Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Compensation for Saddam's Victims

Families of people killed under the former regime are being given priority for employment and other benefits.
By Aqil Jabbar

Sajiya Hussein al-Hamadani donned the white robe of the pilgrim this month, and journeyed to Mecca. Sajiya's visa and ticket came courtesy of the religious Dawa Party as compensation for the family members she lost under Saddam Hussein.


"I lost my husband, my elder son Hazem, his wife and his son - they were executed by the former regime which accused them of membership in the Dawa party," she said. "They prevented me even from holding a memorial ceremony."


"But today the darkness has lifted. I could hold a memorial ceremony without any harassment from Saddam's followers. [The Dawa party] gave me a monthly pension, and sent me to the Hajj."


Under Saddam, the families of the regime's victims were considered politically unreliable and, in many cases, banned from holding government jobs - their reputations destroyed in the process.


For many families, restoration of their relatives' honour is the primary compensation derived from the country’s new policy of recognising those who suffered during the Saddam era.


The regime, for example, called people killed in the 1991 uprising rioting looters or Iranian agents.


"Praise be to God, who gave martyrs back their honoured status, and got rid of the unfair reputation they had as 'hooligans' or 'traitors' under the former regime," said Nadhem al-Juburi, whose two brothers were killed by the regime in 1991 and buried in a mass grave.


"It has been proven that they were the wronged, and that they died defending their homeland," said Juburi.


Still, political parties and state institutions - who say they want to honour those who paid the ultimate sacrfice - are showering jobs and other privileges on the families of martyrs.


"Anyone killed by Saddam has a special status, higher than any ordinary citizen, because he stands against oppression and tyranny," said Samir Malek, director of administration in the teachers' union.


"Today this status also belongs to their families, who lived in sorrow after losing their sons."


Right now the union is trying to rehire teachers who lost their jobs under Saddam for political reasons – and is giving priority to those whose family members were executed.


While people who benefit from the new turn of events are doubtless happy with the arrangement, others express resentment over the priority now being given to relatives of martyrs.


Fawzi Hussein quit his teaching job under the old regime due to the low salary. He wants to be rehired now that salaries have increased, but he has been passed over by Malek's union. "I have no one killed by Saddam," Hussein said.


Maher Kadhem, unemployed despite his degree in computer science, said, "A man in Iraq can't get a job, unless his brother or his father was killed."


Still, the new process goes on, and to verify who actually lost relatives, government officials have turned to the political parties, many of which maintain extensive lists of the slain.


Qais Riyad wanted a job as a policeman, and went to the Iraqi National Accord party for help since one of its members runs the interior ministry.


The INA contacted the Dawa Party to verify that Riyad's brother had been killed by Saddam, then arranged for him to get a job as a guard at the Pakistani embassy.