DUBAI, United Arab Emirates # Saddam Hussein’s oldest daughter told Al-Arabiya television network Tuesday the family of the former dictator will hire the best attorneys it can find to fight for her father.
In a phone interview, Raghad Hussein, 35, told the Arabic-language channel that the family believes Saddam was drugged after he surrendered to American troops.
“This is not our father,” she said. “This is not how he would act.”
Raghad said the family hopes that there will be a government in Iraq that is fair and not under the domination of the United States.
Raghad and her sister, Rana, 33, have been given asylum in Jordan.
BACKGROUND STORY FROM AUGUST 2003
Saddam Hussein’s daughters have expressed deep affection for their father in interviews, but said they did not know where he was and that they last saw him a week before the Iraqi war started.
Raghad Saddam Hussein and Rana Saddam Hussein, who were given sanctuary in Jordan on Thursday, appeared relaxed as they spoke to Arab satellite station al-Arabiya and CNN at a royal palace in Amman, where they are staying with their nine children.
The sisters were poised but appeared more emotional as they talked about their family.
“He was a very good father, loving, has a big heart,” Raghad Hussein, wearing a fashionable white headscarf partially covering her light brown hair, told CNN.
“He had so many feelings and he was very tender with all of us,” Rana said in the same interview.
“Usually the daughter is close to her mother, but we would usually go to him. He was our friend.”
Raghad’s voice choked up when al-Arabiya asked what message she would give to her father. “I miss you my father,” she said. “Very much.”
“May God help you with the situation that you’re in,” she added.
The sisters refused to discuss their brothers, Odai and Qusai, who were killed in a shootout with US forces in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on July 22.
Raghad and Rana had reportedly been living in humble circumstances in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, since their father was ousted.
They went to Jordan on Thursday and were given sanctuary by King Abdullah. The government said the women were allowed in on “humanitarian grounds” after they had “run out of all options”.
The two daughters had lived private lives and, unlike their brothers, were not believed to be wanted for crimes linked to their father’s brutal regime. Instead, the women were seen by some as victims of Saddam, who ordered their husbands killed in 1996.
They described tearfully leaving Baghdad the day the capital fell to coalition forces on April 9.
Raghad told al-Arabiya that the swift fall of the Iraqi capital came as a “great shock” and she blamed it on a betrayal by associates of the deposed leader.
“With regret, those my father trusted, whom he had put his absolute confidence in and whom he had considered on his side – as I understood from the newspapers – betrayed him,” Raghad said. She did not say who betrayed Saddam.
Rana said she last saw her father a week before the war started, but Raghad told al-Arabiya that she saw her father five days before the conflict.
“He was very confident, very brave,” Raghad said of the Saddam she saw that day.
Raghad said she spent the night before Baghdad fell to coalition forces listening to the radio in the affluent Al Mansour district of the Iraqi capital in the company of Rana and their children. “I was convinced that everything was over.”
At noon the day Baghdad fell, she said her father sent a car from the special security forces, “who told us to leave”. She said Qusai Hussein’s wife and her children had been with them.
“The farewell moments were terrible,” she said. “The boys were hugging each other and crying. We left Baghdad. Then I met my mother after a few hours and Hala (younger sister).”
She said they were put in a house on Baghdad’s outskirts.
“There was almost no link with (my) father and brothers because everything was over.”
Saad Silawi, one of two al-Arabiya interviewers, said later that Raghad had cried at the end of the interview. He said she told him she did not want to answer questions about her father and brothers and that criticism of Saddam would make her acquaintances lose respect for her.
She blamed her three uncles – Sabaawi, Barzan and Watban, who are Saddam’s half brothers – for divisions in the family. “They used to plot against Uday, Qusay and myself,” she said.
Raghad confirmed her father’s marriage to Samira Shahbandar, but denied they had a son, saying that rumour was mixed up with her own son, Ali.
Saddam had a very public affair with Shahbandar, the daughter of a prominent Iraqi family, and she was long described as his second wife. The two were rumoured to have a son, Ali.
Raghad also denied there was a Saddam double. “This is legend 1,000%,” she said.
The sisters’ husbands, brothers Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel, defected to Jordan in 1995, taking their families with them, and announced plans to work to overthrow Saddam. The men, who were also Saddam’s cousins, were lured back in February 1996 and killed, apparently on Saddam’s orders.
But Raghad denied that Saddam had anything to do with the murders, instead accusing Ali Hassan al-Majid, a presidential adviser also known as “Chemical Ali”.
“My father forgave us, a presidential decree said so. But the evil seed Abdel Majid was the reason.”