Iraqi-Canadians react to execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein
Sat Dec 30, 8:28 PM

By Geoff Nixon

TORONTO (CP) - While Iraqi-Canadians learned of the execution of Saddam Hussein, some of their relatives in Iraq had no idea that he had been hanged.

Faleh Hafuth, an Iraqi-born physician from Cambridge, Ont., said that when he telephoned his mother in Baghdad on Saturday morning, she was surprised to hear that the former Iraqi dictator was dead.

"I am calling her from Canada telling her 'Do you know that Saddam Hussein got hanged this morning?"' he said to his mother.

"She said: 'Oh. How do you know?"'

Hafuth said because of power blackouts, his mother hadn't had any electricity for 10 hours and wasn't receiving any news.

"They are in Baghdad and they do not know what is happening," said Hafuth. "We know here in Cambridge that he got killed and they don't know that."

In Hafuth's mind, no matter how people receive the news, Saddam's death changes nothing in the life of Iraqis - a thought shared by many Iraqi-Canadians.

"As a person, he is irrelevant now because thousands of people get killed every month," said Hafuth.

"That's our reaction: he was just one of those people who got killed. He was a bad guy, he was in power, but now he's gone," said Hafuth.

Another Iraqi Canadian, Abdulilah Al-Yasiri of Ottawa, said he didn't care whether Saddam lived or died.

"I'm just glad he's not in power any more," said Al-Yasiri, who also has relatives in Baghdad.

Although he hadn't spoken to his family since the dawn execution, he thinks they would say that it wouldn't change much.

"The death sentence was really just for people's satisfaction, so that people could say he got what he deserved," said Al-Yasiri. "(But) really, nobody is benefiting from his death."

Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation, thought Saddam's death was insignificant compared to the enormous problems facing the country.

"The death of Saddam Hussein does not resolve the problems in Iraq," said Mouammar, who believes 655,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.

"The only way to resolve the problems in Iraq is for the American occupation to end."

Mouammar said that while the occupation was intended to bring democracy and stability, it has instead brought civil war and destruction.

"Now there is ethnic and religious tensions in the country and it was all brought about by the American occupation."

Archbishop Marcel Gervais, head of the Roman Catholic church in Ottawa, condemned the use of capital punishment.

"Adding the death of a killer to the deaths of those he has killed adds only one thing - one more death. The execution of a murderer does little to relieve the sentiments of loss of the bereaved," the archbishop said in a statement.

Other Iraqi-Canadian expatriates were more concerned about the immediate fallout from the execution.

Zeba Hashmi, secretary for the Saskatchewan-based Muslims for Peace and Justice, told the Saskatchewan StarPhoenix that many people in the Kurdish-Canadian community were relieved to hear of Saddam's death.

Hashmi worried that the execution may lead to greater instability in the war-torn country.

"Our worries lie in the fact that since Iraq is occupied at the moment, what kind of unrest would this (hanging) cause?" asked Hashmi. "Would this be better for the country or not, in the long term, in terms of unrest and the state of the country?"

Jacob Kiryakos, who left Iraq for Saskatoon in 1976, agreed that the fallout could be a problem.

"They should have killed him the day they found him," Kiryakos told the StarPhoenix. "(The hanging) will bring more problems."

Kiryakos says that although Saddam's death will be supported by some, it will also bring more death.

"I agree with the execution but it won't solve anything," Kiryakos said.

"There'll be more assassinations by (Saddam's) supporters."

Copyright 2006 Canadian Press