Uday Hussein

Violent eldest son of Saddam Hussein
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The Independent Online

Uday Hussein al-Tikriti, politician and businessman: born Baghdad 9 March 1964; three times married (three sons); died Mosul, Iraq 22 July 2003.

Among the dramatic images seen earlier this year as Baghdad fell to Allied troops was a picture of a bare-footed Hassan Atiya riding off on a dark brown Arabian Appaloosa horse he had looted from among 40 horses found in the grounds of the palace compound belonging to Uday Hussein, eldest son of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The impoverished Iraqi horseman told reporters that he had no food for his family, but was "very happy to have a fine horse". Hassan Atiya and other looters said they were just reclaiming part of what Saddam and his children had stolen from them over the years.

Uday was a playboy with a history of violence and hooliganism, a womaniser, a rapist and a pathological killer. Taking advantage of UN sanctions on Iraq since 1990, he had built a vast empire of wealth and influence. His business was smuggling - oil, cigarettes and other banned material, plus alcohol to the dry countries of the Gulf - as well as farming and horse-breeding. He used his position to fix prices for the materials he bought and the goods he sold. He also headed television and radio stations, was chairman of the board of seven weekly newspapers in Iraq and owned a night-club as a cover to import Russian call-girls for his own pleasure. He seemed proud of his reputation and called himself "Abu Sarhan" ("father of wolves").

Born in the al-Karch area of Baghdad in 1964, Uday grew up in an environment of underground activity, organised crime and violence. Saddam would joke about how "baby" Uday helped the underground activities of the Baath movement - his mother Sajida smuggled instructions, keys, maps, even pistols and bullets in Uday's nappies during visits to the jailed Saddam between 1964 and 1966.

On the night of the successful Baath coup in 1968, Sajida kept four-year-old Uday and his toddler brother Qusay busy playing with hand-grenades and guns while she prepared their father's two revolvers for action. By 1969, Uday was enrolled at the local primary school and three years later he joined the children of the ruling Baathist élite, rich Iraqis and European diplomats at Baghdad College, which had been established by American missionaries after the Second World War.

Aged five, Uday joined a family picnic in a public square to watch the hanging of dozens of "spies", mainly Iraqi Jews. Saddam boasted that he toughened his boys up by taking them to watch the torture of "enemies of the nation" and liquidation of "traitors".

Opposition sources claim that the 15-year-old Uday participated in the massacre of cabinet ministers that consolidated his father's grip on power in 1979, the year that Saddam became president and that Uday went to university to read Architecture. He graduated in 1983 in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war and showed an interest in military life. He joined Al-Bakr Military Academy where he studied military strategy, and learnt to fly a helicopter. Uday caused havoc by flying missions without much preparation but his father banned him from doing so after he destroyed vehicles and caused several deaths on his own side.

According to former regime officials, Uday had a short attention span and little academic talent. Teachers and lecturers were lined up at his father's palaces to give him private tuition or to write essays for him; in return for high marks, they received gold watches and expensive gifts. Some claim that Uday's master's thesis on "Iraqi military strategy during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war" was ghost-written by the military strategist Mohammed el-Dury, an adviser in the Foreign Ministry.

From 1985 Uday ran a youth radio station and later a television station, and established a youth paper. In 1990 he launched the daily newspaper Babel (Arabic for "Babylon"), which became the voice of Baathism.

At university Uday had wanted to marry a fellow student from a prominent Iraqi family. He was overruled by his father who only believed in inner-clan and cousin marriage, to strengthen loyalty. The rejection made Uday more wild and there were endless stories about him snatching women and forcing them to have sex with him. One of them was a bride, the day after her wedding, whom he raped before she fell to her death from the balcony of his hotel room. Her husband was executed as a traitor for "cursing the President's son". In 1983 Saddam ordered Uday to marry Nada, the daughter of his cousin "Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majid, and she bore him two sons, but they were later divorced.

Saddam was growing impatient with his son's behaviour and would often dress him down before other family members. The last straw came in 1988 when, in a fit of rage, Uday beat Kamel Hannah, Saddam's closest bodyguard and food-taster, to death with a baseball bat. Saddam banished Uday to Geneva to stay with his uncle, Saddam's half-brother Barzan. There, in an Islamic ceremony, Uday was married to Barzan's daughter Suja, but the marriage was never consummated, causing a rift in the family. Suja, who had grown up in Switzerland, rejected Uday for his violent temper and ill treatment of her. He was deported from Geneva a year later for brandishing a gun in a public place.

His father gradually forgave him from 1991 onwards, with a total family reunion in 1992. Uday was at the forefront of the brutal campaign of torturing and killing of soldiers who had rebelled or defected following the Gulf War of 1991. Uday's two brothers-in-law, Saddam and Hussein Kamel, defected to Jordan in 1995 and he further redeemed himself when he lured them back to Baghdad and personally took part in their execution in 1996. They had originally defected along with their wives, Uday's sisters, following a furious fight with him.

Uday was ordered by his father to marry again, to Suha, the daughter of the Iraqi vice-president Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri. She gave him a third son, but insiders say that he treated her badly, although she was ordered to keep quiet by her father.

Uday took direct charge of the Iraqi football team's attempt to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States and again in 1998 for France. There were reports that Uday had players humiliated, beaten and tortured if they played badly or lost critical matches. He had his own prison and torture chambers in the basement of the building of the Iraqi Olympic committee which he chaired. An investigation by Fifa, international football's governing body, found no evidence against Uday; but the claim was repeated in 2000 after the defection of Iraq's star footballer Sharar Haydar.

In 1996 Uday was badly injured in an assassination attempt by gunmen who opened fire on his car as he drove to a party. Some insiders suggested the attack was organised by his younger brother Qusay. Bullets shattered one of his lower joints and pelvis; they were repaired by doctors using titanium pins. After his discharge from hospital in June 1997, he suffered from severe depression and violent rages. In July that year he shot dead a young bodyguard, and a week later killed a woman he wanted to seduce at the presidential palace because she refused to give a blood sample for an Aids test.

Although Uday held a seat in the Iraqi parliament and was in charge of many organisations, it was Qusay, more stable than his brother, who was being groomed as Saddam's successor.

Adel Darwish

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