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

Reprisal Town Sheds Few Tears

The people of Dijail suffered years of repression and now find little cause to feel sorry that their former president has ended up in court.
By Naser Kadhem

"He's a wicked criminal. If they execute Saddam a hundred times I still won’t be satisfied, because his deeds against the people in this area were much greater," said shop owner Jassem Mohammed, 32.

Jassem’s views are fairly typical for Dijail, a quiet town among the palm groves north of Baghdad whose inhabitants have more reason than most to wish ill on former president Saddam Hussein.

After some locals ambushed Saddam's motorcade outside the town in 1982, the village was subjected to intense collective punishment, including widespread arrests, the demolition of homes, and the uprooting of orchards.

Um Emad, now an elderly woman, remains implacable two decades after she lost three brothers in the murderous reprisals.

"They can cut Saddam up into pieces and that won't be enough for me," she told IWPR.

Even before the assassination attempt, Dijail suffered badly from the regime. Baathist security forces believed it was a centre for the banned Islamic party Dawa, and arrested hundreds of young men, who disappeared without trace.

Today, virtually everyone in the town says they have lost relatives to Saddam’s oppression.

"I know that he killed my uncle and cousin, and executed a great many of my other relatives," said Haydar Mohammed, 25. "That criminal Saddam deserves death without trial."

Even here, some feel that Saddam should not be treated unfairly or too harshly.

“The judge is pretty young, and Saddam Hussein should be judged by an experienced older man," said Ali Ahmed, a 25-year-old engineering graduate

Mohammed Khudair, 27, owner of a furniture shop, expressed a degree of concern for Saddam despite his record.

"I was very sorry to see Saddam like that, even through he killed a lot of my relatives and friends," he said.

"He was leader of Iraq for over 25 years, and I hope that they give him a prison term but don't execute him.”

Naser Kadhem is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.