal fails. Appellate court rules Saddam to be executed within 30 days