Saddam Hussein was born on April 28, 1937 in Tikrit, Iraq. Hussein grew up in Auja,
a village of mud-brick huts northwest of Baghdad. His parents were poor
farmers, but inspired by his uncle Khayrallah Tulfah, an Iraqi army
officer and crusader for Arab unity, Hussein gravitated to politics
as a teenager. While attending college in Baghdad he joined the Ba'ath
party (at the age of 19) and in 1956 Hussein took part in an abortive
After the overthrow of the monarchy two years later,
Hussein connived in a plot to kill the prime minister, Abdel-Karim Qassem.
Hussein was shot in the leg during the botched effort and fled the country
for several years, first to Syria,
In 1963, with the Ba'ath party in control in Baghdad,
Saddam Hussein returned home and began jostling for a position of influence.
During this period he married his cousin Sajida (they later had two
sons and a daughter). But within months, the Ba'ath party had been overthrown
and he was jailed, remaining there until the party returned to power
in a coup in July 1968. He helped lead the revolt that finally brought
the Ba'ath party to power under Gen. Ahmed Hassan Bakr. Saddam Hussein
gained a position on the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, from
which he built an elaborate network of secret police to root out dissidents.
Eleven years later he deposed Bakr and plastered the streets with 20-foot-high
portraits of himself.
In 1979, Hussein achieved his ambition of becoming
head of state. The new president started as he intended to go on - putting
to death dozens of his rivals.
In the early 1980s, he used chemical weapons to crush
a Kurdish rebellion in northern Iraq. Hussein's power struggles extended
well beyond his country's borders; bent on dominating the Muslim world,
he attacked neighbouring countries. In 1980, Iraq invaded Iran, launching
an eight-year war that ended in stalemate.
In August 1990, Hussein invaded Kuwait, proclaiming
it Iraq's 19th province. He defied U.N. directives to retreat from Kuwait,
provoking what he called "the mother of all battles," the Persian Gulf War. That brief
conflict decimated Saddam's military forces, but he has managed to rebuild
his republic and his power base, beginning with the secret police force.
Following the coalition
war against Iraq in 2003, Hussein's government
collapsed. He was captured by American forces
on December 2003. In November 2006, he was
convicted of crimes against humanity by the
Iraq Special Tribunal and was sentenced to
death by hanging. On December 26, 2006, Saddam's
appeal was rejected and the death sentence
upheld. He was hanged four days after in
front of lawyers, officials, and a doctor.