A fighter of the Hashd al Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) observes, on April 8, 2018, the damaged mausoleum that housed the tomb of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the town of Auya, near Tikrit
In his hometown of Auya, the mausoleum that housed the tomb of Saddam Hussein is now a pile of ruins and concrete, and a deep mystery surrounds the whereabouts of the ex-dictator’s remains.
At dawn on December 30, 2006, the first day of the Aid Al-Adha, the most important feast of the Muslim calendar, the man who led Iraq with an iron fist for a quarter of a century was hanged.
Its execution was celebrated by the Shiites, but it was a real humiliation for the Sunnis, especially for those who lived in their hometown, 160 km north of Baghdad.
US President George W. Bush personally accepted an American helicopter to transport Saddam’s body from Baghdad to Tikrit.
Sheikh Manaf Ali al-Nida, high dignitary of the Abu Nasser tribe, to which Saddam Hussein belonged, still keeps as a relic the letter that his family had to sign.
– „Dictator worshiped“ –
In this document, the relatives of the former president promised to bury him the same night and „without delay“ in Auya. Saddam was buried in the mausoleum he had built while alive, when for some Iraqis he was the „adored dictator“.
Each year, the building has become a place of worship for its supporters.
„There were school trips, and poets who came to declaim their verses before the tomb,“ relates to AFP Jaafar al Garaui, in charge of security for Hashd al-Shaabi, a paramilitary unit created by Iraq’s high Shiite authority to fight against jihadists.
Today, from this profusely decorated place, only ruins remain that no one can access without special authorization.
Fighters of the Hashd al Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) inspect the mausoleum that housed the tomb of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, in the town of Auya, near Tikrit, on April 8, 2018
Around the mausoleum, nothing remains of the tombs of the sons of the dictator, Udai and Qusaim, and his grandson, killed in July 2003 by the Americans, as well as that of his cousin „Ali the Chemist“, hanged by the death of thousands of Kurds.
The Hashd, which has custody of the mausoleum, says it was destroyed „by Iraqi aviation“ because, according to the leaders of this formation, jihadists from the Islamic State (EI) group, who joined Auya in 2014, had placed snipers in the roofs and harassed the Iraqi forces that came to evict them.
Sheikh Al-Nida does not believe in this version, although „we do not know anything about Auya since we had to leave, against our will“. „The tomb was opened and then dynamited,“ he says.
Since the fall of the dictator in 2003 and then its execution after eight months of hunting the man, and a historic trial, „we suffer oppression, as we are his relatives“ relates to AFP, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where it is now installed .
„Is it normal that we pay such a price because we are from the same family?“ laments this man, who wears a kufiya and is dressed in an abaya cloak that covers his long white robe.
– The mystery of his remains –
Even after death, Saddam Hussein continues to torment the spirits. Is his body still in Auya? Have you been exhumed before the destruction of the mausoleum? Who took it? And, above all, who really knows where the remains of the man who talked so much in the whole world are?
They circulate all the versions, mixing implausible rumors with some elements of truth.
A fighter of Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) in front of the mausoleum that housed the tomb of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the town of Auya, near Tikrit, on April 8, 2018
The Hashd believes that „the body is still there,“ Jaafar al-Garaui says.
But a fighter reports that „according to some, Saddam Hussein’s daughter, Hala, came by private jet to Auya and took her father’s body to Jordan,“ where she is in exile.
„Impossible!“ replies a university professor who refuses to give his name. „Hala never returned to Iraq,“ says this scholar of the rise and then the fall of Saddam.
However, he assures that the body is not in the mausoleum. „He has been taken to a secret place and nobody knows who did it or where he is“, except maybe the family nearby. But the family does not say anything.
There were other dynamited tombs, explains the expert. „The one of the father of Saddam Hussein at the entrance of the town, was dynamited“ he assures, which he credits according to him the idea that the mausoleum was also.
But the unfathomable mystery that torments Auya, interests little in Baghdad, where two decades of dictatorship have left a deep mark.
For some, the problem is much simpler: „Saddam is not dead, he who was hanged was a double“ says Abu Samer, an inhabitant of the capital.