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Last Updated: Monday, 28 April, 2003, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Iraqi writers revive banned arts
Saddam Hussein is believed to have written three novels
Saddam Hussein is believed to have written three novels

A group of Iraqi writers, poets and intellectuals have gathered in Baghdad to take the first step towards reviving arts that were restricted by Saddam Hussein's regime.

More than 50 celebrated writers and thinkers came together to elect a committee to make contact with others across Iraq.

They gathered at a small building that used to house the official writers' union and has now been renamed the Union of Free Writers and Thinkers.

"We are here to revive the writing and the poetry that was banned by the regime," said playwright Aziz Abdul Sahib.

All the writers here refused Saddam Hussein and many were in trouble if we did not praise Saddam in our poetry or stories
Imad Kadhum
Poet

He said writers who praised Saddam were treated well but the Baath party was "always watching" those who did not.

"There were always security members at my plays and sometimes [the plays] were not allowed," said Sahib.

Poet Imad Kadhum spoke of going underground and relying on his wife to support them for seven years after running away from compulsory military service.

Before Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled, he said he had been terrified that Baath Party members would inform on him, and that friends had been arrested for offending the dictator.

A lot of writers may have been killed, and to this day we don't know what has happened to them
Imad Kadhum
Poet

"All the writers here refused Saddam Hussein and many were in trouble if we did not praise Saddam in our poetry or stories," he said.

"We never accepted that we were criminals. If our work was disliked by Saddam or [eldest son] Uday, then we would be placed in jail."

Kadhum added: "A lot of [writers] may have been killed, and to this day we don't know what has happened to them."

Saddam Hussein was believed to have written three novels himself while in power.

Although published anonymously, Iraqi state newspapers hinted that the former president had penned the political love stories.

They were heavily promoted and, unsurprisingly, received good reviews.




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Saddam's tales reach the classroom
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