As the search for Saddam goes on, a daughter of the ousted Iraqi leader has told a British weekly she is convinced her father is still alive. In her first interview, Raghad, 36, said, "I know he survived the war."
Raghad described how she, one of her sisters and their children, escaped being killed by US missiles at a family farm on the first night of the US-led war. The former Iraqi president’s eldest daughter said she was no longer in touch with her father or brothers Uday and Qusay, but believed they had all survived, she told the British Sunday Times.
"The last time I spoke to my father was five days before the war," she said. "He was in good spirits. I know he survived the war. But once Baghdad fell it was all so quick, all the family went our own ways. I am not in touch with any of them. But I believe they are still alive."
Regarding Saddam, she said, "I hope he's alive. He was a very good father."
Speaking to The Sunday Times from the home of her brother-in-law, Jamal Kamel, Raghad denied reports that she had considered seeking asylum in Britain. "I like England," she said. "I have been there before and it's nice, quiet and very cold. But politically it is impossible."
She described her family's fear when the "shock and awe" bombing campaign started. "It was terrifying," she said. "The first night I was on our farm in Baghdad with my sister and our children and 10 missiles fell all around us. We just got to the shelter so we were not hurt but we were very scared. Every night, the noise."
Raghad revealed that she was still in Iraq this weekend, living with her four children aged between 10 and 19, and with her sister Rana, 34, and her three children. The family did not leave the capital Baghdad until April 9, the day the city fell.
"We heard on the radio that the Americans had entered the city and occupied it so at noon that day we all left.
"After a few days everyone went their own way. We tried to hide in Baghdad. We had not expected it to happen so quickly." She and her sister were now living in "a simple house", she added.
Speaking fluent English, which she learnt at Baghdad University where she specialized in translation, she said, "I spend my days cooking typical Iraqi food, washing dishes, doing housework, laundry.
"I do things I never did in the past because since I was a child we always had maids, housekeepers and lived in big houses with swimming pools."
Raghad and Rana were reported to have been estranged from their father since the murder of their husbands, Hussein Kamel al-Majid and his brother Saddam Kamel, both cousins of Saddam.
Once head of Saddam's weapons procurement program, Hussein Kamel became Iraq’s highest-level defector when he and his brother fled to Jordan in 1995, taking their families with them. After returning six months later, apparently believing they would be forgiven, they were murdered.
Refusing to speak about her husband's killing, Raghad dismissed the notion that she had broken off relations with her father, "He is my father and I am his daughter. He was a good father and a good grandfather."
Raghad does not go out, "I don't like the situation, the American troops everywhere, seeing the statues of my father broken, his pictures torn down. You can imagine how I feel."
She said she had accepted that there was no immediate future for her in Iraq. "I cannot stay in my country," she said. "Rana and I discuss all the time where we can live."
She is believed to be negotiating for asylum in the United Arab Emirates, the British weekly added. "All I want is to be able to live peacefully with no fear and nobody asking us any awkward questions. “We have been through a lot and now we just want peace”, she said.
Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers late Saturday told Fox News Channel that most Iraqis believe that Saddam is still alive and therefore US troops must step up their efforts to find him or his remains.
"Probably the majority opinion is that he is alive, and that is something that has to be dealt with." The top US military commander made clear that perceptions were sometimes as important as hard facts, and that the rumors circulating about Saddam had to be addressed.
"If anybody else inside Iraq, particularly the former Baathists, think he is alive then that can be a problem," the general pointed out. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )