At the age of seventeen, Lewis Alsamari was conscripted into Saddam Hussein’s army. The training was brutal, with discipline enforced by regular beatings, and desertion punishable by mutilation or imprisonment. Somehow Lewis made it through and, thanks in part to his fluent English, was soon offered a post in Iraqi military intelligence. The job would have made him powerful, comfortably wealthy . . . and a cog in Saddam Hussein’s massive machine of terror.
Unable to accept becoming a member of Saddam’s secret police, yet knowing that turning down this “honor” would be considered treasonous, Lewis made plans to flee Iraq. His escape was fraught with peril–he was shot, detained at borders, even pursued by hungry wolves across the desert–but the teenager made his way to Jordan, then Malaysia, and finally to England, where he was granted political asylum.
Lewis began building a life for himself, even falling in love and getting married. But he was haunted by thoughts of the loved ones he left behind in Iraq, his uncle’s words echoing in his ears: we are sending you to freedom so that one day you may rescue us from this place.
One day, shocking news arrived: because of his escape, Lewis’s family–including his mother and sister–had been interrogated, beaten, and thrown into prison. Frantic with guilt and worry, Lewis was forced to steal the thousands of dollars he needed to buy their release and smuggle them out of Iraq. Then, accompanied by his wife, he embarked on a desperate journey in hope of bringing his family to freedom.
Escape from Saddam is a powerful nonfiction thriller that, even as it plunges the reader into a netherworld of crooked border police, military checkpoints, counterfeiters, and smugglers, provides a fascinating window into a totalitarian regime. It is also a remarkably inspirational story of a resourceful young man who refused to accept his fate . . . and then risked everything he’d achieved to save his family.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Escape from Saddam|
|Release Date: 03-18-2008|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||Escape from Saddam|
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Escape from Saddam
Baghdad. Nine months earlier
Baghdad military training center lay by a main road on the outskirts of the city. It was large and utilitarian, and I felt dwarfed by it as I approached the main entrance. The sun was burning, and the cars in the busy street had all their windows wound down, their drivers crumpled and oppressed by the midday heat. I wiped a trickle of sweat from my own forehead and looked around up at the high walls of the building: a huge picture of Saddam Hussein returned my gaze. It was a familiar sight, one that had been commonplace in my life for as long as I could remember. The gates of Al-Zahawi primary school, which I had attended as a child, were colorful, painted with a huge yellow bumble bee to welcome the children; but on the walls on either side of the bumble bee were paintings of Saddam. His Excellency smiled down benevolently upon us, and around his head flew birds painted in the colors of the national flag. Inside the walls, high up, were more pictures of Saddam, and the slogans of the Ba'ath party were written large-"One Arab nation with an everlasting message," "Unity, Freedom, and Communism"-as well as one of Saddam's favorite sayings: "Always look your enemy in the eye."
Today, however, the images seemed more imposing and threatening than ever-the very embodiment of everything from which I had been trying to break free.
"I don't want to be in the army," I had told my Uncle Saad petulantly when it had become apparent that there was no other option open to me.
"You haven't got any choice. You've been called up, and if you don't go they will co