Saddam's Daughter Making
The Most Of Her
Life In Exile

By Philip Sherwell
The Telegraph - UK
AMMAN, Jordan -- "How's the coffee?" Raghad Hussein asks, with the charm of an attentive hostess. In her elegant villa in the Jordanian capital of Amman, Saddam Hussein's eldest daughter has just served us small cups of sweet, Turkish coffee and glasses of orange juice on a silver tray.
A vase of white liles and pink roses adorns the coffee table. For light reading there is a copy of Hello! magazine and a Danielle Steele bodice-ripper. Most striking, however, are the countless family photographs on display in the government guesthouse where Raghad lives in exile with her five children.
The house is a shrine to Saddam. Visitors ushered through the front door by a Filipina maid find themselves staring at a painting of the deposed dictator. AlthoughRaghad is reticent about her father's plight, her youngest daughter, 10-year-old Banan, is not.
"Saddam Hussein is a good man," she said in confident English, picking up a photograph of her grandfather in one of the spacious reception rooms. "He is in the American prison, but mom says that's not right."
Raghad may be concerned about her father but evidently she is making the most of her new way of life.
As Saddam undergoes daily interrogation by his CIA captors and Iraq is plagued by a bloody insurrection, the mother-of-five has undergone cosmetic surgery, works out several mornings a week at a smart ladies' gym and is often seen in Amman's leading jewellery and clothes stores.
Today, Raghad, 36, sweeps in wearing a beige linen trouser suit, her dark brown hair carefully highlighted and drawn back in a clasp.
"I've only just got out of the bath," she said, needlessly apologising for her appearance.
Last week, as her father's successor as Iraqi president was being announced in Baghdad, Raghad had a rather different appointment on her mind - an afternoon at her favourite hairdressing salon, spending the equivalent of £100 on highlights, and a cut and blow-dry.
Although Saddam is known to have secreted millions of dollars in bank accounts in neighbouring countries, including Jordan, before the war, the bill for Raghad's extravagant life in Amman is being footed by her hosts - to the irritation of many Jordanians, and the anger of Iraqi exiles.
Her sister, Rana, and four children are also living in Amman.
The family, however, is still struggling to recover what it believes is rightfully theirs. Raghad and her mother, Sajida, recently appointed an international team of more than a dozen lawyers to defend Saddam when he comes before Iraq's newly-created war crimes tribunals.
Remarkably, one of their first instructions to the leading Jordanian lawyer, Mohamed Roshdan, was that he should write to John Ashcroft, the American attorney-general, requesting the return of jewels from the former presidential palaces, and even the wads of dollars found with Saddam at the time of his arrest.
These were the family's personal wealth, they said, and not state property.
Raghad is reluctant to discuss politics as she is wary of offending her hosts, the Jordanian royal family.
But she strikes a conciliatory tone when she discovers that The Sunday Telegraph photographer is American although she declines to be photographed.
"I am sorry that Americans are being killed in Iraq, but they invaded our country and that is unfortunately the result," said Raghad.
"But you are an American and I am an Iraqi, and I believe that if our peoples can sit down and get to know each other, then things could be worked out."
There is a greetings card in the room from Jordan's King Abdullah. "We call upon God to embrace you with love and protection," the message reads. In Amman, Raghad said, she and her children are being well cared for.
Certainly, there is a relaxed atmosphere in the house, the familiar hubbub of children.
"Sorry about the noise," she said. "It's impossible to control these kids." Her youngest son, 12-year-old Saddam, peers down from the top of the stairs before laughing and scurrying away.
Banan, however, comes to join her in the sitting-room, chatting, playing and burrowing her head in her mother's lap.
There is no sign that they have suffered from their undoubtedly traumatic childhoods. Banan, for example, points out photographs of her Uncle Uday and stands up for her grandfather, even though Saddam ordered the death of her father, Hussein Kamel, and Uday apparently carried out the order.
Once a close associate of Saddam, Raghad's husband was killed on Saddam's orders after he fled to Jordan in 1995, disclosing details of Iraq's secret weapons programmes before being lured back to Baghdad in 1996 on false promises of a pardon.
Rana's husband, Saddam Kamel - Hussein's brother - suffered the same fate.
Raghad and Rana were reportedly estranged from Saddam after the killings - effectively living under house arrest for a time - but now back their father.
In their new life in exile, there are few pictures of Hussein Kamel. Instead of house arrest in Iraq, the family are guarded by Jordanian paramilitary police officers. Diplomatic protection squad officers drive Raghad around town on her trips to the shops, gym and beauty salon.
Raghad's svelte figure is impressive for a woman who bore her first child when she was 16 and had had four more by the time she was 26.
The look is, however, not all down to visits to the gym - it also owes something to surgery. Her cosmetic surgeon, Ghaith Shubeilat, is among the best-known in the region and the brother of a pro-Saddam Jordanian MP.
Mr Shubeilat confirmed that Raghad was his client - and a friend who attends parties at his house - but declined to give details of her surgery. "That would breach my relationship with my client," he said.
Other Jordanians who visited the Amman Surgical Hospital last summer, however, were told that Raghad had undergone cosmetic surgery on her breasts, and possibly also a tummy tuck last August, shortly after her brothers Uday and Qusay were killed in a shoot-out with US forces in Iraq.
At the same time, survivors of the bomb attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad were being treated in nearby wards.
It is not the first time that Raghad has taken advantage of exile in Amman to improve her appearance. During her last stay there, she also had operations to reduce the width of her nose and reduce the bags under her eyes.
Raghad's interest in her looks at a time when her former country is reeling infuriates former Iraqi exiles in Amman. "The woman has no shame, none at all," said one. "That's the worst thing about her."
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.



This Site Served by TheHostPros