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08 January 2008

Israel News

Uday Hussein's double visits Israel

Latif Yahia who served as a double for Saddam Hussein's son Uday visits Israel to take part in journey to promote peace. Yahia recounts horrors of dictator's rule, says under U.S. occupation Iraq ceased to exist

Roee Mendel

Published: 03.05.06, 21:43

The man who faced the crowd of journalists wore a black suit, sunglasses and a moustache adorned his face. It was difficult to not be impressed with the tragic resemblance between Latif Yahia and Uday Hussein, the son of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein - a resemblance that dictated Yahia’s course of life. Yahia, 42, a lawyer by profession, arrived in Israel to take part in a special journey from Jerusalem to Libya organized by the Berlin-based Breaking the Ice organization, along with a group of other members from rivaling countries.
Yahia. Carries the scars

Photo: Al Jazeera
Uday Hussein. Raped and tortured his victims Photo: Al Jazeera

The group will departure from Jerusalem, and arrive in Tripoli, Libya, 5,500 kilometers away, passing through Ramallah, Jericho, Beit Shean, Amman, and the Suez Canal.
Both participants and organizers hope that the journey will help create trust and maybe help foster an atmosphere of dialogue between western and Muslim countries.

Rape, murder and torture

Yahia, who represents Iraq in the journey, says he had served in the Iraqi army during the Iran-Iraq war until he was summoned to the Presidential Palace in Baghdad one day where he was told he is to begin serving as Uday Hussein’s look-alike.
According to Yahia, Saddam Hussein himself informed him of his new role, which he said will earn him a father-son relationship with the Iraqi dictator.
Years of torture in jail, and news of his father having been poisoned by the Mukhabarat (intelligence services) were the price Yahia paid for refusing to desert his family for a fake life as Saddam Hussein’s son.
But the refusal came only after having witnessed the evil nature of Saddam’s sons whose acts of serial rape, murder and torture are no secret.
As Uday’s double, Yahia was ordered to accompany Saddam’s son for long days and nights during which he witnessed the daily crimes of a family that lacked dignity and respect for human life. Yahia recounted that when a woman caught Uday's eye, he would stop his car, shoot her companion and take her to his palace. There he would rape her, shoot her and throw her from the window.
Yahia piled his evidence of the Saddam era atrocities in two books published in the nineties. I wanted to tell all what I had seen and it was important for me that everyone knows what had happened there, Yahia explained. I never thought about making money out of this. I donated all the money to charity, he added.

The many torture scars that cover Yahia’s back are only a backdrop to the emotional symptoms of insomnia and nightmarish nights which haunt the former Iraqi soldier until this day.

"We agree on some issues, and on some we don’t. I joined this delegation to say 'enough', enough to violence and war. We're only human," he said.

Pictures of the bodies of his former boss’ sons killed in a U.S. air strike did little to comfort Yahia. I wanted both of them to stand trial, he stated. I wanted to face Uday in court, point at him, tell to the whole world of his acts, and see him sentenced for his cruelty, he said. The trial of Saddam Hussein is but a “game” that serves the propagandist agenda of the United States, Yahia said.

Once there was one Saddam, now there are millions

Fifteen years ago, Yahia was smuggled from southern to northern Iraq and then on to Turkey and Austria. American assistance in the mission saved his life as Saddam had given orders to do away with him.
But Saddam’s long hand attempted to assassinate Yahia in Austria: his wife, who turned out to be on the pay roll of the Mukhabarat, disclosed her husband’s whereabouts.

Pictures of U.S. tanks rolling down the streets of Baghdad triggered mixed emotions in Yahia. The daily violence in the war-torn country, three years after the U.S. invasion, is saddening indeed and certainly worse than the Saddam era. Today Iraq doesn’t exist. Bush’s U.S. destroyed it, he said.

Latif did not hesitate to blame the American President for the dire situation in his country. Before Bush declared war on Iraq there was one Saddam Hussein and one Bin Laden, Yahia said. Look at what’s happening today: there are a million Saddam Husseins and a million Bin Ladens, he concluded.

'I'm not anti-America, I'm anti-Bush'

"Look at what's going on in Iraq, it's a civil war. Unlike Saddam's era, there were no religions and factions. I am Sunni and my sister is married to a Shiite. It's like a death sentence. My family stays with me in Dublin, but my 30 years old brother is still there. He has been shot four times by the militias but still choose to stay there".

Despite the hard words, Yahia stressed: "I must make it clear – I am not anti-America, I am anti-Bush, and noted he has two American friends in the delegation who know how he feels.

For many years Yahia was exposed to incitement against Israel by the Iraqi media. During Saddam's era, Israel was depicted as a cruel, abusive occupier of Palestinians, he says.

"I imagined the Jews as two-headed beasts rather than humans," Yahia admits.

Still, he says he will never forget the first time he met an Israeli in Vienna.

"We befriended each other, did business together and visited each other's family," Yahia said. "He even invited me to come to Israel, but I was afraid. A lot happened since then. Today I have many friends from Israel."

The Iraqi double said that when he arrived in Israel he expected to undergo strict searches and possibly denied entry, but was allowed through without an incident while Americans around him were thoroughly screened. Yahia says he was stunned by the respectful behavior.

"Israel is amazing and I'm excited to visit here," he concluded.

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