Latest Issue

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…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect