ON U.S. SOIL
Many Who Fled Dictator Feel Jubilation, Relief
Sunday, December 31, 2006; Page A21
Ibrahim Mizouri's death vigil for Saddam Hussein began at six o'clock Friday night.
Forced to flee Iraq in the 1970s when Hussein's Baath Party rose to power, Mizouri sat at his home in Annandale, eager to hear the story of the dictator's final moments. For him, Hussein's hanging was an emotional catharsis, the final act in a drama that has affected Mizouri's life as it has thousands of Iraqis who have washed up on U.S. shores, seeking safety from a dictator known for his ruthlessness.
"I was glued to the TV channel, CNN and Fox, just changing when they have the commercials, to 4 o'clock in the morning," Mizouri said. "When I saw the pictures, I said then, 'It's enough.' "
Among Iraqi Americans, the emotions that accompanied Hussein's execution were complex, ranging from jubilant to relieved to disappointed.
In Dearborn, Mich., home to one of the largest concentrations of Middle Easterners in the United States, cheering crowds thanked God for Hussein's death, saying the dictator had finally met justice after killing thousands of Iraqi citizens with bombs, bullets and chemical weapons.
"This is our celebration of the death of Saddam," Imam Husham Al-Husainy, director of the Karbalaa Islamic Educational Center mosque in Dearborn, said while standing on top of a car, the Associated Press reported. "The gift of our New Year is the murder of Saddam Hussein. If you want to share the Iraqi people's happiness for the death of Saddam, raise your voice and your hands."
Others, such as Mizouri, were relieved, saying that only Hussein's death could ensure that the dictator would not return to power.
"Everybody's happy because we know for sure, 100 percent, that he's not going to come back," Mizouri said. "Honestly, this should have happened the very first day."
Some said they felt that Hussein's trial for the killing of 148 Shiites in the town of Dujail in 1982 had been lacking the majesty and importance commensurate with the scale of his crimes, particularly the 1987-88 Anfal campaign that killed tens of thousands of Kurds in the north and the 1991 massacre of thousands of Shiites in the south. But they added that the execution was necessary in order to move on.
"I think this is something that definitely needed to be done," said Safa Alkateb, a business executive from McLean. "I think it's really the best that you can do in the country right now. I think, given the situation, it's very, very difficult to do something better."
Najmaldim Karim, a neurosurgeon and president of the Washington Kurdish Institute, said he was disappointed by the news and thought the execution had been rushed before Hussein could account for his repression of Shiites and Kurds.
"I think it will give the impression that this was vengeance," Karim said. "It was definitely a great injustice to the survivors and the families. . . . I think there are a lot of questions that we probably will never know."
Like many Iraqi Americans, Karim thought the execution would not make a difference in the daily suffering of those still in Iraq, living amid constant sectarian violence and instability.
"In the short run, it probably will increase the violence," Karim said. "In the long run, it will lead to more animosity among the Sunnis because they will see this as vengeance. I think it will polarize them even more, personally."
Ali Attar, a doctor from McLean, was more optimistic and happy to see Hussein gone. Attar was forced to leave Iraq in 1980 because of his father's political activity.
"I am very happy to see this day," Attar said. "Although my father passed away 15 years ago, I am sure that in his grave he feels very happy that justice is served. The message of the new Iraq is different than the old Iraq. He got a trial I believe he would never give to any of his opponents."