Yemeni reaction to Saddam's death sentence
Trip Start Oct 13, 2005
22Trip End Dec 22, 2006
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I realise this is a little late in the day and has thus somewhat lost its resonance, but I found a newspaper last week dedicated entirely to Saddam Hussein in the wake of his death sentence. It really is priceless and I couldn't resist blogging about it. I've spent some of the last week trying to translate parts of it and below are my fairly accurate translations of some of the headlines and also a somewhat questionable translation of a poem about Saddam. I've also included with my headline translations the Arabic phonetics (as close as is possible) so that you can have a go at speaking Arabic yourselves - fun and games for all!
("suqut rihan al-ghaza al-muhtaleen ala aidi al-muqawama")
"The downfall of the occupiers' gambled campaign of conquest is in the hands of the resistance"
- God bless Adobe Photoshop! And who says there's no freedom of the press in the non-democratic Middle East? As long as you're abusing America and not your own government, it appears you can print some fairly crazy (but amusing) stuff! Ahh, 'The Daily Mirror' (and 'The Independent' for that matter) can only dream of printing such a front-page!
("yajib i'dam Bush wa Rumsfeld awla")
"They should execute Bush and Rumsfeld first" (says Chavez)
- the picture, if you can't make it out, is of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who recently described Bush as Satan in front of the UN General Assembly. This predictably has made him somewhat of a hero in the Middle East, but something tells me this newspaper made up his "quote"!
("a-suhuf al-Breetania wa al-Amreekia tahadhur min awaqib hukm al-i'dam")
"The newspapers of Britain and America are wary of the consequences of the death sentence"
Bloody right they are!
(" i'dad da'wa jana'iya dhid Bush wa a'wanahu taqadam ila al-mahkama al-jana'iya a-dowliya bimajrad intiha fitra walayatahu")
"Preparation for a criminal lawsuit against Bush and his accomplices to be handed over to the International Criminal Court when he finishes his period of rule"
- Uhh, I think not somehow! That's a damned huge 'insha'allah' if ever I've heard one!!
("kaif istaqbal al-hukam i'lan hukm al-i'dad?")
"How did the Arab leaders receive the death sentence announcement?"
- Well, let's see... my old buddy, Yemeni President Saleh says in the article that the dictatorship of Saddam was better than the democracy that America has installed in Iraq now. It's a damning indictment of American and British policy in Iraq that, as vile as Saddam's regime was, this is a statement with which it is increasingly difficult to disagree.
("al-baTal al-qawmi/Saddam Hussein")
"People's Hero/Saddam Hussein"
- Question is... what's he smiling at? Perhaps a freshly-delivered baby has arrived for his dinner!
And now for the poem!
'Beloved Baghdad of my master'
My master, my spirit and my soul with your name become higher
You became powerful and tall on the back of glories,
Saddam if I enquire of you in spite of my tears
Then the tears refuse to be frozen
And with tears my master, in front of you I bow
In each moment without heresy
And I fall down worshipping your awesome kindness
With the sword and lion-courage the time of fighting
Excused, you frighten him what he has seen, my master
Of the infidel sons of Israel in Baghdad
And the sadness my master fills my being
And the letters flow from the ink
My master the time became long and I didn't see
Except the injury to Arabism increasing
My master they abandoned you in the battlefield
And they didn't recognize your appointment with death was gathering
They sold you and they still sell you in my blood
And they export their atrocities and hatreds
From where should I begin in the Arabism, my master
For Baghdad has cried for Arabism
My sadness for Baghdad cannot be ended
For she is a prisoner in the hands of the scoundrels
Ahh, for the love of Baghdad, my master
For in captivity you are slaughtered and Iraq is annihilated
- I can't be certain, but I suspect this was written by George Galloway some time between smoking a cigar and pretending to be a cat in the Celebrity Big Brother house! Haha, no just kidding - it's not euphuistic enough to have been penned by that popinjay (to use his favourite word).
Well anyway, I think this newspaper is fairly representative of the general sentiment of people on the streets of Yemen to Saddam's death sentence. When they look at it they see only the sad demise from great strength of an Arab leader, which does not sit well in a culture where pride dictates so much of behaviour. Even those who accept he deserves punishment are disgusted by the nature of the sentence - they see 'death by hanging' as an American death sentence and American justice, thus further deepening the sense of American imperialism in Iraq (the usual death sentence in this part of the world is 'death by firing-squad').
To put in my tuppence worth, I'm against his death sentence too (though for different reasons) and I think it's a total farce. I'd have liked to have seen a 'proper' trial in the Hague, but, from my fading memory of the International Law module of my Masters, I'm pretty sure Iraq and the US are not signatories to the relevant treaties and conventions that would have made this possible. And with his death will come martyrdom, and with martyrdom will come, in the eyes of many, the glorification of the innumerable atrocities he committed, the majority for which he will never now have to stand trial.
Stick a fork in me - I'm done.