Translate page with Google

Story Publication logo December 29, 2008

Nostalgia for Saddam Hussein's Rule

Media file: 1069.jpg

An exodus of more than 2 million Iraqis is reshaping the Middle East -- with ominous implications...


AMMAN, Jordan - Najim Abid Hajwal has been having a difficult time renewing his passport.

He submitted his paperwork at the Iraqi Embassy here but was told days later that he was a wanted man back home in Iraq. It turned out that the Interior Ministry was after someone with a similar name. He submitted a new set of papers to prove his identity but was issued a passport with a wrong name.

It's enough to make an Iraqi nostalgic for the good old days.

"Under Saddam, a ministry was a ministry," Hajwal says. "It functioned. It served the people.

"Now you go, you pay some money, a bribe. Maybe you get what you came for; maybe you don't. The police are corrupt. If they stop you, they want money. At the border, you have to pay to pass."

Among the refugees in Jordan and Syria, a yearning for Iraq under Saddam Hussein is common.

"Saddam was a good president, God bless him," says Nabil Hassom, now living in the Damascus suburb of Saida Zainab. "He defended Iraq from its enemies. He was a great leader. All the people were faithful to him, and he was friends with lots of countries."

Wahd Deen Fadel, who owned a restaurant in the fashionable Karradah district of Baghdad, says he feels like a stranger in Jordan.

"During the reign of Saddam, it was different," he says. "An Iraqi had pride. Wherever he went, people respected Iraqis."

"I visited Jordan in 1988. The treatment I received then is very different from the treatment I receive now."

As a counterpart to such nostalgia, distrust of the current Iraqi government is widespread among the refugees.

"This government lives only in the Green Zone," Hajwal says. "We call them the Green Government. When Saddam was in power, he went from the South of Iraq to the North to check on the people."

Hajwal doesn't consider the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki an Iraqi government.

"It is an ethnic government," he says. "They don't care about Iraqis. It is all about your ethnic background, your religion."

Support our work

Your support ensures great journalism and education on underreported and systemic global issues