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Mayada, Daughter of Iraq: One Woman's Survival Under Saddam Hussein

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A member of one of the most distinguished and honored families in Iraq, Mayada grew up surrounded by wealth and royalty. But when Saddam Hussein's regime took power, she was thrown into cell 52 in the infamous Baladiyat prison with seventeen other nameless, faceless women from all walks of life. To ease their suffering, these "shadow women" passed each day by sharing their A member of one of the most distinguished and honored families in Iraq, Mayada grew up surrounded by wealth and royalty. But when Saddam Hussein's regime took power, she was thrown into cell 52 in the infamous Baladiyat prison with seventeen other nameless, faceless women from all walks of life. To ease their suffering, these "shadow women" passed each day by sharing their life stories. Now, through Jean Sasson, Mayada is finally able to tell her story--and theirs--to the world.


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A member of one of the most distinguished and honored families in Iraq, Mayada grew up surrounded by wealth and royalty. But when Saddam Hussein's regime took power, she was thrown into cell 52 in the infamous Baladiyat prison with seventeen other nameless, faceless women from all walks of life. To ease their suffering, these "shadow women" passed each day by sharing their A member of one of the most distinguished and honored families in Iraq, Mayada grew up surrounded by wealth and royalty. But when Saddam Hussein's regime took power, she was thrown into cell 52 in the infamous Baladiyat prison with seventeen other nameless, faceless women from all walks of life. To ease their suffering, these "shadow women" passed each day by sharing their life stories. Now, through Jean Sasson, Mayada is finally able to tell her story--and theirs--to the world.

30 review for Mayada, Daughter of Iraq: One Woman's Survival Under Saddam Hussein

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    An extraordinarily powerful real life narrative about the hell endured by a women and her family in Saddam' Hussein's Iraq. Recounts the life story of Guzim Najan, and her life as a GUI wife and then as a victim of Saddam's monstrous regime. Guzim was the wife of Iraqi diplomat Ra'ad Said, and the book describes Guzim's childhood and adolescence in Iraq, followed by Ra'ad and Guzim's life in the international diplomatic circuit, during the period of the Iraq-Iraq war of 1980-1989. On the eve of t An extraordinarily powerful real life narrative about the hell endured by a women and her family in Saddam' Hussein's Iraq. Recounts the life story of Guzim Najan, and her life as a GUI wife and then as a victim of Saddam's monstrous regime. Guzim was the wife of Iraqi diplomat Ra'ad Said, and the book describes Guzim's childhood and adolescence in Iraq, followed by Ra'ad and Guzim's life in the international diplomatic circuit, during the period of the Iraq-Iraq war of 1980-1989. On the eve of the First Gulf War of 1991, Ra'ad was recalled to Baghdad and instructed to work in the Foreign Ministry. T. Ra'ad became more depressed and uncommunicative. One day he was abducted by Saddam's ruthless secret service the Mukhabbarat and severally tortured before being dumped on his front porch, where he begged Guzim to promise him to take the children and leave Iraq. A few weeks later he was dead, probably of poison he was given when under the Mukhabbarat's imprisonment. After that Guzim and her family were subjected to three years of nightmarish house arrest, where they were daily terrorized by Saddam's thugs, and Guzim was beaten and tortured. Eventually , through he help of an old friend, who now served in the Mukhabbarat, Muzim and her children escaped to Jordan and eventually moved to freedom in Australia in 2002. As well as the story of Muzim and her family, this book is a history of Iraq under Saddam's horrific 23 year reign of terror, and a political history of Iraq prior to this period. Guzim relates at the end of the book her relief at seeing Iraq freed by the brave American, British, Australian and Polish troops of the coalition. Anyone who doubts the horrors perpetrated by Saddam Hussein and the reason for his overthrow should read this book. As recounted , quoting the book by Kenneth Polack, The Threatening Storm, 'This is a regime that will force a white hot metal rod into a person's anus or other orifices... This is a regime that will behead a young mother in the street in front of her house and and children because her husband was suspected of opposing the regime' Indeed Saddam's regime slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Kurds and marsh Arabs in a series of horrific genocides. Leftwing radicals in the West and elsewhere who have supported his regime should hang their heads in shame if they are still capable of any.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Candice Sanderson

    One of the hardest books I've ever read! I put down this book so many times because I was either crying to hard or just felt too sick to continue reading. Very powerful and heartbreaking. I think I was actually a little depressed while I was reading this book and I'm happy to have closed it but I can't ever forget this story and yet I know it's just the very tip of the iceberg in describing the atrocities of everyday life for Iraqis!

  3. 4 out of 5

    W

    Jean Sasson has written half a dozen books on Saudi Arabia. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait,she also wrote a short book,The Rape of Kuwait. The problem with her books always is that they either look like fiction or a mixture of fact and fiction,at best. In case of this book,it also looks like propaganda and an exercise in Saddam bashing.It was published not long after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. While Saddam was no doubt bad,Jean Sasson's books are completely silent about the US invasions Jean Sasson has written half a dozen books on Saudi Arabia. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait,she also wrote a short book,The Rape of Kuwait. The problem with her books always is that they either look like fiction or a mixture of fact and fiction,at best. In case of this book,it also looks like propaganda and an exercise in Saddam bashing.It was published not long after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. While Saddam was no doubt bad,Jean Sasson's books are completely silent about the US invasions of the country and their impact on Iraq's long suffering people. Apart from debatable factual accuracy,this book was pretty boring too.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Why did so many Iraqis risk their lives by putting their finger on the ink pad, to vote for a new government? Read this memoir of this lady's life, prior to the war and you will soon understand the hideous events that were taking place under Saddam Hussein. Well written and very interesting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Patille Madaghjian

    Wow. This book has truly opened my eyes to see how much women suffered in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. Mayada is the granddaughter of the most famous and respected leaders in Iraq; Jafar Pasha Al-Askari, who was the Defence Minister and Prime Minister of Iraq, and Sati Al-Husri, who was one of the first Arab Nationalists and also a government minister. Her family is treated like royalty and so Mayada had lived a privileged life. Her world crumbles when she is taken to Baladiyat prison fo Wow. This book has truly opened my eyes to see how much women suffered in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. Mayada is the granddaughter of the most famous and respected leaders in Iraq; Jafar Pasha Al-Askari, who was the Defence Minister and Prime Minister of Iraq, and Sati Al-Husri, who was one of the first Arab Nationalists and also a government minister. Her family is treated like royalty and so Mayada had lived a privileged life. Her world crumbles when she is taken to Baladiyat prison for a crime that she has not commit. She was said to print leaflets at her printing shop against Saddam Hussein. Under the cruel and agonizing reign of Saddam Hussein, Iraq had suffered a great deal, and most people were taken to prison for no reason and were tortured brutally. I was truly appalled at how Iraqis were treated in prison. I was so shocked at how the guards acted like animals and beat the prisoners. I cannot even begin to describe how the poor “shadow women” in cell 52, where Mayada stayed, were tortured. The women were hit continuously with a whip, beaten up, burned, electrocuted, raped...the list goes on. I could hardly believe that these women survived! I know if I was in Baladiyat, I could never have survived that kind of torment! I really admire these women’s’ will and struggle to survive just so they can see their beloved families again. They were truly brave. I recoiled in horror at the descriptions of their wounds; their backs would look like a mess of freshly cut flesh with blood oozing out. But what really touched my heart was the love these women had for each other. They would encourage each other to stay alive and keep praying so that they can see their families once again. Samara was the one of the “shadow women” who gave all the others the will to survive. If it was not for the friendship of Samara, I think Mayada would never have survived. Not only did the women, along with other prisoners, bear the physical scars of their torture sessions, but their minds can never rid the memories either. They are mentally scarred for life! Mayada will never forget her time in Baladiyat, even though she was only there for a month, while the other women had been there for years. I was torn by the stories of the Iraqis during Saddam’s reign. The sudden disappearance of a husband, wife, son, daughter, mother or father would cause a loved one to swirl into a nightmare. They would not know if their loved one was dead, imprisoned, or kidnapped, and they would not know why. They would get no notification whatsoever. I was completely heartbroken by their suffering and desperation to find their loved one or just know if they were alive. Iraqis lived in constant threat of imprisonment or death if they said or did anything opposing to Saddam. My heart really went out to these innocent people. This book has opened my eyes to the misery and distress people felt under the reign of this vindictive, evil dictator. When I finished the book, I could not believe that Mayada did not know what happened to the other “shadow women” of cell 52. Who died? Who survived? I will never know, and that is what deeply saddens me. I recommend this book to everyone because it truly opens your eyes and mind to what our world is. It can be a vicious place for many innocent people who just want to be with family and friends and have a good time. All they want to do is be educated and be happy. Is that too much to ask for? I will never know how these innocent people of Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s rule survived because of how much they suffered physically and mentally. All I can say to this book is “wow.” I am speechless. I am really astounded by how the magnificent women of cell 52 struggled to survive physically and mentally just so they could see their children and family. My heart goes out to these extraordinary women.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tmcdouga

    I had mixed feelings about this book. Based on a true account, this book handles some difficult topics, such as the hardships of being a woman in Iraq and the terrible, excessive and unnecessary torture going on in the prisons of that country. While the importance of these themes should not be belittled, I feel the style of writing does not do the story justice. The book attempts to be a personal memoir, based on real events from the life of an actual Iraqi woman that the author met in Iraq. But I had mixed feelings about this book. Based on a true account, this book handles some difficult topics, such as the hardships of being a woman in Iraq and the terrible, excessive and unnecessary torture going on in the prisons of that country. While the importance of these themes should not be belittled, I feel the style of writing does not do the story justice. The book attempts to be a personal memoir, based on real events from the life of an actual Iraqi woman that the author met in Iraq. But it never truly achieves that goal. The story chugs along rather slowly, recycling a cookie-cutter format throughout the book: (1)A description of the current condition of the jail cell and its inhabitants. (2)Mayada worries about her children or reminisces about her family. (3)Mayada somehow "finds the strength" to tell everyone a story about her past. Possibly the most frustrating part of this format, was that many topics or characters were introduced in her reminiscing and then re-introduced in her storytimes, as if we had never heard of the people she is talking about. There is so much redundant information that shows up in the book, and it makes reading the book rather tedious and boring. Again, I think the content of the book is extremely interesting and definitely worth reading. It is very interesting to get a lot of personal details, particularly about Saddam and his inner circle. It really just is the format that ruins the flow of the book. I would recommend it to someone with a dedicated interest in Iraq or the Middle East, but there are better books that deal with the topics of women in the Middle East or accounts of torture that are much more rewarding for the casual reader.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    This book was so captivating that I blew through it in one day (in fairness it was raining outside though : ) ) I still think that A Long Way Gone ruined me so that no depressing memoir will ever disturb me again, this book came close. It's Mayada's account of being stuck in an Iraqi prison. She was lucky and had little torture and got out quite quickly but hearing what her cellmates went through was terrible! It's worth a read to understand why we put troops over there - regardless of whether o This book was so captivating that I blew through it in one day (in fairness it was raining outside though : ) ) I still think that A Long Way Gone ruined me so that no depressing memoir will ever disturb me again, this book came close. It's Mayada's account of being stuck in an Iraqi prison. She was lucky and had little torture and got out quite quickly but hearing what her cellmates went through was terrible! It's worth a read to understand why we put troops over there - regardless of whether or not they should be home by now - and how insanely lucky we are. My swollen sunburnt nose seems not quite the social catastrophe I thought is was now!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I liked this book--Mayada's story is worth telling; however, I realized very quickly that Jean Sasson's writing style made me want to question parts of the story. Sasson writes in such a way that if seemed to me like I was hearing more of Sasson's voice and not much of Mayada's (which I suppose can't be helped since Mayada didn't write the book). I constantly wanted to ask if Mayada was really thinking the things that Sasson writes about--like the color of the sky when she's taking a walk, etc. I liked this book--Mayada's story is worth telling; however, I realized very quickly that Jean Sasson's writing style made me want to question parts of the story. Sasson writes in such a way that if seemed to me like I was hearing more of Sasson's voice and not much of Mayada's (which I suppose can't be helped since Mayada didn't write the book). I constantly wanted to ask if Mayada was really thinking the things that Sasson writes about--like the color of the sky when she's taking a walk, etc. It seemed to me like it was sentimental filler. Also, the book was strongly opinionated, but sometimes I wasn't sure if I was hearing Mayada's opinions or Sasson's. That being said, this didn't hinder the importance or the horror of Mayada's story. I did feel like I learned a lot about the mindset of people who were under Saddam's oppressive regime; and the part about the torture was so difficult to read that at times I had to put the book down. It was somewhat traumatic for me. I was relieved and encouraged when things finally worked out for Mayada in the end; the fact that I had enough emotional connection to Mayada to feel that tells you that the story was told well. It's a good read, but I do prefer the following books to this one: Between Two Worlds Sharon and My Mother-in-Law Lipstick Jihad

  9. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Vellacott

    Not what it claims to be! A friend gave me this. Based on the title, I thought it would be interesting. It starts off well; a young woman imprisoned in Iraq after changing her name. She gives details of her capture and initial activities in her cell and conversations with her cell-mates. However, then we have information dumps about the history of Iraq and Iran and various figures in the government and their political anglings. Then, we move on to the history of Mayada's family, back to her great Not what it claims to be! A friend gave me this. Based on the title, I thought it would be interesting. It starts off well; a young woman imprisoned in Iraq after changing her name. She gives details of her capture and initial activities in her cell and conversations with her cell-mates. However, then we have information dumps about the history of Iraq and Iran and various figures in the government and their political anglings. Then, we move on to the history of Mayada's family, back to her great grandparents, with each generation's activities being described in great detail. I confess, when I saw the family tree at the beginning of the book, I wondered how it would be relevant to the story of Mayada; it wasn't, but the author included it anyway. This book is severely biased and intended to make a political point. If I cared more about the politics and history of the region, I might have been interested to try and figure out what the point was. I can't stand books that are sold as one thing but are actually something else, it's not fair on the reader. I found this boring and wished it had actually been what it claimed to be; a biography about Mayada.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    A poignant and eye-opening look at life in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Mayada's chilling story offers a first-hand look at modern Iraq's turbulent history. Mayada, a member of one of Iraq's most distinguished and privileged families, was whisked away from her office one morning by the secret police and thrown into one of Saddam's notorious prisons for a crime she did not commit. During her brief imprisonment, her life was changed forever by the courage of "the shadow women," fellow pr A poignant and eye-opening look at life in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Mayada's chilling story offers a first-hand look at modern Iraq's turbulent history. Mayada, a member of one of Iraq's most distinguished and privileged families, was whisked away from her office one morning by the secret police and thrown into one of Saddam's notorious prisons for a crime she did not commit. During her brief imprisonment, her life was changed forever by the courage of "the shadow women," fellow prisoners who demonstrated compassion for each other through unimaginable deprivation and torture. This is not a pleasant story, but it is worth reading.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This was an eye-opening first-hand account of a woman who was from a revered Iraqi family. Her family connections, however did not save her from being taken prisoner and tortured by Saddam's regime. It's worth reading if you want to know more about Iraq's dark history under Saddam. An easy read in that it's one woman's story - a difficult read from the point of view that it's absolutely horrifying what people suffered under Saddam, Uday and Qusay.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bebel

    Unbelievable! I always knew that things were grim, but I guess I wasn't macabre enough...It's amazing that humanbeings can do this sort of thing with one another! It helped me understand Iraq's history a little bit more...I never realized that it wasn't that long ago that the breakdown of the empire happened and how drastically it affected that area of the world!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Catheron

    At Foster Library. A very eye opening book about the horrors the Iraq people have had to endure living under Saddam's reign. If Bush had made this book mandatory reading for all Americans, he would probably have received more support for the war.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ernest

    This is the story of Mayada Al-Askari. Mayada comes from a long distinguished Iraqi family. She grew up amongst the rise of Sadddam Hussein and his eventual control of Iraq. At first, her work as a journalist was praised by the authorities. As time went on, she found herself a divorced mother of two printing non-political brochures. Then in 1999, she became a target of Saddam’s secret police. Thrown in a cell with 52 other women, this biography details her background, history, tales of growing u This is the story of Mayada Al-Askari. Mayada comes from a long distinguished Iraqi family. She grew up amongst the rise of Sadddam Hussein and his eventual control of Iraq. At first, her work as a journalist was praised by the authorities. As time went on, she found herself a divorced mother of two printing non-political brochures. Then in 1999, she became a target of Saddam’s secret police. Thrown in a cell with 52 other women, this biography details her background, history, tales of growing up in Iraq and the life stories of the women who shared her cell. This was a difficult book to read, not for the language but for the descriptions of what happened. At several times, I was forced to put the book down, only able in small doses to comprehend the brutality and depths to which not just the secret police acted but on a larger scale how humans, including women, could be treated in such a cruel and degrading manner. It was very confronting to read of the lives of people who had suffered under Saddam, as opposed to larger scale descriptions of the wrongs. Although this book was published in 2003, the subsequent actions involving and ongoing international focus on Iraq does cause one to critically examine one’s own thoughts, feelings and attitudes to the actions in Iraq. It is ultimately the people, including the women, of that nation who will live out the consequences of the actions that anyone, including they, choose for that nation. This is a confronting biography. Directly telling Mayada and the other women’s stories, it is not only a chilling and at times despairing look into life in the time of Saddam, but a despairing demonstration about the lack of humanity and love that humans can show towards one another. It is one thing to read about the sufferings that people as a group face. It is a much more difficult thing to read their personal, individual tales.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessi

    I don't really follow politics much. I guess I've always been apathetic to things like that. When people would argue for or against the war on Iraq, I'd just stay out of the conversation and listen to whatever scandalous information they might share. After reading this book, I can say that I am fully for the war on terrorism. I'd take the veil anytime before I'd want to live under Saddam's cruel insanity. The Princess books also expound a little of the horrors the common people of Afghanistan go I don't really follow politics much. I guess I've always been apathetic to things like that. When people would argue for or against the war on Iraq, I'd just stay out of the conversation and listen to whatever scandalous information they might share. After reading this book, I can say that I am fully for the war on terrorism. I'd take the veil anytime before I'd want to live under Saddam's cruel insanity. The Princess books also expound a little of the horrors the common people of Afghanistan go through. If we don't help these people, who will? They can't help themselves. Their governments won't let them have the resources for that. I do know that Saddam is now gone and am very happy for that. I sincerely hope that those women from cell 52 and all the other innocent people held in horrifying prisons lived long enough to see the freedom that the US helped them achieve.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    If you have any doubt that going into Iraq and releasing the people of their evil dictator was wrong, then read this book. I had no idea how hard it was to live in that nation, the constant fear and mistrust of everyone (even your relatives). If you had a disagreement with someone, they only had to report you to the secret police on a trumped up charge and you would be put in a prison to be tortured until you admitted to something that you were completely innocent of. I am so grateful to have th If you have any doubt that going into Iraq and releasing the people of their evil dictator was wrong, then read this book. I had no idea how hard it was to live in that nation, the constant fear and mistrust of everyone (even your relatives). If you had a disagreement with someone, they only had to report you to the secret police on a trumped up charge and you would be put in a prison to be tortured until you admitted to something that you were completely innocent of. I am so grateful to have the freedoms I take for granted, wow, amazing eye opener!!! It is a very personal story of Mayada, a well to do Iraqi and her experiences. An easy and quick read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Again Jean Sasson has mastered telling a difficult story about a woman in the Middle East. If you choose to read this book, understand that the torture under Saddam Hussein is graphic and horrifying. Women, Men, children and babies were all tortured. Mayada has an amazing family ancestry and you were able to really appreciate the history of Iraq. If you want to understand life in Iraq, this is an excellent resource.

  18. 4 out of 5

    shougbinr

    This book has truly moved me. It opened my eyes to life under the rule of Saddam Hussein; it is brutal. People were taken away from their families for no reason and were imprisoned for years. It seems like death was the best escape from all the brutal torment the prisoners went through. They were whipped, electrocuted, beaten , raped, and much more. This book reveals the truth about living in Iraq through the eyes of an imprisoned woman who went through hell to survive.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

    I feel the need with the war in Iraq to understand the mindset of the Iraqi people. This book is one women's biography under Saddam and although definitely not light reading, very well written.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    obviously, this is one woman's side of the story, but it opened my eyes as to the things that paople face in other parts of the world and under dictator rule. and she was one of the lucky ones.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sueann allen

    From this book, you get an inside perspective on life with Saddam Hussein. It is a quick read and is very interesting.

  22. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Marlene♥

    Mayada. What can I say about this book? It is hard because I am in the minority thinking this is not such a great book. Yes I do agree it was interesting to get to know a bit of gossip about Saddam Hussein but most interesting was of course the history of Iraq and I noticed many readers really thought that was interesting and I agree. Why I did not like the book as much as others did is because of the way Jean Sasson writes. She seems to be more a romance writer and I have read other books by her Mayada. What can I say about this book? It is hard because I am in the minority thinking this is not such a great book. Yes I do agree it was interesting to get to know a bit of gossip about Saddam Hussein but most interesting was of course the history of Iraq and I noticed many readers really thought that was interesting and I agree. Why I did not like the book as much as others did is because of the way Jean Sasson writes. She seems to be more a romance writer and I have read other books by her but with this book it started to become a hinder.. She is always trying to make the muslim world a beautiful world but that is not easy when you are talking about women in a cell being tortured by very cruel muslim men, but then made the women that had been in that jail for years and being tortured many times, laugh and joke a lot. Very unrealistic In one passage she writes about the most beautiful man she had ever seen. Quote: while she was in that terror cell: Maya stared at the ceiling,remembering one of the most physically exquisite men she had met. An image of his handsome face floated before her eyes. She recalled how a playful smile often dimpled his mouth. He was so handsome it was rumored that many women fell in love with him at first sight. His name was Ali Hassan Al-Majid aka Chemical Ali.end of quote She made me so curious I decided to look him up. . . . . . . WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!! So most of the women in this book are gorgeous with green eyes and are victim. I am not so sure about that anymore after reading and noticing how these women act when they have freedom. They still want to hold on to the old ways. When reading about Iraq in this book I could not help but realize how cruel many people out there were.See the last centuries and it has always been in turmoil. So if I make the link to what is happening in Europe at the moment where many muslims are silently and not so silently supporting isis, I now understand that the Western countries should not have interfered back then. They are a totally different people than we are here while in Europe many have studied are educated and lived peaceful, accepting people from other religions,cultures and different sexual orientation, many of them think gays should be hanged, women can be used and are not worth much. Now it seems Europe is going backwards. Gays have to be more careful again. Jews do not feel so safe as they did before and I did not even begin about the muslim terrorism. Women can not walk on the streets without being called whore even when wearing jeans and a normal top so perhaps that is why I get annoyed when she is writing about so much cruelty but still feels the need to romanticize it. Yes I know a lot of people will not like what I am saying and I will probably be called a racist but I am sick of being silenced out of fear.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ape

    My 2010 bookcrossing review: Well, at times this was really uncomfortable to read. It's the story of an Iraqi woman, Mayada, who comes from a very priviledged and well to do background. Which is probably the only reason she's around to tell her story. Accused of producing anti-government leaflets, she is dragged off to some kind of prison/detention centre where people were detained for all kinds of made up ridiculous reasons, and tortured daily by sadistic headcases who should have been tied into My 2010 bookcrossing review: Well, at times this was really uncomfortable to read. It's the story of an Iraqi woman, Mayada, who comes from a very priviledged and well to do background. Which is probably the only reason she's around to tell her story. Accused of producing anti-government leaflets, she is dragged off to some kind of prison/detention centre where people were detained for all kinds of made up ridiculous reasons, and tortured daily by sadistic headcases who should have been tied into small bags and drowned. It is quite distressing to think that this actually happened, and that there were and are people that nasty out there. And the "crimes" that people were imprisioned, tortured and executed over... you could have your tongue cut out for saying something bad about Saddam or his family. Crazy. Just imagine what life would be like here if we had such a rule. Most of the country would be mutilated and behind bars now. And just as you are disgusted by what people are capable of in this book, there is also the Shadow women, who remind you that humanity does still exist. These were the women locked in the cell with Mayada; they all looked after one another and kept each other going. And we never find out what happened to them, but presumably a lot of them died in those prisons. Grim reading, but at the same time it feels like it's pretty essential stuff; that everyone should know about this.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Overall it's a great book and very well written. Jean Sasson is one of my favorite authors. It is an amazing book with intense insight into the life of Saddam Hussein (before and during his reign) as well as the lives of Iraqi citizens who lived through is dictatorship. I don't suggest this book to some one who is looking for a general overview of recent history of Iraq. I suggest it to some one who has already read that and wants to know more. I say this because this book is not the account of Overall it's a great book and very well written. Jean Sasson is one of my favorite authors. It is an amazing book with intense insight into the life of Saddam Hussein (before and during his reign) as well as the lives of Iraqi citizens who lived through is dictatorship. I don't suggest this book to some one who is looking for a general overview of recent history of Iraq. I suggest it to some one who has already read that and wants to know more. I say this because this book is not the account of an "average person" living in Iraq while Hussein was in power. The thing that made the book very interesting to me is also what made it impossible to consider it the account of an average person living under Hussein in Iraq. Mayada is not the average everyday Iraqi citizen. She was privy to Hussein's personal life as her mother was close to him. They were not fond of him in any way but they knew a lot about him. She recounts this information to the women she meets while imprisoned. She is not treated like a typical prisoner and most of the horrors are the stories of other women. This is NOT to say that she didn't suffer. She was just treated slightly better because of who she was. This book is stil very relevant and insightful and extremely well written regardless of whether it is the story of an average Iraqi citizen.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sharina MS

    When the rulers use fear, paranoia, blackmail, terror to control their ppl, they'll never succeed in getting the loyalty and respect from their ppl. Iraq, under the tenure of Saddam Hussein seemed to be a living hell on earth, I cant even imagine living a minute in it. Ppl are arrested out of suspicion, exposed to ridiculous, brutal and atrocious tortures.....wow...only beasts are capable do that. in this story, there are too many beasts involved, over the helpless women in cell 52 and other me When the rulers use fear, paranoia, blackmail, terror to control their ppl, they'll never succeed in getting the loyalty and respect from their ppl. Iraq, under the tenure of Saddam Hussein seemed to be a living hell on earth, I cant even imagine living a minute in it. Ppl are arrested out of suspicion, exposed to ridiculous, brutal and atrocious tortures.....wow...only beasts are capable do that. in this story, there are too many beasts involved, over the helpless women in cell 52 and other men. Eventho the highlight of the story is the shadow women in cell 52, as i flipped thru each page, i cant help myself from thinking the fate of the men...iraqi teenagers, sons, husbands, fathers who received similar or heavier torture from the guards...until the last breath of their life. Too many innocent lives are wasted in the soil of iraq, some of them were reported where families can claim their lifeless bodies...and maybe most of them gone unreported; families had no idea of their loved one's whereabouts. I'm happy that those relatively dark days were over, the new iraq was born since 2003. I really hope the justice, fairness, some common sense are restored in the beautiful land named Iraq.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shaymaa

    I'm still wandering if reading a book like this at this particular time was a good or bad coincidence; but I gotta say that this book captivates you in a way that you'll want to continually read it till the end. The book gives you an idea about how human rights were violated in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. It mainly tells you the story of cell 52 in Baladiyat prison where Mayada, a well known respected family member, shared other women imprisonment and torture. The book also illustrates I'm still wandering if reading a book like this at this particular time was a good or bad coincidence; but I gotta say that this book captivates you in a way that you'll want to continually read it till the end. The book gives you an idea about how human rights were violated in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. It mainly tells you the story of cell 52 in Baladiyat prison where Mayada, a well known respected family member, shared other women imprisonment and torture. The book also illustrates Iraq's history and timeline. Well, to me it's a good read and I gotta say that this book captivates you in a way that you'll want to continually read till the very end. But I must say that sometimes I just felt that Sasson exaggerated a little bit. Also, I think that one should read other books and gather more information in order to get a complete picture about Iraq. I definitely think that I can understand "Imperial life in emerald city" better now after reading Mayada.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dianne Kaucharik

    If you have ever questioned the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq by United States forces or pondered the impacts of his regime, this is a must read. If you have ever taken for granted the value of democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of movement that most Westerners and Europeans enjoy, this is a must read. While educational throughout, the book is frightening, horrific and sad. At times, I found myself holding my breath. I am so thankful to Jean Sasson for enlightening me about the Middle If you have ever questioned the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq by United States forces or pondered the impacts of his regime, this is a must read. If you have ever taken for granted the value of democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of movement that most Westerners and Europeans enjoy, this is a must read. While educational throughout, the book is frightening, horrific and sad. At times, I found myself holding my breath. I am so thankful to Jean Sasson for enlightening me about the Middle East through this book and others like Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arab and Princess Sultana's Daughters.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    This book is an account of Mayada being unjustly put into an Iraqi prison under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Mayada shared a prison cell with about 12 other women, all of whom had a story to tell of how they ended up in prison (none of them had committed crimes), their families who had no idea where they were, and the tortures they endured. Mayada differed from these women in that she came from a well known and respected family and therefore didn't endure as much torture. This story was an eye-op This book is an account of Mayada being unjustly put into an Iraqi prison under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Mayada shared a prison cell with about 12 other women, all of whom had a story to tell of how they ended up in prison (none of them had committed crimes), their families who had no idea where they were, and the tortures they endured. Mayada differed from these women in that she came from a well known and respected family and therefore didn't endure as much torture. This story was an eye-opening look at life in Iraq during Saddam's reign. There is much dispute over whether the war in Iraq should have occurred. After reading this book I am relieved that Saddam Hussein and his followers were taken out of power. Overall, this book was worth reading...not pleasant, but worth reading.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Zainab Emad

    I’ve been looking for this book for 3 years, our libraries in Iraq need to be updated with more books like this. This is not your bundle of joy and from the title of it, I know that anything with Saddam is far from being joyful. I don’t know how to describe it, I put down this book so many times and I ignored it as much as I could because I either was crying my soul out or just feeling depressed about what happened to all the Iraqis who have lived in Saddam's Iraq. This book is just the tip of th I’ve been looking for this book for 3 years, our libraries in Iraq need to be updated with more books like this. This is not your bundle of joy and from the title of it, I know that anything with Saddam is far from being joyful. I don’t know how to describe it, I put down this book so many times and I ignored it as much as I could because I either was crying my soul out or just feeling depressed about what happened to all the Iraqis who have lived in Saddam's Iraq. This book is just the tip of the iceberg, I'd like to tell a spoiler for Mayada because at the end of the book she said the nightmare was over. Mayada the nightmare is still going. I’d like to think that samara is okay and all of the shadow women in cell 52 are okay and living their life outside this nightmare.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Antara Banerjee

    'Mayada' is so touching and immediate that one cannot but be aroused and moved. Jean Sasson has an uncanny way of drawing her readers to her accounts with such urgentcy that language seems to be of no consequence. However, that is the sign of a brilliant writer who moulds her language so masterfully that it melts into the background seamlessly while her narrative leaps out of the pages as though it were an account of the reader's own life. The accounts such as of Sultana (Princess, Daughters of A 'Mayada' is so touching and immediate that one cannot but be aroused and moved. Jean Sasson has an uncanny way of drawing her readers to her accounts with such urgentcy that language seems to be of no consequence. However, that is the sign of a brilliant writer who moulds her language so masterfully that it melts into the background seamlessly while her narrative leaps out of the pages as though it were an account of the reader's own life. The accounts such as of Sultana (Princess, Daughters of Arabia) and Mayada do need a voice like Sasson's so that the world may know of their bitter experiences and their courage in face of enormous hostilities.

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