Saturday, 3 March 2007 7:31am UK
Latif Yahia is the kind of man who attracts plenty of curious
"Immaculately groomed and well spoken, he could be
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.
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."
9 November, 2009 | By Jeremy Kay
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.
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?