In Plain View.
Michael McDowell Minister for Justice-Ireland
Once upon a time I was an Iraqi, I lived in Iraq, I was raised in Iraq but even then I knew that I was born into the wrong culture and the wrong country.
What I soon realised was the complete lack of freedom of speech, I saw it in my father a man who would never denigrate the Ba’ath party in any of it’s forms except when he had had one to many non -Islamic whiskeys and even then it was in the privacy of his den.
The time came when I too became somewhat politically aware or at least politically afraid, for to disagree openly or show signs of dissent could lead to long spells in prison, torture or worse.
One day, I am not too sure exactly what age I was, I suddenly decided that what was happening to my country was wrong and so I said it, I said it quietly to my father at first; he was shocked and tried to hush me. I said it out loud in company and my friends would quickly change the subject, suddenly I was shouting it from the roof of my car, interestingly enough this did not get the response that you may think, yes everyone around me fled, afraid that their association with me even as far as them just being there at the time, might be enough reason for incarceration. But, the sirens did not wail, the police or the death squads did not come, I found out that the louder I shouted the more afraid the authorities became.
There may have been reasons for this, my heinously uncanny resemblance to the Dictators son being one, but I believe that they did not know what to do with me, or maybe they did.
Maybe it was coincidence, maybe it was just the fact that I looked like Uday Saddam Hussein that I was taken from my post in Southern Iraq during the Iran Iraq war, but maybe, they wanted to keep me close too, and we all know the old adage, keep your friends close but your enemies closer. If I was to be truly indoctrinated I must become one of them and what better way to keep me in check than in plain view.
The story of my time in Uday Saddam Hussein’s employ is well documented and I am not writing this to re-hash the story, my real aim is to build up a background for you so that you may better understand me and my motivations.
It has been a gift and a curse in equal measure that I have never been able to tell the right he is wrong and the ugly they are beautiful. In fact this gift has caused me much hardship in my life, untold beatings from Uday and others in the past and present Iraqi governments, but nevertheless, I continue on not being able to shut my mouth.
I do admit there are times when I sit and ask myself why? But I have been given
An undeniable sense of Right.
On fleeing Iraq to the West I expected everything to be as we were told in the middle-east, the west was democratic, everyone had their say and no-one was ridiculed for their beliefs.
This unfortunately was not completely true and so I began telling people so, now you may already suspect what I am about to say, you may not, but whatever reaction I would get from pointing out flaws in my own country, the natives of the new country I was in took less liking to it.
In fairness, who was I to point out these ills? But had no-one else pointed them out?
It is often said that a fresh eye will pick out the flaws and I was that fresh eye.
Please understand that I do this without malice, for me I cannot understand how such beautiful countries can be dragged down by such small minds.
Several European counties have been the subject of my fresh eyes, Austria and England being two (the latter because of their involvement with the war on Iraq, which I believed and still believe to be an unjust war).
At this moment I live in Ireland, in fact I have lived in Ireland for quite some time, for me staying anywhere for over six months is unusual (but having told you what I have you may not find this surprising)
To date I have lived in Ireland for nine years, Ireland is a beautifully scenic country and is all that is written about it, rolling fields of green, warm and friendly people and that’s about it. I love the Irish people they are witty and welcoming and I understand their fascination with the “pub” because that’s really all there is. Now you might ask does Ireland not have this huge booming economy. What happened to the “Celtic tiger”? Well yes it does have a booming economy, the government showed a 16billion euro profit this year three months before the budget. But this profit will not go to building somewhere else for people to go, strangely, Ireland does not have a theme park or a “Blackpool” when you have children your excursions are limited, I once bought an annual ticket for Dublin zoo which has been excellently refurbished in recent years but although the ticket also allows you entry to Foto safari park at the other end of the country, there are only so many times that your children actually want to go.
In recent times new legislation was brought in to cease smoking in all public places, restaurants, pubs, bars, cinemas etc, this in itself is not a bad idea but if your wife or partner is a non-smoker and you are a smoker it means that either the non-smoker dutifully follows you out on your cigarette breaks or sits on their own a target for unwanted (hopefully) attention. In effect wiping out the need or should I say desire to go out.
So what is there to do? Shop?
Well yes there is plenty of shopping and good shopping too, with the arrival of the major UK chain stores and the big designer brands there is plenty of shopping to go around but a Chanel handbag won’t keep you entertained in the evenings (my wife begs to differ). Shopping would be fun if only you had decent roads to travel on, if you have never heard of it Ireland has a road taxing system that evaluates your engine size and charges accordingly, if you have the wherewithal to own a Mercedes S class the road tax for the year can cost you in excess of one thousand euros for your enthusiasm, but as I hit pot hole after pot hole on the secondary roads I ask myself where do these funds go? All the good motorways in Ireland are tolls, fair enough, but then you see the great big sign that says part funded by the EU. Can that be right?
In fairness Ireland is the cheapest country in Europe to buy a car in before taxes, but unless you are exporting it to some far flung paradise you will not reap the benefits nor will you get any benefits trying to import a car from another European country, by the time you pay the vehicle registration tax you have saved yourself very little money and possibly nothing on time and effort, even people who have lived abroad and come home with their cars have been railroaded, in recent weeks a friend of mine who returned from living in the UK with her car had to pay three thousand euros for the pleasure of having her Citroen Picasso re-registered as Irish so that she would cease being stopped by the local police and asked why she had not done so, everyone in Ireland knows that according to EU legislation you should be able to bring a car into the country from another EU country and save, the UK charges approximately one hundred pounds as a standard fee for re-registering your car, Ireland on the other hand charges a percentage on the current market value of the vehicle in Ireland negating most of your saving.(this is against EU Law)
But no-one says anything about anything except to their friends and families and nothing changes.
You may ask yourself why I am still here and how I could have stayed so long, well Ireland has been quite safe for me, I have not had any death threats or assassination attempts (well not recently) and as I have said before the people are friendly plus this is where I met my wife and am raising my kids.
Until last Christmas I also held the hope that I might attain Irish citizenship, since leaving Iraq I am stateless, not Iraqi not anything. It is quite a peculiar feeling being disenfranchised, on a daily basis I cope quite well but when I need to travel, well that is a different story. At the moment I hold an Irish travel document, I am thankful for having it but it is renewable annually, now anyone that travels knows that when you get to the airport you need at least six months validity on your passport/travel document to go anywhere, which in effect means that I can only travel for the first six months of the issue period on my T-D, there are other T-Ds out there that are issued for two and five years respectively but for some strange reason the Irish government do not wish to issue me with one, I have asked, repeatedly. Maybe they have the same idea that Saddam had keep me in plain view. Why? Surely they are not afraid of me?
Anyhow as I was saying, until last Christmas I harboured the hope that I might become an Irish citizen, all my hopes were dashed after fighting so hard to get an answer from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Mr Michael Mc Dowell, I was told that even after five years and although I had fulfilled all the criteria, I had applied too soon. Too Soon, I’ll say that again, too soon, I’m sorry but should someone not have pointed that out within the first six months of my application? Or was it just a convenient technicality? Well that was a question for the Minister himself and I had every intention in asking him personally, I wrote him umpteen letters, I wrote to my local TD (MP to those who live outside Ireland) and he sent the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform letters on my behalf, but to no avail the Minister did not have the time or inclination to meet with me, my wife wrote and asked if there were some way the she could expedite my case or help me attain citizenship but her letters we met with the standard ” Thank you for your letter dated……..”
I have since had to reapply for naturalisation, having been given the reason for denying my application the first time ( because it was made too early) you would be forgiven for thinking that this application would be dealt with expediently because all of the subject matter was at hand, Wrong, in one of my many letters from the Minister of Justice, Mr Mc Dowell’s office, I was informed that the citizenship department is currently working on the last cases from 2004 and since my new case was only filed in February of 2006 it will be the early part of 2008 before they look at it to see if I qualify for application. Does that make sense to you?
I suppose I did not help my case by rescuing my mother, niece and nephew from Iraq and bringing them here. I had not seen my mother for over thirteen years and my younger siblings were mere babies when I left them, my youngest sister being just eight when I affected my flight.
As for my niece and nephew their mother was killed in my family’s house in Baghdad during “Shock and Awe” they had all been sitting in the living room, my sister-in-law went upstairs to get something a bomb hit the house, it collapsed and that was that, the children were left motherless. Their father my brother went missing soon after, whether he was taken by a Shia militia or the Americans no-one knows. My wife and I now care for them and our family has grown from four to seven.
My mother applied for asylum here with the children, you must understand that she has no passport or identification and there is no other way that we can keep her here without applying and over my dead body will I let her go back to Iraq, we support her and the children as we should and all four children go to our local school and have integrated very well.
As is often the case in my life, my mother’s asylum process did not go smoothly, having had as much publicity as I have had over the years and because my story is Internationally recognised, I for some reason expected the asylum process to be concise and swift, It was neither. My mother was refused and we had to go to the appeals tribunal (which is still pending) my mother does not have any English a translator was provided for her but even so many thousands of miles away from Iraq the great Sunni –Shia conflict was evident (I would like to add at this point that in Iraq/Baghdad there was never any difference between Sunni, Shia or Kurd, we all lived together happily until the Iraqi opposition was formed in Vienna, Austria in 1992)
What was surprising is that two days after my mothers initial refusal of asylum two immigration police officers arrived at our door to asses her case, standard procedure was that the immigration police would asses your case and give their verdict before a decision was made, if it was the case that this procedure was changed the two red faced policemen seemed completely unaware of it. They still carried out their assessment and we have been promised another visit in the near future to check upon the wellbeing of the children. I wonder will their opinions make any difference the next time.
So after the initial refusal my barrister made an appeal, although I am trained in Law I was not allowed to represent my mother, I was allowed to attend the last ten minutes of what was very much like a trial, there were no jury, there was a tribunal member who acted like a judge a representative of the dept of Justice (the prosecution) and my barrister (the council for the defendant) you must understand that anything government related scares the life out of my mother she has seen her husband poisoned in front of her, her family threatened and imprisoned and her eldest son flee, all because of government.
It was agreed on the day that to prove her maternity of me, that we should have a DNA test (it still baffles me why anyone one would think that I would bring an elderly woman and two extra children into my home if they were not who I said they were) to this day it remains a mystery to me who actually asked for this DNA test, according to the tribunal I offered but to my recollection they asked, anyway we went to one of Ireland’s premier medical facilities and had the necessary tests done (which I paid for, I think you may have some inkling of how much these things cost), they were then flown to London to be carried out and the results were released three weeks later.
Finally we received the results, I had never questioned my parentage, but there was this niggling sense in the back of my head saying maybe they know something you don’t … Lo and behold… tad ah… .Yes she was my mother!
Well 98.75% of her genetic makeup matched mine, legally there could be no argument, I was relieved. Then came the letter, there was an argument, the tribunal wasn’t happy with the figures, they weren’t conclusive, my mother’s testimony had “holes” in it, I was taken aback!
If, although I had provided a DNA test with a result that would stand up in court and my story was Internationally accepted to be true, why was it nonsensical to believe that my mother was my mother and she should be saved from having to live in Iraq, a country that hated me because I was part of the regime (unwillingly) and then hated me because I escaped it? (But punished her for it)
So far we still have not received a decision, it has been at least six weeks since we answered their comments, one would wonder why it is taking so long?
I n my mind I know what will happen and I always hope against hope that I am wrong, I believe that just before Christmas we will hear something, it will be another refusal (on what grounds, I have no idea) but it will be at a time of year when the system will be on extended leave and my mother and I will have no recourse but to sit and wait again until the new year to start all over again.
Is it to keep me here in plain sight? If the Irish government don’t want me here, they certainly are making it hard for me to take my family and go.
To be continued….
In Plain View
Michael McDowell Minister for Justice-Ireland
For those of you who have read the first part of this article, you may either agree with my views or not, I did not come to these conclusions easily there were other deciding factors.
For a long time I tried to justify my treatment in Ireland, I convinced myself that it was all just a horrible coincidence, there was no conspiracy theory.
At some point the evidence became overwhelming and I had to acknowledge the fact that there was something going on, I have yet to see justice at work in Ireland at least in regard to me, having said that I don’t believe that I have seen justice in action at all.
In April of 2000 I was assaulted in Dublin it was an unprovoked attack and robbery was not the motive either, I received 20 stitches to my forehead, nose and cheek, while I sat bleeding in the hospital A&E and the doctors and nurses passed by hurrying to their coffee breaks I wondered how it had all come to this.
This is me 11/April/2000
Although I could identify my attacker and tried to instigate charges against them, I was advised against taking action by the Gardai (Irish Police) as it could affect my application for citizenship if I were to bring charges against an Irish national.
The statue of limitations for assault at the time was four years ( because of all the changes that Minister McDowell has made in the intervening years it hard to know if the statute still stands) although I desired citizenship I desired justice more, I instructed a solicitor to act on my behalf in the matter and started my recovery. After a short time I was contacted by the solicitor and was given the news that he had initially contacted the hospital to retrieve the original paperwork on my injuries and treatment at the hospital, the paperwork was unfortunately missing or lost. When my solicitor made further enquiries as to the whereabouts of the doctor that treated me that evening, he also was nowhere to be found, allegedly he had returned to his homeland Afghanistan, convenient? I think so.
At this point I will ask you a question; am I just the unluckiest S.O.B on the face of the planet?
I continued on with my life and recovered from my injuries, psychologically it took a toll on me, every time I looked in the mirror I had to deal with the scar that reflected back at me, my new decoration also gave me an added air of “gangster” something that I had spent the previous years trying to escape if you remember.
Since not having any reason to proceed with my case against my attacker, I continued on with my application for citizenship, you may recall what the outcome of that was; for those that don’t, my application was refused on the grounds that I had applied too early even though I had waited for five years for an answer. (Surprise! My case was the longest case awaiting a decision for citizenship in the history of the dept of Justice, documents to be published next week)
On a happier note it was later on in 2000 that I met my wife, she was appalled at the treatment that I received and has been my strongest supporter since.
In essence, in Ireland I have been homeless on the streets of Temple Bar, assaulted and left scarred (not while I was homeless), I was stripped of all my possessions, wrongly imprisoned, beaten by Gardai and “Lost” in the system for ten days.
When I made a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman they returned a verdict that my charges were vexatious and I was dismissed as a trouble maker.
The list is longer but there are some points that I cannot divulge presently some are pending, some I’m just saving for posterity.
Let me just say that if any of these things had happened to a Western person or anyone for that matter in Iraq under Saddam the minimum sentence for assault with a deadly weapon was 15 years even though Iraq is now considered a third world country.
As I write this my anger is rising, most of the time I have all of these memories pushed to that part of my mind that deals with the crap that I’ve gone through, Uday, Austria and now Ireland.
Why am I still here?
I am trapped, trapped by lack of a passport, trapped for the love of my mother and my niece and nephew, even if it was just my wife and our two children I could go, but until there is a decision made on my mothers case for asylum here I am in Plain view.
As you may be aware my latest book has been released, according to my publisher (a new Irish company who have some cohunes) there have been thousands of orders for “the Black Hole” worldwide but virtually nothing from Ireland itself. It seems that even with regard to getting local bookshops to stock it the first question that they are being hit with is “is he Irish?”
The Irish media themselves are not too interested in anything that doesn’t have an Irish slant unless of course you are a foreigner involved in crime, it doesn’t matter if it’s the newspapers, TV or radio, most of which are government owned or sponsored anyway, and hitherto most of the media that I have received has been for the most part unflattering.
I don’t expect to be loved and accepted, I just want to live my quiet little life and get on with it but I am not to be allowed to do even this, in recent weeks an article was written about me which in itself was not bad, suddenly I had customs and excise, immigration and the special branch (Irish MI5) at the door, one day after another, why? Because they got the call.
On the upside, I recently received a call from someone purporting to be from the citizenship dept of the dept of Justice, the voice on the end of the line had all the right information my case file no. my personal details etc, I was slightly excited at the prospect that my case was being looked into until I heard the real reasons for the call, the caller was willing to push through my citizenship for the mere sum of 50,000 euros, I declined, I may desire an Irish passport but if I wanted to buy one there are some great fakes going on the local market thanks!
I contacted my solicitor and told him the story, his first reaction was one of dismay, he thought that that sort of thing had stopped.
I was later interviewed by a national newspaper; I told the reporter about the phone call, the reporter was interested if I had a “Name” as it would sound more credible if I had, no disrespect to me of course.
It’s not like there hasn’t been a passport scandal in Ireland before, oh and it’s Christmas, Hello!
I write these articles not to be famous, I am already and not for reasons that I particularly like either, no matter what I do Peace missions etc it all still goes back to “Latif Yahia the ex-double of Uday Saddam Hussein” even in his death we are tied together.
Anyway, I write these articles to highlight what is going on, I know that there are other immigrants, asylum seekers out there, that have probably suffered more than I have, but they have no voice because they are afraid.
I however am not, having fought Saddam Hussein and his son a minister here or there really isn’t too much of a challenge and if I end up in Guantanamo or something, well the word will get out there. Hence I write my articles for the internet the last vestiges of freedom and free speech left in the world.
Oh and by the way, there have been rendition flights through Shannon airport no matter what reassurances the American administration has given the Irish government.
How do I know? Well I happen to know one of the poor bastards who was on one of those flights, he was innocent, he was tortured and he was held on Irish soil for over 24hrs and yes I do have proof, as I have proof of everything that I say, I do have a PhD. In International Law…
Fortunately enough for both the Irish government and the American administration none of the Gardai stationed in Shannon airport have the wherewithal to inspect any of these flights, it is convenient to blame the Gardai when really the Irish government should make it their business to know who is on those flights not just to take anyone’s assurances, that would be the sensible way to do things don’t you think, unless of course you already knew what was going on and wanted to pretend that you didn’t.
Latif with Irish Prime Minister Mr.Bertie Ahern
I had advised the Irish government in 2003 at the beginning of the “war on Iraq” not to open Shannon to the American government, if Ireland wanted to retain it’s neutrality letting planes flying to and from a war zone was not the way to do it, did America really need Shannon? American planes could have flown another half an hour to Manchester and refuelled there, Britain was part of the” coalition of the willing” wasn’t it? NO America needed to make as many targets around the world as it could, that’s why all of these tiny countries sent minute amounts of troops to Iraq, to have the name of participating and therefore to reap the repercussions of such an association.
For all that I have said about Ireland I do not want to see Ireland targeted by Al Qaeda or whomever, even though I dislike the government I still like the Irish people.
In so many ways Ireland reminds me of Iraq just with a bad climate, the government does as it pleases, no one really bothers and anyone who does decide to say something is silenced (not necessarily killed though, a la Saddam) but still the similarities remain.
To be continued.