I have decided to publish a chapter of "The Black Hole" online each week for my readers who may not have the opportunity to read it otherwise.
However the CIA or various other organizations and governments may try to silence me, I will never stop fighting for Free speech and Justice in this world.
Latif Yahia author of "I was Saddam's Son" and "the Devil's Double" which have sold over one million copies worldwide in twenty languages now brings you the next chapter in his extraordinary and chilling life story.
THE BLACK HOLE
Published by Arcanum Publishing in 2006.
THE BLACK HOLE
Copyright © Arcanum Publishing 2006
Published by Arcanum Publishing in 2006.
THE BLACK HOLE
Copyright © Arcanum Publishing 2006
Latif Yahia has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design and Patents act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in Ireland in© 2006 by Arcanum Publishing.
This book is sold subject to the condition that is shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be left, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser © 2006.
Printed and bound in Ireland by Jetprint, Tullamore, Co. Offaly
Cover design by Michael Fedun and Alexander Six.
Photographs by kind courtesy of Latif Yahia and CBS, Karl Wendl, News
I would like to give special thanks to my wife Karen and children without whose support and love this book would not have been possible.
All profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the Children's Hospital in Ireland where my children were born.
Some of the names of the characters in this book have been changed to protect their identities and their right to privacy.
IntroductionI would not be so presumptuous as to assume that every reader of this book has read The Devil’s Double or Ich war Saddams Sohn [I was Saddam’s Son]. It is possible that many readers will have approached this book hoping to learn more about the political and social aspects raised, particularly with regard to asylum seeking in general, or how the Saudi Arabian and Austrian administrations deal with dissent of any kind. For readers who have not read the story of how I ended up in Austria, or those who have read it and require a reminder, the following few paragraphs cover the same ground very briefly.
* * *The geographically diverse land between Turkey to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south, Iran to the east and Syria to the west is rightly termed the cradle of civilisation. Ancient peoples such as Sumerians, Hittites, Babylonians, Persians and Assyrians cultivated the ground and were responsible for many of the technologies we now take for granted – the wheel being just one.
The wheel, however, came back to dominate the region; a worldwide wanderlust fed a human desire for transportation, which in turn needed fossil fuel to turn to smoke and make the wheels go round. And the area, now known as the Middle East, sits on trillions of tankfuls of the stuff. This underground resource has been the cause of much war, territorial dispute and conspiracy. After all, the hand that rocks the oil pumps controls the world.
Between 1979 and 2003, that hand was Saddam Hussein's. He would also use it to sign death warrants on dissenters, to murder his own countrymen, to plot disastrous wars with neighbouring countries and to be the puppet master of his entire population. In September 1987, Saddam – or more accurately, his son, Uday – picked up my strings. Uday wanted a double, and I was unlucky enough to resemble him.
This was not my first encounter with Uday. Because of my father’s wealth I was sent to the best school in Iraq, and a young, spoilt, arrogant, Uday became our classmate. We hated him even then. He would cruise the streets in his cars and with the assistance of his bodyguards would pick up girls whether they wanted to or not – and most did not. At least one girl who refused to be taken by him was kidnapped and thrown to his starving dogs. In class he would act like his father, showing no enthusiasm for lessons and acting threateningly towards anyone who crossed him. A teacher who reprimanded him for bringing his girlfriend into class with him was never seen again.
My classmates used to tease me and call me Uday because even at that age I resembled him. I used to imitate him for laughs.
When my second encounter with Uday came about, I was a Captain on the front in Iraq’s pointless war with Iran. My unit’s command received a dispatch saying that I should be sent to the presidential palace. I was taken there and informed that I was to become Uday Hussein’s fiday, or body double. This would involve attending functions, making appearances, and assuming his persona when rumours of assassination were circulating. Saddam had several fidays already, and Uday obviously longed for one just like his daddy, and I was to be his first. My initial refusal was met with a long spell of solitary confinement and mental torture in a cramped cell without so much as a toilet to maintain my dignity. Eventually, this treatment, and vile threats against my family, forced me to agree to Uday’s demands.
Throughout a lengthy period I was trained to act like him and to speak like him; I was, through cosmetic surgery, also made to look even more like him. Indeed, having my front teeth filed down and being given a copy of his overbite-dominated set gave me a lisp just like his. I was, during my “training”, desensitised to the ugly barbarity of the regime by being forced to watch endless, excruciating videos of real torture, mutilation and murder perpetrated by them on dozens of men, women and children of Iraq, usually prisoners or prisoners’ family members. These films also served as a warning as to what I could expect were I to decide to challenge the regime at any time in the future.
My first public appearance as Uday was at a football match in Baghdad’s People’s Stadium. My job was to wave at the crowd from a dignitaries’ box and present medals to the players at the end. When Uday saw the appearance on television he was impressed, congratulated my trainers and accepted me as a member of his circle, albeit on the outer reaches. He could not allow anyone to become too close to him, particularly anyone from outside the Tikriti clan from which the majority of the regime was drawn; indeed, I had been the first fiday to be plucked from the outside world. From then on my days were spent living in his palaces, effectively a prisoner, as I was not allowed to do anything without permission. But it was a prison of opulence and luxury, with access to the finest food and drink the world had to offer; swimming pools and other such charmed diversions made the time a little more bearable.
But the captivity grew stultifying. Most of the time I would not be making appearances; I would be bored out of my mind, intellectually and socially unchallenged. I had graduated with a degree in law and had dreamt of following in my father’s footsteps and becoming a businessman. This had never been part of my master plan. I was largely living a brainless, useless existence with no independence or exercise of free will.Worse was to come. I got sucked closer to Uday and he started to treat me as one of his bodyguards, taking me out with him as protection against assassination at the hands of any of his multitude of enemies. This is when I witnessed the depravity of Uday at first hand. I saw him rape, murder, bully and destroy anyone who dared to question his will. This could be anyone from friends of his father to innocent passers-by, on one occasion a honeymooning couple, the wife of which Uday took a liking to and who threw herself to her death from her balcony after being raped by Uday.
Then came Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. This was a time when every warring tyrant needs a double, and I was put to good effect, visiting the troops in Basra posing as Uday, to show courage, fortitude and supposedly to improve morale, while all the time Uday himself was drunk in the safety of Switzerland. I was also pressed into plundering Kuwait, leading parties of thieves into car showrooms to steal luxury cars and take them back to Baghdad to be sold at huge auctions. But Uday was growing tired of me. When he was accused of plundering Kuwait and faced huge embarrassment for such actions he had the perfect excuse – that it was I who had stolen everything – and that he was completely innocent. I was made to “confess” on television – a ridiculous charade in a country with no electricity – and sentenced to death. It was of course a convenient cover. Uday had begun to sense that I was resisting his will, that I wanted to escape his clutches. I was saved by the beginning of the invasion of the US-led forces, which seemed to give the regime other things to think about.
Saddam was kicked out of Kuwait but survived politically, and my death sentence seemed to have been forgotten about. After a trumped-up row over a girl I was sent to a “re-education camp” where I was tortured and humiliated for weeks. That particular horror ended when Uday came to visit me one day, but it was replaced with another kind of horror. He had me shaved from head to toe and dumped on the doorstep of my parents’ home. My mother discovered me but did not recognise the bald, skeletal figure at her feet until I spoke to tell her who I was.
I was later offered a sort of freedom, by way of gratitude for the way I had performed when called upon. But once again, at a party, I caught Uday on a bad day and he had me captured and held by his bodyguards while he went to sort out some business or other. I was sure that I was to be executed when he came back. I tricked my guard and made my escape to the north of Iraq, where I was captured and robbed by Kurds. But at least for the time being I was free from Uday. I eventually managed to flee to Austria, which is where my story picks up in this book.
When I wrote and published I Was Saddam's Son in 1994 and The Devil’s Double in 2003, I thought that my story was finished, at least as far as the public interest was concerned. It went on to be a success and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who cared enough, or were shocked enough, to buy it. On fleeing Iraq I was penniless, and it helped financially as well as emotionally; it was also a priceless cathartic experience. As expected I received no plaudits from Uday or Saddam Hussein, and a good deal of this book covers my ongoing fight with them, particularly with Uday.
Throughout this book details emerge of assassination attempts, murder, emotional breakdown and moments of lightness which I hope everyone can identify with, but which also serve to put space between the extraordinary, brutal existence which I was forced to endure and the loving, productive life I yearned for.
The overall purpose of the book, however, is to reveal to the world a tiny sample of the injustice, exploitation and horror that are daily enacted from the highest levels of some of the nations whose representatives have no doubt shaken the hand of, or might even be, your president, prime minister or monarch.
I would never have believed, as I was being flown in the aeroplane from Turkey to Austria, that I was not escaping hell, but merely being moved to another of its fiery chambers.
* * *The decision to write and publish this story was not an easy one to make. I cannot believe that the normal legal protection given to journalists, historians and biographers applies to me. I have been subjected to enough torture, kidnappings, imprisonment and assassination attempts whilst living in the jurisdictions of the free world to have any faith in the observance of international law. Some of the revelations herein will definitely not endear me to international, ubiquitous agencies who thought that they had shut me up long ago.
I spent many hours discussing the pros and cons of publication with my friends and family. I now have a young family of my own, and the responsibility I owe to them has never left my mind. Most of my friends advised me, as I thought they would, to let my story lie, let it fade away and carry on with a life which had become rather comfortable for me. They were, I believe, advising me from the heart, or from the gut feelings about the dangers to which I would be exposing myself and my family. They have continually reminded me that, despite the fact that I have lived in the European Union for the best part of fourteen years, I am still stateless, still effectively a refugee, and that no country had a duty to protect me or investigate my disappearance. I believe the stories I have heard about Iraqis voicing anti-war sentiments or criticising the US administration and being swept away in appropriately-named Gulfstream jets, never to be seen again, or re-emerging with more approved views.
Or perhaps the consequences would be less bad – I could be subjected to character assassination, ridicule and veiled threats. No doubt I would be branded a Walter Mitty, a fantasist, a conspiracy theorist, someone with an axe to grind or burdened with the weight of other uncomplimentary clichés. Government-sponsored journalists and reviewers would probably say I was pro-Saddam, a terrorist and a social misfit, and some of these assertions would stick.
Throughout the world, in the US, in Europe, in the Middle East and in the seats of power at the heart of “liberated” Iraq are people who could pull enough strings to have me written off physically, critically or credibly. My friends’ arguments were convincing and sensible, and I decided to take their advice and keep my story to myself, at least until the dust had settled, sometime in the 2070s.
But then they came back. The CIA started to pay me attention and for some reason began to harass me interminably. Had someone been serving them false information about me, asking for certain favours? I can think of several potential originators of such actions, and the contents of these pages will provide readers with some of the many reasons why certain people would prefer it if this book did not make it onto the shelves, or if I were to be discontinued.
In my years since fleeing Iraq, I have plunged to suicidal low points and enjoyed the exhilarating highs that a good life can serve up. I have been in more embassies and governmental departments than I care to remember and have met world leaders and notables from all disciplines. If there is one thing that I have learnt, it is that the world’s leaders act like a single family, rarely criticising each other unless a scapegoat nation is needed. They will turn a blind eye to each others’ misdeeds, treating them as internal matters that are immune to international condemnation. What is more, they indulge in favour-giving deals in which millions of dollars of credit change hands. I have participated in it myself, and I have seen prime ministers and presidents shaking hands on deals that will never make the news. It would only take one of them to request that I should be silenced and it would be done. On the other hand, I have been impressed with the robustness of a few nations, most notably Germany, for whom the rule of law is not a structure to be toyed with, but is the immutable basis of all political actions, and a country where the legislature is as strong as the executive. It is often left out in the cold as a result.
So here I am, an anti-Saddam Iraqi escapee who has the audacity not to support Bush and Rumsfeld’s Middle Eastern oil grabbing adventures. Along with billions worldwide, I disagree with terrorism and with military action on defenceless populations. I am not with the Americans and I am not with the terrorists, which leaves me as something of an outcast in George W’s polarised, inward-looking world view. I remain opposed to Bush and his coterie of belligerents while not being opposed to America or Americans in general. This sentiment is again widespread, but for the most sinister of reasons I shudder when I express it, for I feel vulnerable. People fleeing Saddam’s Iraq are not meant to oppose the present occupying forces in the White House and on Capitol Hill. After all, they were the guys who went and kicked his ass (or at least they sent the guys who went and kicked his ass). I am supposed to be eternally grateful. Because I am not, I must be a threat. I must be plotting against them. That is the polarised logic I am up against.
So in the end, my motivation for publishing this book came down to this fact: there is a truth that needs to be told, and if I do not tell it now, it might remain hidden forever.
PrefaceIn my book, The Devil’s Double, there was no mention of the fact that I had with me a woman when I fled to Austria. However, as will become obvious, I had with me a woman named Nusa who was reported in the press and on television reports to be my wife. She was not my wife; she was one of the women who hung on to Uday Saddam Hussein and his inescapable opulent lifestyle – a hired girl, a prostitute. She had been introduced to me by Issam Malla, who was famous among the upper classes of Baghdad, a man who sorted out girls for the well-heeled members of Iraqi society. In the West he would be considered a pimp, but like most of the criminals who ran the country for over twenty years he was careful to maintain a public image of refinement and respectability. This image was maintained by his choice of clientele. Government ministers, businessmen and politicians linked to the inner circle were all enthralled by the radiance and beauty of his charges, their accessibility (at a cost), and the ego boost afforded by their company. He probably saw his business as a legitimate arm of the Western-influenced state that was Saddam’s Iraq. And of course, he was right.
Issam used to visit me every Thursday – the equivalent of a Western Saturday or Sunday. He would arrange girls with whom my friends and I would socialise and be entertained. He would be accompanied by some of the girls so that we might choose a suitable partner for whatever occasion was taking place, or simply to spend time with. On one such occasion, he brought with him a captivating Shia girl named Nusa. I chose her to accompany me that night; she was good company. Over the following days she continued to visit me and we slipped into a tentative closeness that had never taken hold with previous girls provided all too easily by Issam.
In addition, Nusa and I had not known each other long; we were little more than acquainted when we effected our the flight from the cauldron of fear and hatred that was boiling all around us.
The decision to “rescue” her was mine, although her pleading was instrumental in my decision. I did not want to have anyone in tow. I trusted no one, and bringing her with me would increase my chances of capture. However, before me was a human being, one who had been sucked into Saddam’s world just as I had been and whose very survival probably rested on my whim. I do not consider myself a hero by this action. It was a bout of humanity and normality that I had long been craving in my brutal, make-believe existence. The two of us went on to share experiences that will be related in this book, but ours was a fake “marriage” of convenience, which in many ways proved beneficial to both of us. However, the time is right for the truth to be told regarding her, and this book presents the ideal opportunity.
Apart from this detail, for which I hope the reader will forgive me, this story follows seamlessly from that told in The Devil’s Double. Revealing her presence and her identity would have imperilled both her and the family she left behind in Iraq. There was no attempt to fictionalise of gloss over the truth for reasons other than this.
I must also point out that several of the people who play their parts in this story have either had their name changed of have not been named, largely because they or their relatives are vulnerable or do not have the wherewithal to protect themselves from intelligence services and various other agencies from around the globe. They are the people who have had a place in this story thrust upon them by circumstance, rather than people who have sought privilege or position by entering the public domain. Some have confided in me and I will not betray their trust.
Conversely, there are names herein of people who have forced themselves into my life in the hope of damaging me physically, emotionally or professionally. Many of these have not benefited from anonymity. I am assured in the veracity of my story, and fear no legal action from such quarters under any law that I know of. However, one or two of those people who have caused me pain and suffering have been let off the hook somewhat because naming them would reveal the identity of someone whose anonymity I have sought to protect..