Barnes & Noble.com
This Book has been banned in Ireland... The Black Hole is the next chapter in the extraordinary and chilling life story of author Latif Yahia. Having escaped the brutal Iraqi regime through Northern Iraq with the help of the CIA in 1992, Latif touched down in Austria. Having family in the pristine and picturesque city of Vienna, Latif is somewhat reassured that his life will be calmer now without Uday Saddam Hussein and his hedonistically violent lifestyle. Alongside Latif is Nusa, a hired girl, a plaything and ego boost for her Baghdadi clientele, although she has never been mentioned in Latif's past works the reasons for her concealment become apparent as the story unfolds. Unfortunately life was never to become the idyll that Latif desired, his knowledge or perceived knowledge of the inner Iraqi regime was to become his saviour and his tormentor. This, left him chained and unable to move forward, as much as he wished to forget, his handlers wanted to know more. Latif became almost a prized item in the world of International Intelligence with nearly all of the world's Intelligence agencies vying for his allegiance, his pleas for neutrality and normality unheard. Ultimately Latif was to pay the price for his uncooperative stance; ten and a half months were spent in a covert Austrian/CIA prison cell in solitary confinement, until by chance his freedom was assured by a visiting judge. One would think that after such events Latif's life may take a quieter turn, this was not to be the case, the game of cat and mouse that played out across the breadth of Europe was interspersed by the tragic death of Latif's beloved father, several assassination attempts and the murder of his first real love a Saudi Arabian Princess Latif Yahia's previous books have sold over one million copies worldwide in twenty languages. Latif Yahia now lives in Ireland with his Irish wife and children, they are raising Latif's niece and nephew who lost their mother in Shock and Awe during the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. This was a deciding factor in Latif's decision to donate the proceeds of The Black Hole to the children's Hospital where his children were born in Ireland. Dr. Latif Yahia was born in Baghdad Iraq to a wealthy businessman in 1964, he lived a happy uneventful life until 1987 when he re-encountered Uday Saddam Hussein. The two had previously been at the same school together and both had the desire to study engineering and had applied to the same university, but when Latif realised that he would have to spend another 4yrs with Uday he changed to Law, he went on to gain a Doctorate in International Law. Latif was then forced to become the double for Uday, the threats against his family were too great for him to refuse Uday and he spent the next 4yrs being a bullet catcher and did catch a few, he now bears the scars of 11. Since Latif's escape from the Iraqi regime in 1991, he has been imprisoned in a covert CIA prison in Austria, hunted by Iraqi intelligence and head hunted by the New Iraqi government a position he rejected. He has studied psychology and is a sucessful businessman, he now lives in Ireland with his wife, Mother and four children, two of whom are his Niece and Nephew, their mother was killed in Baghdad during shock and awe in 2003, their father, Latif's brother is missing. Having lived in Ireland for the best part of ten years Latif has applied for Irish Naturalisation and has been rejected twice, he remains philosophical and calls himself a citizen of the world but still remains stateless after 15 yrs in the West.
I would not be so presumptuous as to assume that every reader of this book
has read The Devil's Double or Ich war Saddams Sohn [I was Saddam's Son].
It is possible that many readers will have approached this book hoping to
learn more about the political and social aspects raised, particularly with
regard to asylum seeking in general, or how the Saudi Arabian and Austrian
administrations deal with dissent of any kind. For readers who have not
read the story of how I ended up in Austria, or those who have read it and
require a reminder, the following few paragraphs cover the same ground very
* * *
The geographically diverse land between Turkey to the north, Saudi Arabia
to the south, Iran to the east and Syria to the west is rightly termed the
cradle of civilisation. Ancient peoples such as Sumerians, Hittites,
Babylonians, Persians and Assyrians cultivated the ground and were
responsible for many of the technologies we now take for granted - the
wheel being just one.
The wheel, however, came back to dominate the region; a worldwide
wanderlust fed a human desire for transportation, which in turn needed
fossil fuel to turn to smoke and make the wheels go round. And the area,
now known as the Middle East, sits on trillions of tankfuls of the stuff.
This underground resource has been the cause of much war, territorial
dispute and conspiracy. After all, the hand that rocks the oil pumps
controls the world.
Between 1979 and 2003, that hand was Saddam Hussein's. He would also use it
to sign death warrants on dissenters, to murder his own countrymen, to plot
disastrous wars with neighbouring countries and to be the puppet master of
his entire population. In September 1987, Saddam - or more accurately, his
son, Uday - picked up my strings. Uday wanted a double, and I was unlucky
enough to resemble him.
This was not my first encounter with Uday. Because of my father's wealth I
was sent to the best school in Iraq, and a young, spoilt, arrogant, Uday
became our classmate. We hated him even then. He would cruise the streets
in his cars and with the assistance of his bodyguards would pick up girls
whether they wanted to or not - and most did not. At least one girl who
refused to be taken by him was kidnapped and thrown to his starving dogs.
In class he would act like his father, showing no enthusiasm for lessons
and acting threateningly towards anyone who crossed him. A teacher who
reprimanded him for bringing his girlfriend into class with him was never
My classmates used to tease me and call me Uday because even at that age I
resembled him. I used to imitate him for laughs.
When my second encounter with Uday came about, I was a Captain on the front
in Iraq's pointless war with Iran. My unit's command received a dispatch
saying that I should be sent to the presidential palace. I was taken there
and informed that I was to become Uday Hussein's fiday, or body double.
This would involve attending functions, making appearances, and assuming
his persona when rumours of assassination were circulating. Saddam had
several fidays already, and Uday obviously longed for one just like his
daddy, and I was to be his first. My initial refusal was met with a long
spell of solitary confinement and mental torture in a cramped cell without
so much as a toilet to maintain my dignity. Eventually, this treatment, and
vile threats against my family, forced me to agree to Uday's demands.
Throughout a lengthy period I was trained to act like him and to speak like
him; I was, through cosmetic surgery, also made to look even more like him.
Indeed, having my front teeth filed down and being given a copy of his
overbite-dominated set gave me a lisp just like his. I was, during my
"training", desensitised to the ugly barbarity of the regime by being
forced to watch endless, excruciating videos of real torture, mutilation
and murder perpetrated by them on dozens of men, women and children of
Iraq, usually prisoners or prisoners' family members. These films also
served as a warning as to what I could expect were I to decide to challenge
the regime at any time in the future.
My first public appearance as Uday was at a football match in Baghdad's
People's Stadium. My job was to wave at the crowd from a dignitaries' box
and present medals to the players at the end. When Uday saw the appearance
on television he was impressed, congratulated my trainers and accepted me
as a member of his circle, albeit on the outer reaches. He could not allow
anyone to become too close to him, particularly anyone from outside the
Tikriti clan from which the majority of the regime was drawn; indeed, I had
been the first fiday to be plucked from the outside world. From then on my
days were spent living in his palaces, effectively a prisoner, as I was not
allowed to do anything without permission. But it was a prison of opulence
and luxury, with access to the finest food and drink the world had to
offer; swimming pools and other such charmed diversions made the time a
little more bearable.
But the captivity grew stultifying. Most of the time I would not be making
appearances; I would be bored out of my mind, intellectually and socially
unchallenged. I had graduated with a degree in law and had dreamt of
following in my father's footsteps and becoming a businessman. This had
never been part of my master plan. I was largely living a brainless,
useless existence with no independence or exercise of free will.Worse was
to come. I got sucked closer to Uday and he started to treat me as one of
his bodyguards, taking me out with him as protection against assassination
at the hands of any of his multitude of enemies. This is when I witnessed
the depravity of Uday at first hand. I saw him rape, murder, bully and
destroy anyone who dared to question his will. This could be anyone from
friends of his father to innocent passers-by, on one occasion a
honeymooning couple, the wife of which Uday took a liking to and who threw
herself to her death from her balcony after being raped by Uday.
Then came Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. This was a time when every
warring tyrant needs a double, and I was put to good effect, visiting the
troops in Basra posing as Uday, to show courage, fortitude and supposedly
to improve morale, while all the time Uday himself was drunk in the safety
of Switzerland. I was also pressed into plundering Kuwait, leading parties
of thieves into car showrooms to steal luxury cars and take them back to
Baghdad to be sold at huge auctions. But Uday was growing tired of me. When
he was accused of plundering Kuwait and faced huge embarrassment for such
actions he had the perfect excuse - that it was I who had stolen everything
- and that he was completely innocent. I was made to "confess" on
television - a ridiculous charade in a country with no electricity - and
sentenced to death. It was of course a convenient cover. Uday had begun to
sense that I was resisting his will, that I wanted to escape his clutches.
I was saved by the beginning of the invasion of the US-led forces, which
seemed to give the regime other things to think about.
Saddam was kicked out of Kuwait but survived politically, and my death
sentence seemed to have been forgotten about. After a trumped-up row over a
girl I was sent to a "re-education camp" where I was tortured and
humiliated for weeks. That particular horror ended when Uday came to visit
me one day, but it was replaced with another kind of horror. He had me
shaved from head to toe and dumped on the doorstep of my parents' home. My
mother discovered me but did not recognise the bald, skeletal figure at her
feet until I spoke to tell her who I was.
I was later offered a sort of freedom, by way of gratitude for the way I
had performed when called upon. But once again, at a party, I caught Uday
on a bad day and he had me captured and held by his bodyguards while he
went to sort out some business or other. I was sure that I was to be
executed when he came back. I tricked my guard and made my escape to the
north of Iraq, where I was captured and robbed by Kurds. But at least for
the time being I was free from Uday. I eventually managed to flee to
Austria, which is where my story picks up in this book.
When I wrote and published I Was Saddam's Son in 1994 and The Devil's
Double in 2003, I thought that my story was finished, at least as far as
the public interest was concerned. It went on to be a success and I would
like to take this opportunity to thank all those who cared enough, or were
shocked enough, to buy it. On fleeing Iraq I was penniless, and it helped
financially as well as emotionally; it was also a priceless cathartic
experience. As expected I received no plaudits from Uday or Saddam Hussein,
and a good deal of this book covers my ongoing fight with them,
particularly with Uday.
Throughout this book details emerge of assassination attempts, murder,
emotional breakdown and moments of lightness which I hope everyone can
identify with, but which also serve to put space between the extraordinary,
brutal existence which I was forced to endure and the loving, productive
life I yearned for.
The overall purpose of the book, however, is to reveal to the world a tiny
sample of the injustice, exploitation and horror that are daily enacted
from the highest levels of some of the nations whose representatives have
no doubt shaken the hand of, or might even be, your president, prime
minister or monarch.
I would never have believed, as I was being flown in the aeroplane from
Turkey to Austria, that I was not escaping hell, but merely being moved to
another of its fiery chambers.
* * *
The decision to write and publish this story was not an easy one to make. I
cannot believe that the normal legal protection given to journalists,
historians and biographers applies to me. I have been subjected to enough
torture, kidnappings, imprisonment and assassination attempts whilst living
in the jurisdictions of the free world to have any faith in the observance
of international law. Some of the revelations herein will definitely not
endear me to international, ubiquitous agencies who thought that they had
shut me up long ago.
I spent many hours discussing the pros and cons of publication with my
friends and family. I now have a young family of my own, and the
responsibility I owe to them has never left my mind. Most of my friends
advised me, as I thought they would, to let my story lie, let it fade away
and carry on with a life which had become rather comfortable for me. They
were, I believe, advising me from the heart, or from the gut feelings about
the dangers to which I would be exposing myself and my family. They have
continually reminded me that, despite the fact that I have lived in the
European Union for the best part of fourteen years, I am still stateless,
still effectively a refugee, and that no country had a duty to protect me
or investigate my disappearance. I believe the stories I have heard about
Iraqis voicing anti-war sentiments or criticising the US administration and
being swept away in appropriately-named Gulfstream jets, never to be seen
again, or re-emerging with more approved views.
Or perhaps the consequences would be less bad - I could be subjected to
character assassination, ridicule and veiled threats. No doubt I would be
branded a Walter Mitty, a fantasist, a conspiracy theorist, someone with an
axe to grind or burdened with the weight of other uncomplimentary clichés.
Government-sponsored journalists and reviewers would probably say I was
pro-Saddam, a terrorist and a social misfit, and some of these assertions
Throughout the world, in the US, in Europe, in the Middle East and in the
seats of power at the heart of "liberated" Iraq are people who could pull
enough strings to have me written off physically, critically or credibly.
My friends' arguments were convincing and sensible, and I decided to take
their advice and keep my story to myself, at least until the dust had
settled, sometime in the 2070s.
But then they came back. The CIA started to pay me attention and for some
reason began to harass me interminably. Had someone been serving them false
information about me, asking for certain favours? I can think of several
potential originators of such actions, and the contents of these pages will
provide readers with some of the many reasons why certain people would
prefer it if this book did not make it onto the shelves, or if I were to be
In my years since fleeing Iraq, I have plunged to suicidal low points and
enjoyed the exhilarating highs that a good life can serve up. I have been
in more embassies and governmental departments than I care to remember and
have met world leaders and notables from all disciplines. If there is one
thing that I have learnt, it is that the world's leaders act like a single
family, rarely criticising each other unless a scapegoat nation is needed.
They will turn a blind eye to each others' misdeeds, treating them as
internal matters that are immune to international condemnation. What is
more, they indulge in favour-giving deals in which millions of dollars of
credit change hands. I have participated in it myself, and I have seen
prime ministers and presidents shaking hands on deals that will never make
the news. It would only take one of them to request that I should be
silenced and it would be done. On the other hand, I have been impressed
with the robustness of a few nations, most notably Germany, for whom the
rule of law is not a structure to be toyed with, but is the immutable basis
of all political actions, and a country where the legislature is as strong
as the executive. It is often left out in the cold as a result.
So here I am, an anti-Saddam Iraqi escapee who has the audacity not to
support Bush and Rumsfeld's Middle Eastern oil grabbing adventures. Along
with billions worldwide, I disagree with terrorism and with military action
on defenceless populations. I am not with the Americans and I am not with
the terrorists, which leaves me as something of an outcast in George W's
polarised, inward-looking world view. I remain opposed to Bush and his
coterie of belligerents while not being opposed to America or Americans in
general. This sentiment is again widespread, but for the most sinister of
reasons I shudder when I express it, for I feel vulnerable. People fleeing
Saddam's Iraq are not meant to oppose the present occupying forces in the
White House and on Capitol Hill. After all, they were the guys who went and
kicked his ass (or at least they sent the guys who went and kicked his
ass). I am supposed to be eternally grateful. Because I am not, I must be a
threat. I must be plotting against them. That is the polarised logic I am
So in the end, my motivation for publishing this book came down to this
fact: there is a truth that needs to be told, and if I do not tell it now,
it might remain hidden forever.