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Saddam Hussein silenced his people ©Sipa/Shutterstock

I was Saddam’s prisoner

How a holiday to Iraq in the summer of 1990 turned into a months-long nightmare

Waiting in the immigration queue at Saddam International Airport, I was feverish with anxiety. I watched as my father, Sadiq Rahim, leaned into a glass booth where an Iraqi officer slowly checked our family’s passports. Taped on the glass was a photo of Saddam Hussein in sunglasses and a black beret. Before flying out, our parents had warned my older sister and me that Iraq wasn’t like Britain: a stray joke or misplaced comment could land us in serious trouble. Our one protection was our British citizenship—Saddam being an ally of the west. Cigarette smoke drifted from the booth. Then the officer stamped our visa pages and nodded us through. The date was 28th July, 1990. Five days later Iraq invaded Kuwait, and our short tourist trip turned into a months-long nightmare.

Thirty years on, I find it hard to describe what happened to me in Iraq. The…

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