CAIRO - Images of ousted
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein being led to the gallows on one of Islam's most
important feast days risk further alienating public opinion in an Arab world
already bristling at perceived Western insensitivity, analysts have warned.
A frame grab from Iraqi state
televison shows a noose being placed around former Iraqi president Saddam
Hussein's neck December 30, 2006. [Reuters/Iraqi State Televison ]
Even the West's leading Middle East allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, publicly
spoke out against the choice of the first day of the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice
to put Saddam to death.
The ousted strongman was executed in Baghdad at dawn on Saturday as Muslims
began celebrating the Eid al-Adha in which a sheep is traditionally slaughtered
in memory of Abraham, who according to the Koran, was about to sacrifice his son
Ismail on God's orders, but was sent a sheep instead.
Grainy footage of a grey-bearded and calm-looking Saddam being prepared for
the gallows was aired on Iraqi state television and re-broadcast across the Arab
"Saddam was being dragged away like he was the sheep waiting to be
slaughtered," said Emad Gad, researcher with the Cairo-based Ahram Centre for
"The main issue here is that the execution took place on the morning of the
Eid al-Adha," Gad told AFP. "This will stir anger and humiliation in people,
whether they supported him or not.
"Generally in the region, people's emotions are already anti-US, and these
images will add to that feeling," he warned.
The executive editor of the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel, Nabil
"The pictures will re-create the anger and frustration among a large part of
the Arab masses," Khatib told AFP.
"Once more, ordinary Arabs felt that there is a conspiracy against their
The newsman said the impression was all the greater because Saddam was not
the demon to Arab public opinion that he had become in the West.
The ousted Iraqi president had successfully projected himself among ordinary
Arabs as the one leader in the region "who confronted external threats on behalf
of the Arabs ... who fought Iran and launched missiles at Israel," Khatib said.
Samer Hamzeh, news consultant for state-run Dubai Media Incorporated which
groups Dubai Television and three other channels, warned that the graphic
footage of the erstwhile Arab hero being led to the gallows risked sparking a
"This is not our daily news picture. It is a historic, very emotional picture
... and the effect of emotional pictures does not show right away," he said.
Hamzeh said the fact that Saddam looked composed as he was readied for
execution would not diminish the negative impact of the footage.
"It is not about his behaviour. The normal viewer will see the picture as
humiliating," he argued. "Humiliation can provoke anger, violence."
Egypt, the biggest recipient of US aid after Iraq and Israel, openly
criticised the choice of execution date and voiced concern it might stoke
further violence inside Iraq.
"Egypt regrets the fact that the Iraqi authorities carried out the execution
of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and that it took place on the first
day of Eid al-Adha," foreign ministry spokesman Alaa al-Hadidi told the official
The timing of the execution "did not take into consideration the feelings of
Muslims and the sanctity of this day which represents amnesty and forgiveness,"
"We hope that the execution of the former president at this time... will not
lead to more deterioration in the situation and inflame the spirit of revenge,
instead of efforts to ensure Iraqi unity."
The Saudi official media voiced similar criticism.
"There has been a feeling of surprise and dismay that the implementation of
the (death) sentence (against the former Iraqi president) came ... on the first
day of Eid al-Adha during which... Muslims come together," said a commentary
carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.