Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was born April 28, 1937 and died December 30, 2006. He was the fifth President of Iraq, holding that position from July 16, 1979 until 9 April 2003. As one of the leading members of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, and afterward, the Baghdad-based Ba’ath Party and its regional organization Ba’ath Party, Iraq Region, which advocated ba’athism, an ideological marriage of Arab nationalism with Arab socialism. Saddam played a pivotal role in the 1968 coup that elevated the party to power in Iraq. Saddam was convicted in November 5, 2006 for the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites and was sentenced to death by hanging. His execution was carried out on December 30, 2006. Although dead 7 years now, his hold on absolute power for nearly 25 years unquestionably left an indelible mark on Iraq society, which to this day, has its residual effects. Jamal Penjweny takes a look at the ambivalent nature of the relationship between the Iraqi people and Saddam Hussein.
The Iraqi-Kurdish photographer’s project is called Saddam is Here. Many conflicting accounts surfaced of the man that the media has largely portrayed as an evil, one dimensional tyrant. True to most dictators, they are either beloved by their people or are deeply reviled. This is the fate of most strongmen, leaders that must bear the harsh judgment that comes after their despotic regimes. Words such as “Generous,” “cruel,” “a good father,” “criminal,”, are not at all surprising.
According to Penjweny, “his shadow is still following Iraqi society everywhere”. He goes on to say that that “Iraqi society cannot forget him even after his death because some of us still love him and the rest are still afraid of him”. He likewise observes that in Baghdad, he feels that Saddam still very much exists as reflected in the way the people interact with each other.
It was this uncanny behavior that prompted Penjweny to shoot Saddam is Here, a concept that requested different people to cover their faces with a picture of Saddam. While there were some unwilling to participate in the project, Penjweny believes that art plays a vital part in facing the past and overcoming its ghosts.
See Saddam is Here and commiserate with a people still trying to move on.