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Ala Namik's documentary is Hiding Saddam Hussein: Saved Saddam from American forces for 235 days, had to pay a heavy price.


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Iraqi-Kurdish-Norwegian filmmaker Halkawat Mustafa's documentary Hiding Saddam Hussein (2023), screened in the main competition section of the 3rd Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is about a simple farmer named Alaa who Kept Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (28 April 1937- 30 December 2006) hidden from the American army for 235 days. By the time American forces captured Iraq's presidential residence on March 20, 2003, Saddam Hussein had disappeared. A day later, his brother brought a guest to Ala Namik's house in Ad Dawar village of Tirkit city of Saladir province and said that they would stay here. That guest was none other than Iraq's deposed President Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein was also born in the village of Al Awja near the city of Tirkit.

Ala Namik arranged for their stay in his small farm house nine miles away from the town of Tirkit. It was also a coincidence that Saddam Hussein was also born in Al Awja village near Tirkit city. Later, on 13 December 2003, the American army found Saddam Hussein from a small bunker in the garden of Ala Namik and three years later, on 30 December 2006, he was publicly hanged.

Ala Namik also had to spend seven months in the dangerous Abu Ghraib prison for this and was acquitted without any charges. On the other hand, after Saddam Hussein was hanged, the film's director Halkawat Mustafa had to flee Iraq. One hundred and eighty thousand other Kurdish people were deported, killed, or disappeared.

A reward of $25 million was placed on Saddam Hussein.

Halkawat Mustafa has made this rare film after ten years of hard work based on Ala Namik's direct self-confessions in front of the camera, archival television footage and dacoit drama. In the very first scene, we see Ala Namik, dressed in traditional Arab attire, sitting cross-legged on a velvet carpet on the floor and telling how and why he saved Saddam Hussein from the American army.

America had announced a reward of 25 million dollars for information about Saddam Hussein and 15 million dollars for information about his two sons Uday and Qusay. Ala Namik, father of four children, says that for a poor farmer like him, the reward of 25 million dollars meant a lot and could shake anyone's faith, but he did not get trapped in the greed of the reward.

After both his sons were killed, he adopted Ala Namik as his son.

They did not know much about Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and exploits until then because they had no other option except government radio and television. They called Saddam Hussein master. When both his sons Uday and Kusay were killed in a US Army operation in July, he adopted thirty-two year old Ala Namik as his son. Just a few days before this incident, his two sons, hiding from the American army, had come to meet Saddam Hussein at night.

Saddam Hussein saved his life by hiding in the bunker

This proved to be their last meeting. Ala Namik made a bunker by digging a small pit in his small garden and covered its mouth with a big pot of flowers. When the movement of American troops increased, Saddam Hussein used to hide in the same pit-like bunker throughout the day. His house was raided by the American army once or twice, but Saddam Hussein was saved because he was hiding in a bunker. The entire film plays with voice-over commentary by Alaa Namik and matching video footage. Ala Namik could not even give time to his family for nine months.

Namik became Saddam Hussein's best friend

In the film, Ala Namik tells how he quickly became Saddam Hussein's most important person because he had to work from barber and cook to orderly and advisor. To regain his lost power, Saddam Hussein used to hold underground meetings with his loyal officers and was busy making strategies. It was because of these special people that he was caught. Ala Namik has accepted everything truthfully in the film. US President George Bush had alleged that there were chemical weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's palace and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had given a false statement in support of George Bush in Parliament. Those chemical weapons have not been found till date.

The film shows how an anarchic dictator turns into an ordinary human being when his life is at stake. For Ala Namik, Saddam Hussein was like a mythical character. They could not even imagine that they would ever meet him. It was a play of fate that he had to spend nine months with them.

This true story came before the world for the first time

Halkawat Mustafa narrated the story of making this film at the Red Sea International Film Festival. He said that it took 12 years to make it but for the first time the true story came before the world that how a farmer kept Saddam Hussein, who was being searched like crazy by about 1.5 lakh American soldiers, hidden for 235 days. He explains that he started searching for Ala Namik in 2011. A year later in 2012, he read an article about him in The Washington Post. After a two-year search with great difficulty, with the help of an Iraqi Sheikh, they were able to find him and persuade him to do the film. At the same time, the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) began in Iraq and Mustafa's work became easier.

Ala Namik had to pay a heavy price

Alaa Namik also came to the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah. He said that initially I thought that I should remain silent and I remained silent for twenty years because I was worried about the safety of my family. When various types of news started appearing in the press and social media, I decided that I should now tell the true story through film. In this matter the Sheikh closest to me mediated with Mustafa. Alaa Namik said that when American forces arrested him along with Saddam Hussein, he had to stay in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, located west of Baghdad, for seven months. This prison is notorious for the humiliation and inhuman torture of prisoners by the US military and the CIA. He and his family had to pay a heavy price for hiding Saddam Hussein. His father died due to this sorrow.

The film's director Halkawat Mustafa said that his focus while making the film was not the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein on the Kurdish people, especially the 1988 Halabja attack when thousands of Kurds were killed with chemical weapons. He said that his aim was to make a film not on Saddam Hussein but the man who kept him hidden for 235 days. He said that he was collecting information on this subject as an investigative journalist, but the real problem was to verify that information.



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