Iraq bans children's visits to Saddam's grave

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The Independent Online

Iraq's government has ordered authorities in Saddam Hussein's home town to ban schoolchildren from visiting the grave of the former dictator after a video showed a group of schoolgirls singing his praises at the site.

The order from the cabinet was accompanied by other directives aimed at stripping Saddam's reign of any mystique, calling for some signs and monuments dating to before the 2003 US-led invasion to be dismantled because they "glorified the past regime".

"The [cabinet] ordered the Ministry of Education, Salahuddin province, and the provincial council [of Tikrit, in Salahuddin] to take the necessary steps to ban organised visits to the former president's grave and to avoid what happened in the visit to the grave by schoolgirls in Tikrit," the government statement said. An official at the government's National Media Centre said the order applied to schools in Salahuddin. He said that no one from elsewhere in the country was likely to organise a school tour to the grave.

Saddam's grave is regularly viewed by small groups of his admirers. He was toppled in the US invasion before disappearing. Eventually he was caught and put on trial for the murder of 148 men and boys after an assassination attempt, a crime for which he was executed in December 2006.

Iraq's Shia Muslim-led government has little tolerance for the continued admiration of Saddam, whose Sunni Arab-led government persecuted, and sometimes massacred, members of the Shia majority. Efforts to reconcile Iraq's fractious groups after the years of sectarian bloodshed unleashed by the US invasion are not open to those members of his Baath party who are still viewed as having blood on their hands.