As the body double for Saddam Hussein's son, Latif Yahia suffered several assassination attempts. Having escaped to Offaly, the controversial figure is now seriously at odds with his adopted country.
The former body double of Saddam Hussein’s sadistic son, Uday, is now living in (of all places) Offaly. Latif Yahia’s account of his time serving as the dictator’s son’s double would make a Hollywood screenwriter salivate.
Indeed, the 42-year-old recently sold the rights to his two autobiographies, I Was Saddam’s Son and The Devil’s Double, to the film company Pâté, with pre-production work already underway on what will certainly make for a fascinating insight into the demi-monde of Saddam’s regime.
Latif came to notice as a possible double, or ‘Fidai’ as they are referred to in Iraq, when he first met Uday in school.
He insists that he only agreed, reluctantly, to undertake what was a deadly dangerous role when the regime’s cronies arrested him and threatened to rape his younger sisters. Latif suffered several assassination attempts and was shot 11 times, with the last bullet lodged in his right shoulder coming from the gun of Uday himself. He states categorically that Uday – who he describes as “pure evil” – murdered his father.
Perhaps there’s an even better film in how Latif managed to abscond from Saddam’s clutches to a suburban housing estate in Daingean, County Offaly. He tells it like this.
Aided by the CIA, he was transported to Austria. Placed in a refugee camp there, he became incensed by conditions and took a policeman hostage to negotiate better living conditions. He alleges that the CIA then kept him incarcerated illegally for 10 months, as they attempted to pump him for confidential information about Saddam. Later, in Norway, Latif was so upset by the conditions in another refugee camp that he threatened to burn the place down.
Eventually, Latif, who has a PhD in international law, opted to come here. He relished the thought, he says, of settling down and living a mundane life in rural Ireland. But this dream has since been shattered by, he alleges, sinister CIA agents who vowed to crush him for refusing to co-operate and become a spy.
Since he rejected their offer, Latif says that his request for Irish citizenship was rejected – despite the fact that his is married to a Dublin woman, with whom he has a child.
Recently, a fabricated story alleging that he was an international arms dealer appeared in the tabloid press, and he successfully sued one Sunday paper for printing this story. Latif is adamant that both situations can be traced back to his refusal to cooperate with the CIA.
Throughout our conversation, he speaks passionately. You can sense that he is volatile, and much of what he says may be deemed to have the ring of the fantasiscal about it. But that may be a misreading. Latif Yahia has some deadly serious things to say…
He admits to arriving in Ireland under a bogus passport…
“I was in Austria with my real name and I had two assassination attempts. I went to London and I had an assassination attempt. At this time, Saddam was still strong,” he says. “In the end, I found out that my ex-partner was passing on information to the intelligence service. I left her and I came here and applied under a false name – not because I am doing fraud, not because I want to do something wrong, just so nobody knows where Latif Yahia is. Just to disappear. Because there was no Iraqi embassy here. I am safe here.”
Alleges he was beaten up by a Gardaí
“There is no justice in this country,” he states. “If I do this to you (shows photograph of his badly beaten face), what happens to you, do you go to court? I was beaten up by a Garda. They (the Gardaí) wrote to the Department of Justice, saying, ‘(We) believe that Latif Yahia is a terrorist.’ To cover themselves. I wrote and complained to the Commissioner of Police and he is not going to trust Latif Yahia, a foreign piece of shit who came in hunger from his country. But I am not hungry. My father was the third (richest) millionaire in Iraq. I come for political reasons. They think each one coming to this country is hungry, and is coming to take the Irish money. In the end, after two months, I received a letter from the head commissioner, saying I was harassing the Gardaí.
Why would the Gardaí pick on him?
“This Garda, I don’t want to mention his name, was the boyfriend of my ex and one day I came down and I saw him with my ex, and they did this job to me (points to photograph). He holds me and she puts a glass in my face. I get 46 or 47 stitches. You can see the scar on my face. After that I went to the Garda to make a complaint, but they didn’t want to take it. They said, ‘You are going to lose your citizenship.’ They used exactly these words: ‘We are going to fuck you. We are going to deport you back to where you came from if you open your mouth.’ I am not the kind of person to take a threat. I fought Saddam Hussein.”
On plans to leave Ireland…
“I applied for citizenship in 2001. I was the longest case in this country to be processed. In the end they make an excuse, after five years of waiting, because I started talking in the media. Michael McDowell – I call him Michael McFool – will refuse citizenship even if you have a parking ticket. I don’t even have a parking ticket. I am not staying in this country. I left my country because I couldn’t find justice, and I came into another Iraq! Michael McDowell is the biggest racist in this country. I have been refused citizenship in this country which, I am sorry to say, is a shame on Ireland. There are four European countries that all offer me citizenship. I am leaving to go to Germany for a couple of reasons. I have a son there and I think Germany is a country of law, no no matter what colour you are.”
On Shannon Airport…
“America doesn’t need Shannon,” he argues, “but they want to show the world that there is a lot of countries supporting them. I am taking these words straight out of a big politician in this country, who is my friend for eight years. He told me when he met George Bush, Bush threatened him and said: ‘We have 24,000 Irish persons living in the US that don’t have green cards. We can deport them back to Ireland.’”
Ireland is now a legitimate target in the eyes of Islamic extremists…
“Ireland is not neutral,” he says. “Ireland is one of the big targets. Irish people are going to have a hard time, like the American people. If you go to Shannon, I don’t think you will see one Irish civilian there, it is an American base. Even if Islamic extremists don’t attack Shannon, Ireland is still going to be targeted – by even America! They are going to make something to blame on Islamic terrorists. The have got to do something to make believe that Islamic terrorists are coming to Ireland.”
Iran has suicide bombers, or “sleepers”, living in Ireland.
“A long time ago Iran trained suicide bombers to come into the West,” he states. “Since 1988, the Iranians have been building themselves up in the West. They send over refugees, which are the intelligence service for Islamic jihad. They have been told to claim asylum and get citizenship in these countries. There are a lot of them in Ireland. They are going to harm Irish citizens. They are going to blow up any part of Ireland that can hurt the Irish and damage the economy of Ireland. They are going to put a bad name on Ireland to not bring any more investors.”
He informed the Special Branch about the possibility of attacks within Ireland.
“I told the Special Branch that something is going on in this country,” he recounts. “They didn’t believe it, they said I was talking bullshit. I talked to the Special Branch, you know what his answer to me was? ‘I don’t give a fuck. In eight months time, I’m retired.’ I don’t want to see this country harmed, because this country is a beautiful country. I am Irish more than the Irish!”
On the CIA operating in Ireland
“The CIA have a small prison in Shannon,” he claims. “This is how they exchange the prisoners to Guantanamo Bay. A lot of innocent people have been exchanged through Shannon. The Special Branch don’t have a clue. Any intelligent Irish person realises that Ireland is a state of America. Last December, the CIA contacted me and said, ‘Look, Latif, we can give you citizenship in Ireland. We control a lot of things here. We can make you happy and a multimillionaire again. Or, we can,’ – they said exactly these words – ‘we are going to fuck you and fuck your mother.’ I tell them, ‘I don’t work for you and fuck Bush. And get out of this house.’ After three weeks, I received a letter from Michael McFool and he refused my citizenship. Before that they had sent me a letter saying don’t contact this office until the middle of 2008 – three weeks after kicking out the CIA, I got the letter.”
He is calling on the Irish government to stop the usage of Shannon by the American military and to apologise to the Arab world. Only this, he says, will prevent the deaths of innocent Irish citizens.
“There is no chance,” he observes, “that Ireland would have been targeted (if Shannon was not used by American military). Now, when you say Ireland, the Arab world thinks, ‘American arse, or American state’. This is the picture now. If they close Shannon (to the US army), they still have time to apologise and make this country become neutral again. I don’t think the government here have a clue about what is going on. Plus, they don’t care about Irish people, they care about their pockets. They don’t care about the next generation.”
On allegations of him being an international arms dealer…
“One of the articles said I was a weapons dealer,” he laughs. “I don’t think a weapons dealer would live my life. Weapon dealers have six/seven citizenships around the world. If I am a weapons dealer, how come I don’t have any citizenship?”
On censorship in Ireland…
“My new book is not available in Ireland,” he complains. “It sold 24,000 copies around the world, but it is ‘banned’ in Ireland because I talk about the CIA. I am writing something against America and the CIA. When I say America, I mean American government and foreign policy. They don’t want it read here. This is why, I say to you, the Irish media wasn’t fair to me, because I think the government controls the papers here. I was never humiliated by the media, except here (in Ireland). I would be absolutely shocked if this interview is published accurately.”
On Osama Bin Laden
“After September 11, one newspaper wrote a small article on the front page that the double of Saddam’s son is the right hand of Bin Laden in Ireland!” he recalls. “I don’t know how they come up with that! Bin Laden, he drink Guinness? I never met Bin Laden. I don’t believe (in) Bin Laden. Bin Laden is the son of America. I don’t believe (in) Al Qaeda. If a freedom fighter in Iraq hits an American (solider) he is a freedom fighter. To hit any civilian is a terrorist. This is what I want to pass to the media but they don’t want to listen.”
Corruption in Ireland...
“The Irish government say this is a free country, but I don’t think Ireland is a free country,” he says. “At Christmas, somebody called me from the Department of Justice, and he said to me, ‘You hand me €50,000 and you have your citizenship, because we deal with these things here. I can write the report to give you citizenship, or I can write the report that you never get it.’ If you go to the Gardaí (about this), the Gardaí is full of corruption. Where do you go?”
On Latif Yahai, peacemaker…
“In the Irish media, they never talk about Latif Yahai as a peacemaker,” he says bitterly. “I have a title and I am recognised by the United Nation as an ambassador of peace. The last peace mission I did was a 5,800 walk from Jerusalem to Tripoli, in 32 days. The UN was behind that. With the last tsunami in Asia, I helped; why do they not mention that? I donated money and I donated medication. I never did fundraising, (it was) always my money. With all my books, I never put a cent in my pocket. This (new) book, the profits go to the children’s hospital here. Not one paper has mentioned my peace missions, not one paper.”
On Saddam Hussein…
“I met Saddam nearly once a week for four-and-a-half years,” he discloses. “He was a great President and suitable for the Iraqi people because, look at America, they can’t even control a small area of Iraq now. I am not pro-Saddam. I fight for 15 years against his government, but I never had a problem with Saddam Hussein as a person. I met him, I sit with him, we even exchanged jokes. He was a funny guy. I tell him joke about what the people say outside about him, and he laughing. Plus, he was very religious, but the people here don’t know that. He would pray. The problem was the people around Saddam fed him with false information. It is exactly like Michael McFool. The people around him – the Gardaí, the Special Branch – feed him with wrong information. The problem with Saddam was that he trusted the people around him. I was against his regime…”
On Saddam’s son, Uday.
“Absolutely evil,” he spits. “Uday tortured me. He shaved off all my moustache and eyebrows with his own hands. This is how I left Iraq. When I left Iraq, he shot me himself in my right shoulder. I had 11 assassination attempts. I have a couple of bullets in my body. He killed my father. They poisoned him. I can’t forget or forgive myself (about that).”
George Bush Jr and war crimes…
“He is a murderer and he must be brought to justice,” he argues. “He must be hanged. I am against the death penalty because I am a member of Amnesty International. But I want to see George Bush hanged in the same place as Saddam Hussein.
How his mother was refused asylum in Ireland.
“I paid $22,000 to smuggle my mother and my niece and nephew out of Iraq, to Ireland,” he confesses. “They were refused straightaway as asylum seekers. I don’t know who gets asylum here if my mother doesn’t! Again – Michael McFool. After two weeks – this was one-and-a-half year ago – they refused her, before even the immigration Gardaí do their investigation. She was refused and we went to a tribunal and the tribunal says, ‘Who’ll prove this is your mother?’ Do you think I would bring a 67-years-old woman and two children and pretend they are my family? They sent me for a DNA test. I paid (for it) from my own pocket in Blackrock Clinic and the result came in 99.7 she is my mother. Nobody is educated in the civil service. They sent me a letter asking why isn’t the DNA 100%! I showed it to my solicitor and he laughed. Is anybody 100% in this world? In an Irish court, 99.4 is acceptable. This is why I am leaving, because there is no chance here for my mother to stay. A tribunal should give you an answer within a maximum of eight weeks, but this is seven months I am waiting. I call them and they make excuses.”
Plans for legal action against Irish state.
“I am bringing Ireland, as a state, to the European Court,” he announces. “I have two files against the state of Ireland – human rights and about my case. Because I can’t get justice here, I think I will get it in the European Court. The government here are the losers, I am moving.”
Why he is being discriminated against in Ireland.
“If I say tomorrow that I agree with Michael McDowell,” he believes, “and Ireland must open Shannon for America because they are going to liberate Iraq, and if I say George Bush is a great man and Tony Blair is doing a great job – if I say all this, I guarantee you next week I get Irish citizenship – if not an American passport. If I shut my mouth I get everything. My problem is that I won’t shut my mouth. This world is not for honest people anymore.”
Latif Yahai’s latest book, The Black Hole, is available from www.acanum-publishing.com