Few Gather To Remember At Saddam's Tomb

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
London Sunday Telegraph
December 30, 2007 By Akeel Hussein and Colin Freeman
Tucked away amid lush orange farms outside the city of Tikrit, there is a small corner of Iraq where Saddam Hussein is still thought of as the president.
The former Iraqi leader might have been hanged a year ago today, but in his ancestral village of al-Owja, where pilgrims now come to his grave, Tikrit's most famous son is still spoken of in the same awed tones as when he was alive.
"Many people have visited the president in the past year," said Sahib al-Nasseri, 45, a gravedigger and member of Saddam's tribe who looks after the modest white mausoleum where Saddam's coffin sits under an Iraqi flag.
"Some are ordinary people from Tikrit, and others are important friends of the president. But they all come here to pay their respects and kiss the grave."
On the first anniversary of his death, however, the final resting place of the man whose last words were "Iraq is nothing without me" shows little sign of becoming the shrine that many feared it would.
Saddam's more faithful old retainers in Tikrit claim his face now appears as the Man in the Moon, but had he been looking down on al-Owja 11 days ago, he might not have been particularly happy at what he would have seen.
December 19 marked a year in the Muslim religious calendar since his death, and Mr al-Nasseri, expecting a big turn-out, laid on free posters of Saddam.
Yet the supporters who gathered to commemorate by laying flowers and reading the Koran numbered only in the dozens, not the hundreds of thousands that Saddam's deluded ego might have expected.
It has been the same, by all accounts, for most of the rest of the year - visitor numbers seldom reach double figures, and on quieter days are down to just two or three.
Nor do all of Saddam's relatives come intending to pay their respects.
"As long as Saddam's body remains in that grave, we will try to destroy it," vowed Mohammed Sagaban, an al-Owja resident.
His cousin, Hussein Kamel, who was married to Saddam's daughter Raghad, defected and passed details of Iraq's secret weapons programme to the West.
Saddam lured him back to Iraq on the promise that he would be forgiven, only to have him killed as a traitor.
Since Saddam's burial, Mr Sagaban's extended family has attempted to attack the grave three times, prompting the posting of armed guards.
"Until Saddam's death we couldn't take revenge," he added. "By our tribal law we must do so now. We will only be happy when it has been destroyed. Then people will know that there are those in Tikrit who hate Saddam."
Saddam's body does not lack company in death. Also buried in al-Owja is a growing band from the "Deck of 55", the list of senior regime figures whose "wanted" mugshots were issued as playing cards by the US military in 2003.
Joining him in the cemetery in the past year have been his half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti, who was the Five of Clubs, Taha Yasi Ramadan, the Iraqi vice-president who was the Ten of Diamonds, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, Saddam's former chief judge.
They were all executed by the same war crimes court that hanged their leader.
Saddam's psychotic sons Uday and Qusay, respectively the Aces of Clubs and Diamonds, are buried in a plot nearby. They were shot by American soldiers in mid-2003.
The graveyard of the Ba'ath Party, as it may one day be known, is also expecting new arrivals.
Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, nicknamed Chemical Ali for his gassing of 5,000 Kurds in 1988, is due to hang in the coming months.