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25 December 2009


HARDtalk 2009 - the good, the bad and the bizarre


By Stephen Sackur
Presenter, BBC HARDtalk

The HARDtalk studio is dark. The two leather chairs on our simple set are empty. This year's interrogations are over and it's time to remember the good, the bad and the downright bizarre from HARDtalk 2009.


2009 saw the first walk-out in the middle of a HARDtalk interview


It was the year we took the show on the road as never before. From interviews recorded deep inside the Arctic Circle, to a New York Bank vault and a Congolese forest.

And it was the year of the unpredictable guest. From the media manipulator who stormed out of the studio before the interview was done, to the fashionista who confessed to wearing no knickers (I felt no need to demand further evidence).

Shivering guests

Of all the big stories in our HARDtalk year, perhaps the most frequently revisited was climate change, and what to do about it.

For two weeks in the summer I travelled round Greenland, mixing our usual challenging interviews with reportage from the field.

Huskies in Greenland
As the ice melts people living in the Arctic Circle will need fewer huskies

So it was that I found myself quizzing Australia's environment minister Penny Wong and India's climate envoy Shyam Saran high above Baffin Bay with icebergs for a backdrop.

In my four years on HARDtalk I've seen the occasional guest give an involuntary shiver of trepidation - but never before have I quizzed guests shivering with cold.

The debate itself was heated, even if the guest themselves were not.

The failure of the rich nations and the developing world to strike a comprehensive and binding agreement in Copenhagen was foreshadowed in this and several other HARDtalk interviews with key players in the climate debate.

And amid the political arguments Greenland gave me some unexpected insights into the impacts of global warming.

I've been called a hard-bitten journalist more than once in my life - in western Greenland the description was all too accurate

Melting glaciers I'd expected, but what about the Greenlanders who are growing their own vegetables in the unprecedented summer warmth? And the clouds of voracious mosquitoes that can now be found deep inside the Arctic Circle?

I've been called a hard-bitten journalist more than once in my life - in western Greenland the description was all too accurate.

Hubris and greed

The struggling global economy was another staple on the HARDtalk menu throughout 2009.

Perhaps most memorable was my interview with Lawrence MacDonald, a former vice-president of the ill-fated Lehman's Brothers investment bank.

We wanted an evocative and moody location - and we found it in a subterranean bank vault with mighty steel doors underneath Wall Street itself.

Stephen's exchange with Noam Chomsky came in for some criticism

It used to house depositors' cash, now it is an exclusive gentleman's dining club for Wall Street's remaining gazillionaires.

Mr MacDonald told me the compelling story of a company overwhelmed by hubris and greed. And what is this contrite banker doing now? Running a boutique investment fund for high-worth investors, of course.

Wall Street may be chastened, but it is unclear what has really changed. After a highly charged and (I hope) entertaining exchange with Steve Forbes, the millionaire publisher and defender of liberal economics, I was presented with a small gift.

It was a silk tie embossed with Mr Forbes' favourite self-description: "The Capitalist Tool."

Empty chair

By way of extreme contrast my HARDtalk year also took me to eastern Congo - perhaps the most war ravaged region on the planet over recent years.

The most upsetting interviews of the assignment were with two teenage girls - children still - who courageously chose to tell me how they were systematically raped by Congolese gunmen.

They spoke out, they said, in order that the world would know what is still happening in their country.

Sometimes in HARDtalk we push guests closer to their limits than perhaps we realise

The UN has its biggest peacekeeping force stationed in DR Congo, but there is precious little peace to keep.

And the UN has found itself on the same side as some highly questionable characters - including the warlord "Bosco" Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes, but now serves as a commander in the Congolese government's armed forces.

We believed we had arranged an exclusive HARDtalk interview with General Bosco in his headquarters. We set up the cameras, prepared the microphones and waited.

And waited. Bosco never showed up. It was the first time HARDtalk aired an interview with an empty chair.

PR guru Max Clifford walked out when the questioning turned to Jade Goody

That was not the only spot of guest trouble we had in 2009. For the first time in my HARDtalk career I experienced a walk-out in the middle of an interview.

The guest in question was Max Clifford, Britain's foremost celebrity publicist and agent. One of his highest profile clients last year was Jade Goody, a woman made famous for her appearances on reality television.

Goody was diagnosed with terminal cancer and spent her last weeks in a blaze of Clifford-controlled publicity which earned her children a great deal of money.

When I asked Max Clifford about his involvement with Ms Goody he was clearly unhappy. When I asked a follow-up question he stormed off the set.

As we had only recorded one-third of a full HARDtalk interview this was a programme that could never be aired.

Needless to say it led to a major inquest in the HARDtalk office. Did I cross a line? Was I gratuitously offensive? I really do not think so, but it was a reminder that sometimes in HARDtalk we push guests closer to their limits than perhaps we realise.

Memorable image

HARDtalk sees encounters with presidents and prime ministers every year, but it is often the more unexpected interviews which prompt the biggest viewer response. And this year was no exception.

Vivienne Westwood described collecting a royal honour... wearing no knickers!

My exchange with Noam Chomsky about the Obama presidency and American foreign policy drew much comment - much of it highly critical of my "aggressive and arrogant" questioning of the 81-year-old professor.

Another huge response greeted the interview with Latif Yahia, the Iraqi man co-opted to be Uday Hussein's body double in the darkest days of the Saddam dictatorship.

How could such an experience leave Yahia defending Saddam and wishing his rule had never ended? Classic HARDtalk territory…

And finally I'll leave you with an image which has stayed with me since I interviewed the wonderfully idiosyncratic British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood last year.

She confessed to me that when she went to Buckingham Palace to receive an honour from the Queen she had neglected to put on any knickers.

She only remembered when she was surrounded by photographers when the ceremony was over. "I couldn't understand why they were taking their pictures from such a low angle," she told me.

And then she remembered. And now so will I.



14 December 2009


Malta set for film on Hussein’s body-double
Latif Yahia
A Belgian film company will soon start shooting a biopic on the body-double of Uday Hussein, the sadistic son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The film will be directed by Lee Tamahori, famous for his 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day and Next (2007), which had starred Nicholas Cage.
The Devil’s Double, which is due to start filming in January, is a thriller based on a true story about the man forced to become the Uday’s dead-ringer. Latif Yahia, an Iraqi army lieutenant stationed on the Iranian border, was summoned to Saddam Hussein’s inner sanctum where he was given a choice: become the body double of Uday, or die.
The Devil’s Double provides unique insight into a closed society revealing the horrors of Saddam’s tyrannical regime from the inside while providing a chilling portrait of the man whom many considered to be Saddam’s heir apparent.
Yahia will be played by English actor Dominic Cooper, who had also played the character of Sky in the 2008 musical Mamma Mia. Prolific French actress Ludivine Sagnier is said to be in talks with the production company for a role in the same film.
Film industry sources told MaltaToday that the Belgian company Corsan is still looking at different locations where to shoot in Malta, and that although the island has been confirmed as the destination for filming, exact locations are not yet known. Corsan is still in the process of casting key people for the movie.

02 December 2009


Uday Hussein was 'worse than a psychopath'

Latif Yahia interview with HARDtalk is scheduled to broadcast on BBC ,

Latif Yahia interview with HARDtalk is scheduled to broadcast on BBC ,
The full interview with Latif Yahia will be broadcast on HARDtalk on Wednesday 2nd December 2009.
BBC News Channel: 0430 and 2330 GMT.
BBC World News: 0430, 0930, 1430, 1830, 2130 and 2330 GMT.

Latif Yahia was ordered to become the body double for Saddam Hussein's notoriously brutal son Uday. He played that role for four years, before fleeing with the help, he says, of the CIA. His story is about to be turned into a big budget movie, but what will the world make of a man who now insists Iraq needs a leader like Saddam Hussein? Yahia talks to Stephen Sackur.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/8388903.stm

24 November 2009

IRELAND TO THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

I AM LOOKING FOR A EUROPEAN LAWYER (not Irish) WHO HAS THE BALLS TO TAKE THE STATE OF IRELAND TO THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS ON MY BEHALF! If you feel that you have what it takes then please contact me.
Best regards.
Latif Yahia

20 November 2009


Hussein Body Double's Irish Plan




Saturday, 3 March 2007 7:31am UK

Latif Yahia is the kind of man who attracts plenty of curious

glances wherever he goes, writes Sky News reporter Enda Brady.

"Immaculately groomed and well spoken, he could be

a businessman heading to a conference at the Dublin

hotel where we meet.

But his incredible likeness to Saddam Hussein's sadistic son

Uday means he will always get attention.

Yahia went to the same Baghdad school as the dictator's son and

was regularly teased because he bore such a strong facial similarity to Uday.

Years later he was summoned to meet the Iraqi President and

informed that a great honour was to be bestowed upon him,

he was to become Uday's double - whether he liked it or not.

To make his appearance faultless, he claims Saddam forced him to undergo plastic surgery and then have coaching in how to imitate Uday.

If he didn't agree to it, his family would be harmed.

Yahia went on to spend four and a half years living a bizarre life of luxury, interspersed with assassination attempts by Shiite militia and occasional beatings from Uday.

He fled Iraq in 1991 after the first US-led invasion, made his way to Kurdistan and eventually ended up in Austria. For the past decade he has lived in Ireland where he has an Irish partner and three Irish-born children.

"I just want to live a peaceful life and put the past behind me, but the Irish government won't grant me citizenship," Yahia told Sky News.

"When I saw Uday and Qusay (Saddam's other son) dead on the TV news in 2003 I smashed the screen I was so angry, they had cheated justice. I wanted them to pay for all they had done. Now I'm paying a price too."

Yahia has now written a book about his experiences and while it may read like a best-selling work of fiction, he inisists it is all true.

"Writing has helped me but in some ways I don't think I will ever be able to shake off the shadow of Uday and his family," he said."


This is a very interesting article that I read, I thought that I would share it with you, just something to think about.
Sacred surprise behind Israeli hospital

The marble Shiite prayer area at Israel's Barzilai Medical Center.
Special to The Times, May 21, 2008
From the Los Angeles Times
By Batsheva Sobelman

JERUSALEM — The city of Ashkelon has been in the headlines lately, and not for its pretty beaches. The city of 110,000 has sadly joined Israels southern front line as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip improve in range and technology.

Last week, a rocket hit a shopping mall in town; the dozens of injured were treated at the city's Barzilai Medical Center.

It turns out the hospital grounds contain an interesting bit of history: a site holy to certain Shiite Muslims, thousands of whom have come to pray there over the years. Ashkelon has 5,000 years of recorded history, but when the hospital was first built in 1961, nothing indicated that the hill out back was anything special.

The consecration of the site dates back to the early days of Islam. The decades that followed the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632 were marked by a bitter and bloody dispute over succession, a conflict that ultimately marked the split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

In a nutshell, Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was passed over for the position of caliph -- leader of the young Muslim nation. Ali's followers eventually rebelled, touching off years of conflict.

After Ali was assassinated in 661, his sons Hasan and Hussein carried on his struggle. Hussein and his small rebel army were slaughtered in 680 in what is now the Iraqi holy city of Karbala. His head was delivered as a trophy to Yazid, the victorious caliph, in Damascus, while his body remained in Karbala. Shiites commemorate Hussein\'s death annually in the intense day of mourning known as Ashura.

Both Karbala and Damascus became sites of Shiite pilgrimages. Sunni rulers, displeased with the phenomenon, decided to relocate Hussein\'s head to the far edge of the kingdom -- Ashkelon. It remained there for several centuries, until the legendary Muslim leader Saladin sent the head to Egypt for safekeeping from the invading Crusaders.

What was once the far end of an ancient Muslim kingdom is now a grassy mound behind an Israeli hospital.

A millennium after Hussein's head was removed from Ashkelon, the site is still revered by Shiite offshoots, mostly from India and Pakistan. The pilgrims include those from countries with no diplomatic ties with Israel, hospital officials say.

About a decade ago, a Shiite spiritual leader arrived at the hospital with an unusual request : to be allowed to erect a prayer area for the pilgrims.

"How do you know this is the site?" asked Dr. Ron Lobel, deputy director of the medical center.

"I walked out to the mound with him," Lobel said. "He took out a shovel and started digging. To my astonishment, a meter or so deep, he exposed the cornerstone of the ancient mosque that had been built where the head had been buried, and was later destroyed by the Crusaders."

With the hospital's blessing, the worshipers imported the most valued marble in India. The prayer area, built seven or eight years ago, is open to the pilgrims.

"They are quiet, peaceful people. They come in silence, sometimes barely uttering a sound," said Lobel, who has become the resident expert on the subject. "An island of Shiite Muslim prayer in an Israeli hospital in a Jewish state. It really is unique."

11 November 2009

"The Devil's Double"
Lee Tamahori

Lee Tamahori arrived in Hollywood having helmed "Once Were Warriors"
and then wasted his talents on films like "xXx: State Of The Union" and "Next." Well his next film, about the late Uday Hussein's body double, actually sounds pretty interesting. Titled "The Devil's Double" it's based on the true story of Latif Yahia, a dead ringer for Uday, who was forced against his will stand in for the hated, crazed and sadistic son of Saddam in potentially dangerous situations. As a result, he got a first hand look inside the wild world of the Husseins and went on to publish three books about his experiences, two of which - I Was Saddam’s Son and The Devil’s Double - will serve as the foundation of the film. The picture will begin shooting in January in Malta, and Dominic Cooper is the first confirmed cast member, while Ludivine Sagnier is currently circling the project.

09 November 2009


Cooper to play The Devil’s Double for Tamahori

Dominic Cooper will star and Ludivine Sagnier is in talks to join him in Corsan’s thriller The Devil’s Double based on the true story of Uday Hussein’s body double that is set to begin shooting in January in Malta.

Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day, XXX: State Of The Union) will direct to join what Corsan CEO Paul Breuls described as a taut action tale about the extraordinary life of Latif Yahia.

Corsan World Sales is talking to buyers here at AFM and the Paradigm Motion Picture Finance Group is representing domestic rights.

Yahia, a dead ringer for Saddam Hussein’s sadistic and widely despised son, was forced against his will to stand in for Uday in potentially dangerous situations. Through his role, Yahia gained access to Hussein’s inner sanctum and witnessed corruption, violence and debauchery.

Michael Thomas adapted the screenplay from Yahia’s books I Was Saddam’s Son and The Devil’s Double.

Cooper currently appears alongside Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard in An Education and his credits include Mamma Mia!, The Duchess and The History Boys. He will next be seen in Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe.

04 November 2009

Message From My friend to the World

Consider this, my friend: You are where you are . . . think about it; we are determined by where we are, what we expose ourselves to, our environment. Not just our genetics. Now consider: You are what you eat. Okay now, if what you eat is not grown where you are, what are you??? This site is the realization and release of my 50 years study, work, sojourn on this planet. For 20 of those years I traveled to some two dozen countries, and to a host of Indigenous Nations not recognized by the United Nations (a real Travesty!) working on community-based projects and teaching ecological design, environmental restoration and self-sufficient organic home gardening. In 2005, as part of its 2020 Vision Programme, the United Nations released the Millenium Ecosystems Assessment (MEA). www.millenniumassessment.org. Some 1500 top world class scientists from some 95 countries collaborated over a 5 year period to assess the world’s ecosystems – from Mangroves and Estuaries, to Temperate and Sub-Tropical Rainforests to Savannahs and Prairies to deserts and Tundra. They came to the startling conclusion that we have already irreversibly damaged or destroyed or at least impacted fully two-thirds of the worlds ecosystems. They reckoned one-thirds of the damage has been caused by Industrial Agriculture (the fat cat culprits know who they are and should be ashamed). The MEA got a total of 3 days world media attention. EcosystemsServices http://www.actionbioscience.org/environment/esa.html are those services to humankind that Nature provides free of charge. Who says there is no “Free Ride”? There is not a government budget that accounts for ecosystems services. There is not a business plan out there, except for new forests fund, http://newforests.com.au and maybe a handle full of other enlightened long-range vision companies, that has a balance sheet for Nature. What do we mean by ecosystems services, in a nutshell? Clean air, pure water, live soil, carbon, biodiversity, hydrological mediation, climate mediation, seeds, oils, foods, medicines, habitat for All of God’s Creatures, and billions of micro-organisms we know nothing about. My mission is to help people understand their “ecological footprint.” That is, each of us, over our lifetime, uses up a certain amount of all these resources. It is our imperative responsibility to take account of ourselves. We cannot do that without understanding, as the Ancient Greeks did, and all of the Indigenous cultures I have ever been exposed to, that we are all of us connected to the Living Planet (GAIA), and to each other. And so I offer this effort, this mission, this passion, this love, this determination to all those souls there who are awake, all my brothers and sisters, and indeed All My Relations . . .I hope you will take the time to study what this site has to offer and to educate yourself to your duty to the Creator, The Great Spirit, Allah, the Heavenly Father, the Mother Earth Goddess (Gaia) or whatever you choose to call and worship as The One God. If you can help with funding, social networking, or in any capacity please let me know. Thank you. Peace, love, light and laughter be with you. Thomas
www.millenniumassessment.org
Source: www.millenniumassessment.org

01 November 2009


Michael McDowell the Saddam Hussein of Ireland ?

There is one thing that we all share each year, that is reflection, each New Year we refelect upon the year that has passed and as we ourselves grow older, we reflect upon our lives, what we have achieved and our goals for the future.

As Frank Sinatra once sang “regrets, I have a few, but then again, too few to mention”

There are certain points in your life that are integral to the person that you have become, rights of passage, character building events and in my case life changing situations, would I be the person I am today had I not had my life?

Of course not!

I make no apologies for my life, it has not been all good nor has it been all bad, it could not be everyones life because everyone would not have survived it. I am grateful for my life, in that I am still here to live it. I can wake each morning to the certainty that I am loved.

What more could a man ask for?

Well, if you were to really push me… a country to call home would be nice.

For many years, I roamed Europe and the rest of the world, it didn’t matter to me much and at times I quite enjoyed the impermanence of it all, I actually loved Hotels and the fact that each day the room was scrubbed clean to appear as if no-one had been there before you.

Maybe it is age, or actually finding somewhere that I would like to call home that has changed that for me.

Ireland in 1997, seemed so ideal, small but fairly modern, Europe but different, friendly people and a burgeoning economy for business.

Now, that is just a memory for me, having just made my third application for Irish citizenship ( will the third time be a charm for me?) it is getting through my thick skull that I am not necessarily wanted here. I grin weakly at people from all over the world that assume that I received citizenship in Europe the moment I put my foot outside Iraq ( or a team of bodyguards for that matter), no, I’m afraid that part of the screenplay didn’t make it into the final cut.

And why have I been refused Irish citizenship twice, I hear you ask, well on the first application which took five years to process and was seemingly the longest case on file, it seems that I applied three months too early. It only took the threat of a High court action against Mr. McDowell to make a decision for them after five years to point that out.

(Irish naturalisation law, deemed at the time that a decision would be made on any case within six to eighteen months of application, I waited five years, it’s quite possible that I could still be waiting)

Obviously it was the only excuse they could come up with.

I should like to point out at this time that I do not have a criminal record, not even a parking ticket.

In the Autumn of 2001 three black GMCs pulled up outside my hall door, I instantly recognised the men in suits and sunglasses (yes, in real life they do dress like they’re in the movies) As I opened my door and invited them in, it seemed almost like De ja vu.

They were American, they were from the CIA and they had a proposition for me, do remember that the invasion of Iraq did not start until March of 2003.

I was offered a job, to work for them in Ireland, as usual I told them were to go and as usual they told me that they would make my life here hell and I should never think that I would get anything from Ireland.

Maybe this time they were telling the truth.

My second application which was lodged shortly after the first refusal was met with a letter from the Dept of Justice stating that I should not contact them until early 2008, it was 2006 at the time, infuriated, I made my case on the Gerry Ryan radio show, in which I called upon the then Minister for Justice Michael McDowell to meet with me face to face in the radio station to discuss the matter on air and let the listeners decide if I were fit to be an Irish citizen. Unsurprisingly he declined my invitation, but did find the time in his hectic shedule to refuse my second application “at the Ministers discretion” two weeks later. It seems that at some point Michael McDowell had changed immigration and nautralization laws to disallow appeals of his decision and also naturalization through marriage to an Irish National.

But I was free to apply again, which I did.

It is also noteworthy that any application no matter how complete/incomplete can be accepted or declined by the Minister for Justice, he has the final say, no matter what and can grant or refuse as he wishes. He at his discretion can waive certain requirements to issue naturalisation or in reverse can refuse an application simply because “ In the ministers view and upon reccomendations made to him , the minister does not feel that you would be a good citizen for Ireland”

I have received my letter confirming receipt of my application and have also been told that I may contact the citizenship dept, but anyone who has had the misfortune of trying to make that call knows that the chances of getting through are the same as winning the Irish lottery.

On the one occasion that I did get through,as soon as I gave my name I was immediately put on hold while the person on the other end went in search of a supervisor. The lady in question informed me that because of a backlog of 17,800 cases it could be “ Two and a half, three maybe four years before we get to look at your case.”

Now when I sit in a district court on any given day and see some of the people who have been granted citizenship to this fair land, who cannot speak English well, write their names or on one particular occasion didn’t actually know what it was they were there for, getting citizenship, I do ask myself why?

Is it so wrong to be educated, slightly famous/infamous (you choose) be married to an Irishwoman and have three Irish born children?

Or maybe I should just forget about it and find somewhere that might actually want me.

I think the latter is the better option, don’t you?

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This a letter between the Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland and the Minister of Justice, Equality and Law reform, Mr Michael McDowell. One of twenty, the Taoiseach Mr. Bertie Aherne represented my interests in all cases, you can see that the Taoiseach had no influence over his Minister with regard to my application for Naturalisation.
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Me and Ex prime minister of Ireland Mr.Bertie Aherne.
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This is a letter from the Minister of Justice Mr McDowell to me, I had asked for a personal meeting to explain my case, he declined to meet me and as you can see from the letter itself that he asked me not to contact his office until the first half of 2008, the send date on the letter was 2006.
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This is a letter from Minister McDowell informing the Taoiseach Mr. Bertie Aherne of his decision to decline my application for naturalization, the decision was made just weeks after I appeared on the National radio station on a famous radio show The Gerry Ryan radio show, I had been speaking to Gerry about my applications for citizenship and the fact that the Minister Mr. McDowell had declined to meet with me and I had asked Gerry to again ask the Minister if he would meet with me on the show he declined, I pointed out on the show that the Minister's dept was full of corruption and I had the proof, the Minister chose not to defend or refute my allegations. The Minister did however find the time to look at my application and refuse it, even though from his previous letter he assured me that due to the backlog of 7,000 cases in front of mine he could not look at my case until the first half of 2008. Mr. McDowell lost his Ministry in the 2007 Elections and also lost his seat in The Dail (Irish Parliament).

Will the game of cat and mouse between me and the Dept of Justice ever end?
Has my file with a big black X just been passed from one Minister to the next or will the new Minister for Justice read my file with an open mind?
People have said that I am a politician, this is not true, politicians have two and three faces, I cannot, I cannot be like them I speak my mind, it is something that I have always done and cannot change now and would not want to. I believe in freedom of speech, justice and equality for all, I would just like to find some.
According to Irish Law if you are resident in the state of Ireland for five years you are entitled to apply for naturalization, (I am here nearly 11 years).
If you are married to an Irish citizen for three years or more you are entitled to apply for naturalization ( my Irish wife and I are married for seven years, we have three Irish born children)
Under the terms of legislation for naturalization, a refusal can be made if you have a criminal record, I do not, I don't even have a parking ticket.
When Mr. McDowell took his position as Minister for Justice he repealed several laws with regard to naturalization, you cannot appeal his decision in the High Court which was the case, marriage to an Irish citizen is no longer a reason for naturalization, having Irish born children no longer a guarantee of Irish naturalization and if both parents are non-nationals the child if born after 1st January 2005 is not automatically an Irish citizen.
Some of these changes are fair others not, but at the end of the day the Minister for Justice has the power to grant or refuse any application at his discretion no matter what the circumstances. Mr McDowell also refused to sign off on an anti-racism law to which most of Europe subscribe. Is this democratic? Or was Mr.
McDowell the Saddam Hussein of Ireland?
Under Mr. McDowell's watchful eye crime in Ireland surged by 28% racism in Ireland grew by 32% these figures are confirmed by Amnesty International which I am a member of.

Best regards,
Latif Yahia

26 October 2009

I knew Saddam
AlJazeera English

Repeat
Today

A profile of the life of Saddam Hussein, as told by the people who knew him.
Part 1
video
Part 2
video

25 October 2009

In Plain View
( Part one )

Michael McDowell Ex Minister for Justice-Ireland
Michael McDowell the Saddam Hussein of Ireland ?
Once upon a time I was an Iraqi, I lived in Iraq, I was raised in Iraq but even then I knew that I was born into the wrong culture and the wrong country.

What I soon realised was the complete lack of freedom of speech, I saw it in my father a man who would never denigrate the Ba'ath party in any of it's forms except when he had had one to many non -Islamic whiskeys and even then it was in the privacy of his den.
The time came when I too became somewhat politically aware or at least politically afraid, for to disagree openly or show signs of dissent could lead to long spells in prison, torture or worse.
One day, I am not too sure exactly what age I was, I suddenly decided that what was happening to my country was wrong and so I said it, I said it quietly to my father at first; he was shocked and tried to hush me. I said it out loud in company and my friends would quickly change the subject, suddenly I was shouting it from the roof of my car, interestingly enough this did not get the response that you may think, yes everyone around me fled, afraid that their association with me even as far as them just being there at the time, might be enough reason for incarceration. But, the sirens did not wail, the police or the death squads did not come, I found out that the louder I shouted the more afraid the authorities became.
There may have been reasons for this, my heinously uncanny resemblance to the Dictators son being one, but I believe that they did not know what to do with me, or maybe they did.
Maybe it was coincidence, maybe it was just the fact that I looked like Uday Saddam Hussein that I was taken from my post in Southern Iraq during the Iran Iraq war, but maybe, they wanted to keep me close too, and we all know the old adage, keep your friends close but your enemies closer. If I was to be truly indoctrinated I must become one of them and what better way to keep me in check than in plain view.
The story of my time in Uday Saddam Hussein's employ is well documented and I am not writing this to re-hash the story, my real aim is to build up a background for you so that you may better understand me and my motivations.
It has been a gift and a curse in equal measure that I have never been able to tell the right he is wrong and the ugly they are beautiful. In fact this gift has caused me much hardship in my life, untold beatings from Uday and others in the past and present Iraqi governments, but nevertheless, I continue on not being able to shut my mouth.
I do admit there are times when I sit and ask myself why? But I have been given
An undeniable sense of Right.
On fleeing Iraq to the West I expected everything to be as we were told in the middle-east, the west was democratic, everyone had their say and no-one was ridiculed for their beliefs.
This unfortunately was not completely true and so I began telling people so, now you may already suspect what I am about to say, you may not, but whatever reaction I would get from pointing out flaws in my own country, the natives of the new country I was in took less liking to it.
In fairness, who was I to point out these ills? But had no-one else pointed them out?
It is often said that a fresh eye will pick out the flaws and I was that fresh eye.
Please understand that I do this without malice, for me I cannot understand how such beautiful countries can be dragged down by such small minds.
Several European counties have been the subject of my fresh eyes, Austria and England being two (the latter because of their involvement with the war on Iraq, which I believed and still believe to be an unjust war).
At this moment I live in Ireland, in fact I have lived in Ireland for quite some time, for me staying anywhere for over six months is unusual (but having told you what I have you may not find this surprising)
To date I have lived in Ireland for nine years, Ireland is a beautifully scenic country and is all that is written about it, rolling fields of green, warm and friendly people and that’s about it. I love the Irish people they are witty and welcoming and I understand their fascination with the "pub" because that's really all there is. Now you might ask does Ireland not have this huge booming economy. What happened to the "Celtic tiger"? Well yes it does have a booming economy, the government showed a 16billion euro profit this year three months before the budget. But this profit will not go to building somewhere else for people to go, strangely, Ireland does not have a theme park or a "Blackpool" when you have children your excursions are limited, I once bought an annual ticket for Dublin zoo which has been excellently refurbished in recent years but although the ticket also allows you entry to Foto safari park at the other end of the country, there are only so many times that your children actually want to go.
In recent times new legislation was brought in to cease smoking in all public places, restaurants, pubs, bars, cinemas etc, this in itself is not a bad idea but if your wife or partner is a non-smoker and you are a smoker it means that either the non-smoker dutifully follows you out on your cigarette breaks or sits on their own a target for unwanted (hopefully) attention. In effect wiping out the need or should I say desire to go out.
So what is there to do? Shop?
Well yes there is plenty of shopping and good shopping too, with the arrival of the major UK chain stores and the big designer brands there is plenty of shopping to go around but a Chanel handbag won't keep you entertained in the evenings (my wife begs to differ). Shopping would be fun if only you had decent roads to travel on, if you have never heard of it Ireland has a road taxing system that evaluates your engine size and charges accordingly, if you have the wherewithal to own a Mercedes S class the road tax for the year can cost you in excess of one thousand euros for your enthusiasm, but as I hit pot hole after pot hole on the secondary roads I ask myself where do these funds go? All the good motorways in Ireland are tolls, fair enough, but then you see the great big sign that says part funded by the EU. Can that be right?
In fairness Ireland is the cheapest country in Europe to buy a car in before taxes, but unless you are exporting it to some far flung paradise you will not reap the benefits nor will you get any benefits trying to import a car from another European country, by the time you pay the vehicle registration tax you have saved yourself very little money and possibly nothing on time and effort, even people who have lived abroad and come home with their cars have been railroaded, in recent weeks a friend of mine who returned from living in the UK with her car had to pay three thousand euros for the pleasure of having her Citroen Picasso re-registered as Irish so that she would cease being stopped by the local police and asked why she had not done so, everyone in Ireland knows that according to EU legislation you should be able to bring a car into the country from another EU country and save, the UK charges approximately one hundred pounds as a standard fee for re-registering your car, Ireland on the other hand charges a percentage on the current market value of the vehicle in Ireland negating most of your saving.(this is against EU Law)
But no-one says anything about anything except to their friends and families and nothing changes.
You may ask yourself why I am still here and how I could have stayed so long, well Ireland has been quite safe for me, I have not had any death threats or assassination attempts (well not recently) and as I have said before the people are friendly plus this is where I met my wife and am raising my kids.
Until last Christmas I also held the hope that I might attain Irish citizenship, since leaving Iraq I am stateless, not Iraqi not anything. It is quite a peculiar feeling being disenfranchised, on a daily basis I cope quite well but when I need to travel, well that is a different story. At the moment I hold an Irish travel document, I am thankful for having it but it is renewable annually, now anyone that travels knows that when you get to the airport you need at least six months validity on your passport/travel document to go anywhere, which in effect means that I can only travel for the first six months of the issue period on my T-D, there are other T-Ds out there that are issued for two and five years respectively but for some strange reason the Irish government do not wish to issue me with one, I have asked, repeatedly. Maybe they have the same idea that Saddam had keep me in plain view. Why? Surely they are not afraid of me?
Anyhow as I was saying, until last Christmas I harboured the hope that I might become an Irish citizen, all my hopes were dashed after fighting so hard to get an answer from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Mr Michael Mc Dowell, I was told that even after five years and although I had fulfilled all the criteria, I had applied too soon. Too Soon, I'll say that again, too soon, I'm sorry but should someone not have pointed that out within the first six months of my application? Or was it just a convenient technicality? Well that was a question for the Minister himself and I had every intention in asking him personally, I wrote him umpteen letters, I wrote to my local TD (MP to those who live outside Ireland) and he sent the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform letters on my behalf, but to no avail the Minister did not have the time or inclination to meet with me, my wife wrote and asked if there were some way the she could expedite my case or help me attain citizenship but her letters we met with the standard " Thank you for your letter dated…….."
I have since had to reapply for naturalisation, having been given the reason for denying my application the first time ( because it was made too early) you would be forgiven for thinking that this application would be dealt with expediently because all of the subject matter was at hand, Wrong, in one of my many letters from the Minister of Justice, Mr Mc Dowell's office, I was informed that the citizenship department is currently working on the last cases from 2004 and since my new case was only filed in February of 2006 it will be the early part of 2008 before they look at it to see if I qualify for application. Does that make sense to you?

I suppose I did not help my case by rescuing my mother, niece and nephew from Iraq and bringing them here. I had not seen my mother for over thirteen years and my younger siblings were mere babies when I left them, my youngest sister being just eight when I affected my flight.
As for my niece and nephew their mother was killed in my family's house in Baghdad during "Shock and Awe" they had all been sitting in the living room, my sister-in-law went upstairs to get something a bomb hit the house, it collapsed and that was that, the children were left motherless. Their father my brother went missing soon after, whether he was taken by a Shia militia or the Americans no-one knows. My wife and I now care for them and our family has grown from four to seven.
My mother applied for asylum here with the children, you must understand that she has no passport or identification and there is no other way that we can keep her here without applying and over my dead body will I let her go back to Iraq, we support her and the children as we should and all four children go to our local school and have integrated very well.
As is often the case in my life, my mother's asylum process did not go smoothly, having had as much publicity as I have had over the years and because my story is Internationally recognised, I for some reason expected the asylum process to be concise and swift, It was neither. My mother was refused and we had to go to the appeals tribunal (which is still pending) my mother does not have any English a translator was provided for her but even so many thousands of miles away from Iraq the great Sunni –Shia conflict was evident (I would like to add at this point that in Iraq/Baghdad there was never any difference between Sunni, Shia or Kurd, we all lived together happily until the Iraqi opposition was formed in Vienna, Austria in 1992)
What was surprising is that two days after my mothers initial refusal of asylum two immigration police officers arrived at our door to asses her case, standard procedure was that the immigration police would asses your case and give their verdict before a decision was made, if it was the case that this procedure was changed the two red faced policemen seemed completely unaware of it. They still carried out their assessment and we have been promised another visit in the near future to check upon the wellbeing of the children. I wonder will their opinions make any difference the next time.
So after the initial refusal my barrister made an appeal, although I am trained in Law I was not allowed to represent my mother, I was allowed to attend the last ten minutes of what was very much like a trial, there were no jury, there was a tribunal member who acted like a judge a representative of the dept of Justice (the prosecution) and my barrister (the council for the defendant) you must understand that anything government related scares the life out of my mother she has seen her husband poisoned in front of her, her family threatened and imprisoned and her eldest son flee, all because of government.
It was agreed on the day that to prove her maternity of me, that we should have a DNA test (it still baffles me why anyone one would think that I would bring an elderly woman and two extra children into my home if they were not who I said they were) to this day it remains a mystery to me who actually asked for this DNA test, according to the tribunal I offered but to my recollection they asked, anyway we went to one of Ireland's premier medical facilities and had the necessary tests done (which I paid for, I think you may have some inkling of how much these things cost), they were then flown to London to be carried out and the results were released three weeks later.
We waited…
Finally we received the results, I had never questioned my parentage, but there was this niggling sense in the back of my head saying maybe they know something you don't … Lo and behold… tad ah... .Yes she was my mother!
Well 98.75% of her genetic makeup matched mine, legally there could be no argument, I was relieved. Then came the letter, there was an argument, the tribunal wasn't happy with the figures, they weren't conclusive, my mother's testimony had "holes" in it, I was taken aback!
If, although I had provided a DNA test with a result that would stand up in court and my story was Internationally accepted to be true, why was it nonsensical to believe that my mother was my mother and she should be saved from having to live in Iraq, a country that hated me because I was part of the regime (unwillingly) and then hated me because I escaped it? (But punished her for it)
So far we still have not received a decision, it has been at least six weeks since we answered their comments, one would wonder why it is taking so long?
I n my mind I know what will happen and I always hope against hope that I am wrong, I believe that just before Christmas we will hear something, it will be another refusal (on what grounds, I have no idea) but it will be at a time of year when the system will be on extended leave and my mother and I will have no recourse but to sit and wait again until the new year to start all over again.
Is it to keep me here in plain sight? If the Irish government don't want me here, they certainly are making it hard for me to take my family and go.
To be continued….


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In Plain View
( Part two )

Michael McDowell Ex Minister for Justice-Ireland
For those of you who have read the first part of this article, you may either agree with my views or not, I did not come to these conclusions easily there were other deciding factors.
For a long time I tried to justify my treatment in Ireland, I convinced myself that it was all just a horrible coincidence, there was no conspiracy theory.
At some point the evidence became overwhelming and I had to acknowledge the fact that there was something going on, I have yet to see justice at work in Ireland at least in regard to me, having said that I don’t believe that I have seen justice in action at all.
In April of 2000 I was assaulted in Dublin it was an unprovoked attack and robbery was not the motive either, I received 20 stitches to my forehead, nose and cheek, while I sat bleeding in the hospital A&E and the doctors and nurses passed by hurrying to their coffee breaks I wondered how it had all come to this.
This is Latif Yahia in Ireland 11/April/2000

Although I could identify my attacker and tried to instigate charges against them, I was advised against taking action by the Gardai (Irish Police) as it could affect my application for citizenship if I were to bring charges against an Irish national.
The statue of limitations for assault at the time was four years ( because of all the changes that Minister McDowell has made in the intervening years it hard to know if the statute still stands) although I desired citizenship I desired justice more, I instructed a solicitor to act on my behalf in the matter and started my recovery. After a short time I was contacted by the solicitor and was given the news that he had initially contacted the hospital to retrieve the original paperwork on my injuries and treatment at the hospital, the paperwork was unfortunately missing or lost. When my solicitor made further enquiries as to the whereabouts of the doctor that treated me that evening, he also was nowhere to be found, allegedly he had returned to his homeland Afghanistan, convenient? I think so.
At this point I will ask you a question; am I just the unluckiest S.O.B on the face of the planet?
I continued on with my life and recovered from my injuries, psychologically it took a toll on me, every time I looked in the mirror I had to deal with the scar that reflected back at me, my new decoration also gave me an added air of "gangster" something that I had spent the previous years trying to escape if you remember.
Since not having any reason to proceed with my case against my attacker, I continued on with my application for citizenship, you may recall what the outcome of that was; for those that don't, my application was refused on the grounds that I had applied too early even though I had waited for five years for an answer. (Surprise! My case was the longest case awaiting a decision for citizenship in the history of the dept of Justice, documents to be published next week)
On a happier note it was later on in 2000 that I met my wife, she was appalled at the treatment that I received and has been my strongest supporter since.
In essence, in Ireland I have been homeless on the streets of Temple Bar, assaulted and left scarred (not while I was homeless), I was stripped of all my possessions, wrongly imprisoned, beaten by Gardai and "Lost" in the system for ten days.
When I made a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman they returned a verdict that my charges were vexatious and I was dismissed as a trouble maker.
The list is longer but there are some points that I cannot divulge presently some are pending, some I'm just saving for posterity.
Let me just say that if any of these things had happened to a Western person or anyone for that matter in Iraq under Saddam the minimum sentence for assault with a deadly weapon was 15 years even though Iraq is now considered a third world country.
As I write this my anger is rising, most of the time I have all of these memories pushed to that part of my mind that deals with the crap that I've gone through, Uday, Austria and now Ireland.
Why am I still here?
I am trapped, trapped by lack of a passport, trapped for the love of my mother and my niece and nephew, even if it was just my wife and our two children I could go, but until there is a decision made on my mothers case for asylum here I am in Plain view.
As you may be aware my latest book has been released, according to my publisher (a new Irish company who have some cohunes) there have been thousands of orders for "the Black Hole" worldwide but virtually nothing from Ireland itself. It seems that even with regard to getting local bookshops to stock it the first question that they are being hit with is "is he Irish?"
The Irish media themselves are not too interested in anything that doesn't have an Irish slant unless of course you are a foreigner involved in crime, it doesn't matter if it's the newspapers, TV or radio, most of which are government owned or sponsored anyway, and hitherto most of the media that I have received has been for the most part unflattering.
I don't expect to be loved and accepted, I just want to live my quiet little life and get on with it but I am not to be allowed to do even this, in recent weeks an article was written about me which in itself was not bad, suddenly I had customs and excise, immigration and the special branch at the door, one day after another, why? Because they got the call.
On the upside, I recently received a call from someone purporting to be from the citizenship dept of the dept of Justice, the voice on the end of the line had all the right information my case file no. my personal details etc, I was slightly excited at the prospect that my case was being looked into until I heard the real reasons for the call, the caller was willing to push through my citizenship for the mere sum of 50,000 euros, I declined, I may desire an Irish passport but if I wanted to buy one there are some great fakes going on the local market thanks!
I contacted my solicitor and told him the story, his first reaction was one of dismay, he thought that that sort of thing had stopped.
I was later interviewed by a national newspaper; I told the reporter about the phone call, the reporter was interested if I had a "Name" as it would sound more credible if I had, no disrespect to me of course.
It's not like there hasn't been a passport scandal in Ireland before, oh and it's Christmas, Hello!
I write these articles not to be famous, I am already and not for reasons that I particularly like either, no matter what I do Peace missions etc it all still goes back to "Latif Yahia the ex-double of Uday Saddam Hussein" even in his death we are tied together.
Anyway, I write these articles to highlight what is going on, I know that there are other immigrants, asylum seekers out there, that have probably suffered more than I have, but they have no voice because they are afraid.
I however am not, having fought Saddam Hussein and his son a minister here or there really isn't too much of a challenge and if I end up in Guantanamo or something, well the word will get out there. Hence I write my articles for the internet the last vestiges of freedom and free speech left in the world.
Oh and by the way, there have been rendition flights through Shannon airport no matter what reassurances the American administration has given the Irish government.
How do I know? Well I happen to know one of the poor bastards who was on one of those flights, he was innocent, he was tortured and he was held on Irish soil for over 24hrs and yes I do have proof, as I have proof of everything that I say, I do have a PhD. In International Law...
Fortunately enough for both the Irish government and the American administration none of the Gardai stationed in Shannon airport have the wherewithal to inspect any of these flights, it is convenient to blame the Gardai when really the Irish government should make it their business to know who is on those flights not just to take anyone's assurances, that would be the sensible way to do things don't you think, unless of course you already knew what was going on and wanted to pretend that you didn't.

Latif with Ex Irish Prime Minister Mr.Bertie Ahern
I had advised the Irish government in 2003 at the beginning of the "war on Iraq" not to open Shannon to the American government, if Ireland wanted to retain it's neutrality letting planes flying to and from a war zone was not the way to do it, did America really need Shannon? American planes could have flown another half an hour to Manchester and refuelled there, Britain was part of the" coalition of the willing" wasn't it? NO America needed to make as many targets around the world as it could, that's why all of these tiny countries sent minute amounts of troops to Iraq, to have the name of participating and therefore to reap the repercussions of such an association.
For all that I have said about Ireland I do not want to see Ireland targeted by Al Qaeda or whomever, even though I dislike the government I still like the Irish people.
In so many ways Ireland reminds me of Iraq just with a bad climate, the government does as it pleases, no one really bothers and anyone who does decide to say something is silenced (not necessarily killed though, a la Saddam) but still the similarities remain.
To be continued.
Irish American Justice