The story of Saddam Hussein is one that is shrouded in both power and tragedy. Born in the city of Tikrit, Iraq, on April 28, 1937, Saddam’s early life was marked by hardship and poverty. Raised by his mother and stepfather after the shadow of his biological father’s absence, he faced the challenges of his time head-on. Little did anyone know that this young boy would one day rise to become the President of Iraq, leaving a lasting impact on the region and the world.
Saddam Hussain’s Early Life and Struggles
Saddam’s early years were marred by the lack of his father’s presence, leading to a difficult and impoverished childhood. At the age of twelve, he left his family home to live with his uncle Khairullah Talfa, an officer in the Iraqi army. This period of his life exposed him to the political turmoil of Iraq, with the British-imposed government of King Faisal I causing widespread unrest.
Saddam was no stranger to activism, as he actively protested against the oppressive government. He was even arrested several times for his involvement in these protests. This early exposure to political dissent laid the foundation for his future political endeavors.
Education and Early Activism
In addition to his activism, Saddam was a voracious reader, often opting for books over vices like alcohol. He diligently saved money to purchase history books, cultivating his intellectual prowess at a young age. He married Sajida Talfah at the age of eighteen, and the couple had three daughters and two sons.
At the age of eighteen, Saddam joined a political party, a move that would significantly influence the course of his life. As the government became more oppressive under Abdul Karim Qasim, a proponent of communist thought, Saddam and his uncle’s activism escalated. Despite the risks, they continued to stand up for their beliefs and faced imprisonment as a consequence.
Political Ascendancy and a Bloody Coup
Saddam’s journey to power took a significant turn when he was tasked with a dangerous mission – assassinating President Abdul Karim Qasim. The plan was set in motion, and Saddam and his comrades received military training, learning the skills needed for such a perilous operation. They meticulously studied the presidential palace’s layout, routes, and potential escape paths.
On October 7, 1959, Saddam Hussein and his companions executed the daring assassination attempt. They opened fire on President Qasim’s car, hitting him with two bullets, though he survived. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire, one of Saddam’s comrades lost his life, and Saddam himself was wounded in the leg. Fearing arrest if he sought medical attention, a fellow party member extracted the bullet with scissors, staunching the blood flow, and bandaged his wound.
After the attack, Saddam went into hiding, traveling through the treacherous terrain along the Tigris River to reach his hometown of Tikrit. His journey was filled with close calls, including a potentially deadly encounter with a police officer. Miraculously, he reached Tikrit and recounted the events to his family, who concluded that his safety lay outside Iraq.
Exile and Education
Saddam was sent to Syria, where he was welcomed by Michel Aflaq, the head of a political party in Damascus. From Syria, he was sent to Egypt to continue his education. It was in Cairo that he earned a law degree and encountered the American CIA. He frequented the American Embassy during his time in Egypt, unwittingly making contact with an organization that would play a pivotal role in his future.
The Road to Power
As Saddam Hussein continued his education and political activities in exile, major changes were brewing in Iraq. The government of Major General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr was slowly losing its grip on power due to illness and internal strife. On July 16, 1979, al-Bakr resigned, passing the mantle of leadership to Saddam Hussein.
Saddam’s tenure in power marked a transformation in Iraq’s domestic and international affairs. His ambitious policies utilized Iraq’s vast oil wealth to drive economic development, leading to an improvement in living conditions and an increase in people’s income during the 1970s. However, Saddam’s iron-fisted rule was marked by allegations of cruelty and oppression against his enemies, creating a complex legacy that remains the subject of debate.
Saddam’s Unusual Aspiration
During his rule, Saddam Hussein expressed an unusual aspiration – to write a copy of the Holy Quran using his own blood. Over two years, he regularly offered his arm to a nurse who drew blood from it for this unique project. It is claimed that 24 liters of Saddam’s blood were used to write the Quran’s 605 pages and 114 chapters, which is preserved in an Iraqi mosque to this day.
The Iran-Iraq War
One of the most defining events of Saddam Hussein’s rule was the Iran-Iraq War, which raged on for eight years. This brutal conflict led to the deaths of an estimated 15 to 16 million soldiers and civilians from both nations, resulting in enormous financial losses. The United States played a controversial role in the war, fanning the flames of conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims and profiting from arms sales to Iraq.
The Gulf War and the Isolation of Iraq
Saddam Hussein’s power and influence took a dramatic turn after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. This move was met with global condemnation and led to the isolation of Iraq. The Arab world, once supportive of Saddam, turned against him as fears of further aggression and territorial expansion grew.
The United States, seizing this opportunity, rallied Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, to form a coalition against Iraq. They successfully convinced the international community that Iraq’s actions posed a significant threat to the region. The Gulf War of 1990-1991 marked a turning point as the world witnessed the devastation wrought by the coalition of 30 countries, a force largely led by Western powers.
Economic Sanctions and Humanitarian Crisis
Following the Gulf War, the United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Iraq, which lasted for twelve long years. These sanctions devastated Iraq’s economy, resulting in widespread poverty and suffering. Tragically, it is estimated that at least one million Iraqi children died during this period due to a lack of food and access to essential medical supplies.
The U.S. Invasion and the Fall of Saddam Hussein
Despite ongoing opposition from the international community and the United Nations, the United States, led by President George W. Bush, launched the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The main pretext for this invasion was the claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The war resulted in the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime and his eventual capture.
Trial and Execution
Saddam Hussein’s capture marked the beginning of a tumultuous legal process. He faced charges of committing atrocities against the Shia population, particularly the murder of 157 individuals. In 2006, he was sentenced to death by a court in Baghdad.
Saddam Hussein’s execution took place on December 30, 2006. The controversial circumstances surrounding his trial and the execution itself sparked global debate and criticism. Many remember the day he was hanged, which coincided with Eid-ul-Adha, a significant Muslim holiday.
Saddam’s Last Moments
During his final moments, Saddam Hussein displayed a sense of calm and piety. Holding the Holy Quran in his