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Saddam is popular again in some Sunni corners of the Middle East

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tags: Saddam Hussein



Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq who ruled with an iron fist for 24 years, is still a matter of debate in the Arab world. Despite his execution and the extensive de-Baathification program in Iraq, which aims to remove all Baath elements from the state institutions and the society, some Sunni groups in the country which have been marginalized under Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government have turned back to Saddam Hussein’s legacy. These groups carry Baath-era Iraqi flags in protests, they celebrate Saddam’s birthday, and elegize his execution. Even though Shiites and Kurds, the main victims of Saddam’s ruthless rule, are not happy with the rise of his ghost from the grave, this trend is not limited to Iraq.

In Jordan, a small country located in the middle of the regional crisis, it is interesting to observe that some hotels still continue to fly the Baath-era Iraqi flag. Even on souvenirs, such as cups or small carpets, the Baath era’s three-star flag inscribed with Allahu Akbar (God is Great) is used. One can see Saddam Hussein’s pictures in shops, in buses, or on the rear windows of cars. Recent developments in Iraq and Syria further strengthen this commemorative sentiment.

There are a number of reasons for people to yearn for Saddam Hussein. The first reason is his antagonism toward Israel. Rancorously opposing Israel wins credit for politicians in almost every Muslim country. However, in order to analyze Jordan, one should keep in mind that more than half of the Jordanian population is comprised of Palestinians. There were approximately 200,000 inhabitants in the region that composes the modern-day Jordanian state when Britain first drew the borders. Amman was a small town at that period. Every expansion of Israel produced influxes of Palestinians to Jordan and now, these Palestinians constitute a huge segment of Jordanian society. Even though many of them integrated into Jordanian society, the idea of “free Palestine” is still the dream of many. For instance, a school teacher whom I met in Amman told me that he named three of his daughters after Palestinian cities in order to make them always remember their origins. Saddam’s anti-Zionist rhetoric, the aid he offered to Palestinian groups, and the missiles he sent to Israel (almost everybody I talked to attached special importance to this) make Saddam Hussein the defender of Palestine in the eyes of many.

Read entire article at Journal of Turkish Weekly

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