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Last Updated: Monday, 26 May, 2003, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Iraqi man ends 20 years in hiding
Jawad squeezes through the trapdoor into his hideout
This tiny trapdoor was hardly ever used
After two decades in hiding, an Iraqi man has finally emerged back into the real world - squinting at the unaccustomed light.

Twenty-one years ago, Saddam Hussein placed an execution order on Jawad Amir for supporting an outspoken Shia cleric.

Mr Amir escaped - not into a far-off town or neighbouring country, but into a space sandwiched between two walls in his parents' home.

He said for the whole of his hiding he never left that small, dark space and had only a tiny peephole to view the outside world.

Few possessions

"When I felt the danger I escaped to my parents' house, then I prepared my hiding place to keep away from the people so no one could ever report me to the regime," he explained.

"In this place I prepared everything I needed to survive."

The narrow space contains few possessions - a radio, teeth he lost while in hiding and pictures of his younger self.

Listening to the radio
Jawad passed the time listening to the radio
He said he listened to the BBC's Arabic Service and read the Koran to pass the time. He drank river water from a small well.

Only his closest family members knew he was there. Even the neighbours in his tiny village of Jobah thought he had disappeared.

But after Saddam Hussein's statue fell in Baghdad, Mr Amir - now 49 - finally felt it safe to leave his hiding place.

His mother, Ramsya Haddi, was elated.

"I feel as if I had just given birth to him again," she said.

Mr Amir said he feels well and is optimistic about the future.

The BBC's Mathew Charles
"He passed his time listening to the BBC's Arabic service and studying the Koran"


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