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Jane Arraf Talks About Interviewing Saddam's Daughters

Aired August 1, 2003 - 14:56   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I understand we're working to get our Jane Arraf on the phone -- which we do have her now on the phone. Terrific.
Jane, I didn't want to go forward and recite everything that the daughters had to say. i was hoping that we would get you on the phone. A number of questions for you, of course, regarding this interview.

First of all, what are you thinking? Do you think these women spoke freely, openly, honestly about their father?

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: I really do, Kyra. That was one of the stunning things in that these were women -- I had been expecting what we have all seen from the photo photographs, the video from the Saddam Hussein family frolicking in the snow and fields and where they look somewhat like actresses. And the later photographs where they were standing very stiffly with their late husbands.

And you have to wonder what kind of women can grow up in a family like this? In fact, as you may have seen, they are astoundingly, seemingly normal, speaking about their father in a way that indicated they certainly saw a very different side of him.

And they said it enough times that he was a very loving father. They refused to go into the discrepancies between their version of him as a loving father and the things they even to -- the things he did to their husbands, that you really did get a sense they were convinced that the universe centered on this man. They were adoring daughters, he was the loving father and it seemed as simple and genuine as that -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Jane, even if they did have these emotions, let's say angry emotions that tore their father, culturally it wouldn't be right to come forward and say anything negative about their father, though, right?

ARRAF: That's an excellent point. In fact, when we were chatting later and I was trying to ask them again about the fact that the world sees a much different picture of Saddam Hussein, they were saying that after their husbands, Hussein and Saddam Kamal were killed, and they believed to be killed on direct order of their father, it left them widows.

And I asked them if that had not contributed to the perception that they were estranged from their father for the last ten years? They said, of course, that changed things. Since they were speaking now and their father was in a difficult circumstance and they didn't know where he was, they said that they would not to say things that would seem as if they were at war with him.

Clearly, there were some differences. But also clearly, at the end of they are two young women, married at 15 with nine children between them who really were very devoted to that man who they saw.

They clearly also didn't know a lot of what else was going on. They were not kept in the picture. They said they grew up in a family as in any other family where girls and boys were taught to obey their parents. This certainly wasn't a relationship between the girls and Saddam Hussein where they seemed to have any political discussions or anything of the sort. It seems very clearly and simply, despite that incredibly tangled and tragic family history, two young women who still adore their father, who just happens to be Saddam Hussein -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And they didn't want to talk about the deaths of their husband's and the circumstances surrounding that. They also didn't want to talk about the deaths of their brothers.

ARRAF: They did not. They said it was still too painful, still too raw. They, of course, were shot in that shootout last week. But they were in mourning. The clothes that we were wearing, though, the very -- a fashionable version -- these are very elegant women -- Were mourning clothes, they're mourning for their brothers.

And no matter what their brothers did -- and they clearly were estranged from their brothers, particularly the eldest, Uday, after their husbands were killed -- at the end of the day, they said we were still a family, and those were still our brothers.

These are not people who are used to giving interviews. They gave only two interviews. This was one of them. This was the only interview to the Western media. They were nervous. They were hesitant. They seemed quite composed on air, but it took us a while to get to that stage. There was almost nothing in this that seemed rehearsed in any way.

There were things they did not want to talk about, and they wouldn't talk about them, but because they still were grieving in a sense and in a bit of shock as well -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And you could see that as you listened to the interview. And you asked them, what do you hope now? Both of them saying: I want to live peacefully. We want our children to live in a peaceful place and choose their future.

Do you see them with a progressive attitude with regard to their kids? Do they value democracy and freedom and want a different life for their children? They definitely had quite a constrained lifestyle, I guess you could say.

ARRAF: They did have what we would think of as a constrained lifestyle, but they also said that, before their husbands were murdered, they were happy. They had -- we have to remember, these were girls who were married at 15 to men who were not of their choosing.

But they seemed to have loved their husbands. And they had built a life. They wanted for absolutely nothing. We know the luxury that the Hussein family lived in in Iraq. And they benefited from a lot of that. But, clearly, family is very, very important to them. Their children, they said, were adapting well. They kept talking about the horrible time they had had over the last few months.

They would not go into details. Clearly, going into hiding and hiding in different places, possibly another country as well, had its toll on them. But they really seemed to feel that they are, which they are, in very safe hands now. There's really no safer place they could be than in one of the palaces in the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. They have been welcomed back as family.

And the ruling family here says, these were women and children who needed their protection and they will have their protection for as long as they want it -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Our Jane Arraf with an exclusive interview with the two daughters of Saddam Hussein -- Jane, thank you so much. You did an outstanding job. We appreciate you working so quickly to bring it to us in such a quick manner.


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