A multi-series exclusive interview with Raghad Saddam Hussein and Al Arabiya has gone viral, with viewers divided on comments made by the eldest daughter of the late Iraqi leader.
While some praised her “charisma and poise“ as she discussed a potential foray into Iraq politics, others were less enthused.
Videos of the exclusive interview – which took place in Jordan and was led by Al Arabiya’s Senior Presenter Sohaib Charair – was viewed millions of times on the Al Arabiya and Al Arabiya English YouTube channels, acculumating over 26 million views so far.
Clips from the interview have also been viewed over 120 million times on Facebook.
As videos of the interview circulated on social media channels, including YouTube and Twitter, social media users in their tens of thousands liked and commented on Hussein’s honest portrayal of her life growing up as her Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, of family feuds and the eventual capture, arrest, and execution of her father.
One, Najema Bahar, said Hussein “has charisma, and she’s classy.“ Another, under the name IIZIL, agreed, commenting: “Look at the charisma, confidence, and poise. When will you be the president of Iraq?.“
However, others, commenting on Twitter, pointed out that her words could not cancel out the actions committed under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Karwan Fendi commented: “I watched all episodes of the Al Arabiya interview with the daughter of the former Iraqi President, Raghad Saddam Hussein. Nice words, but this will not erase the actions and crimes of the regime during her father’s era. I think she dreams of coming back.”
I watched all episodes of the #alarabiya interview with the daughter of former #Iraqi President #Raghad_Saddam_Hussein. Nice words, but this will not erase the actions and crimes of the regime during her father’s era. I think she dreams of coming back.— Karwan Fendi (@kgfendi) February 20, 2021
Another, Mohammed Al Farouk, commenting on YouTube, said: “She literally is talking from a place that no Iraqis were living at that time.
“Although, her speech looks so peaceful but also her father was talking in the same way while he was in control of power.”
“Everything is possible,“ Raghad said when asked if she intended to play a more direct role in Iraqi politics. One viewer, Karem, said she would have his vote.
“I will be the first one to elect you [for presidency], and God is my witness, rest assured that if you run, you will win an overwhelming majority,“ he said.
The interview caused waves as the videos garnered notoriety online.
Raghad has been a polarizing figure in Iraq, with the country’s authorities putting her on their most wanted list in 2018. In response to the interview, the head of the “Martyrs. Victims and Political Prisoners’ committee in the Iraqi Parliament, Abd al-Ilah al-Naeli, directed an official letter to the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the appearance, describing it as a “blatant transgression“ of the Iraqi people, and their sacrifices in fighting the “Baath“ party.
A divided response
The response across social media, however, was more divided.
Revealing secrets of her childhood, Hussein said she has never heard her late father yell at anyone at home.
Sara Samir, sought to distinguish Hussein from her late father, saying: “Steering away from who her father is, Raghad is really a cohesive, balanced figure, very elegant, and any political role in Iraq [suits her].
“Iraq needs real people, not fake ones who wear masks. I wish change occurs in Iraq – we are tired of waiting for this day.“
Another, using the initials A/M, agreed. “I swear, if she heads Iraq, it would be a great transformation to Iraq and the Arabs. She is confident, (has) poise, is charismatic, and strong.“
But another, Min Ji, was less supportive, saying Hussein doesn’t deserve a vote.
“Have you forgotten what she and her father did to you?,” she questioned other commenters.
Sohaib Shehzad praised the “balance’ of the interview, saying Hussein’s portrayal of life in Iraq during the rule of her father was a critical time in the region’s history.
“She is an important witness to historic tragedies of the later 20th and early 21st century.
“I am interested in listening to everything she has to say. For now, she has appeared very balanced in her replies. She has a striking resemblance with her mother.“
In the multi-series interview, Hussein criticized Iranian interference in the region, noting that “the Iranians have violated Iraq after the absence of a real power.“
“In light of the absence of Iraq’s real and legitimate authority, Iran deemed the state free for the taking.“
She also considered that the time of her father’s rule was a “glorious time for Iraq“ but also acknowledged that it had been treated harshly in certain cases.
“When your president is Saddam Hussein, you have to choose between prosperity and freedom,“ she said.
She also defended the executions that took place at the time of her father’s rule, and said: “Anyone who makes a mistake is judged according to the Iraqi law and Iraqi law has provisions for executions.“
Hussein also recounted her father’s feud with her husband Hussein Kamel al-Majid, the second cousin of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Hussein was born in 1967 and is the late leader’s eldest daughter. She left Iraq for Jordan in 2003 following the US invasion.
She helped organize her father’s legal defense during the trial that led to his execution.