“We took a selfie together and we just said, ‘Love and peace from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel.’ And we posted it and we went to sleep. And then, the next morning when I woke up, basically my phone was blowing up with messages from the Miss Iraq organization, from my family, from strange numbers, and I didn't know what was going on.”
Sarah Idan grew up an Iraqi Muslim under Saddam Hussein and represented Iraq in the Miss Universe beauty pageant in 2017. She never imagined that a photo would ultimately force her family to have to flee the country.
“During that time, I was getting all the antisemitism, all the hate that you would get if you're a Jewish person. And I had no idea what the Jewish people had to deal with until that moment,” says Ms. Idan.
Today, she is a human rights activist who speaks out against antisemitism and Islamic fundamentalism.
“They do not seek to free the Palestinians. They seek to eradicate the Jewish people. They seek to eradicate Israel. And then after that, they would come after Christians, they would come after everyone, because this is the mentality of radical Islam. They want to take over the world, and we keep saying that. And when we say that, we get labeled as ‘Islamophobes,’” says Ms. Idan.
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"Even though they hate Christians and they believe they're infidels because they worship God or they worship the Son of God, their hatred for the Jewish people is more than their hatred for any other religion. And they truly believe if they kill a Jewish person, they will go to heaven for killing a Jewish person. They have this ideology, and I keep seeing this everywhere - in comments, in videos, and with people speaking. They think that this is a prophecy - that in order to bring the messiah, the 'mahdi' for them, they have to kill every Jew. They have to end Israel." -Sarah Idan
🔴 WATCH the full episode (56 minutes) on Epoch Times: https://ept.ms/S1107SarahIdan
Ms. Idan: I was born in Iraq in 1990. From 1990 until 2003, it was a very different era than what came later. That was the time I lived under the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, and the whole country was indoctrinated by the Ba'ath Party. Every day we heard “Death to America. Death to Israel,” from Saddam on TV. Even when you go to school or with the graffiti in the streets, it says that everywhere.
It was so much propaganda that was against the U.S. and Israel at the same time. In school it was the same thing. Whenever the teacher walks in and instead of saying, "Good morning," we all get up and we say, "Live long Saddam Hussein, the leader of Iraq." That was our greeting to each other in class.
It was the same thing when we raised the Iraqi flag on Thursdays. Every Thursday in school, we had to sing all these songs about liberating Palestine and defeating Israel. It was a crazy time. Of course, under the sanctions and all of that, life wasn't easy. We had an electrical power schedule and a water schedule. We would go for days and not have any electricity and not have any water, so we had to conserve. It was just a really difficult life under Saddam.
On top of all of that, you didn't have freedom of speech, and you didn't have freedom of thought. You basically had to worship Saddam and love Saddam. Anything that you would say against him could get you in trouble. Even if a child tells a joke about Saddam and someone hears it, then they would tell the intelligence services. Then the intelligence services would go to the family and interrogate the family, "Why is your child telling jokes about Saddam? Are you against Saddam?”
That happened to my family because my dad used to be a part of the Ba'ath Party until 1990. He was a military engineer and he built many bases around Iraq. He was a high senior official in the Ba'ath Party. But during the Iran-Iraq War my dad started having different opinions. He felt like Saddam was going into a different direction. When the Halabja bombing happened, my dad started looking for excuses to leave.
When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990 my dad said, "That's enough. I'm not invading another country. I'm not going there." He spoke to a couple of his close friends and they were able to come up with an excuse, saying that he had back problems and he couldn't serve anymore.
But from that time until the moment when Saddam was taken out by the U.S., we were interrogated every now and then. Saddam was really tight in the way that he ruled Iraq. In every neighborhood and on every street there was an officer who lived on that street. They had a list of every family, how many people were living there, what year they were born, and what they did for a living.
They used to come to us every month, kind of like the census, to check on us and talk to us. I remember one of our neighbors used to hate us and always ask my dad, "What's going on? Are you against Saddam?” They went through all of that. When the U.S. came in, my family, along with many other families, were so happy because it was the moment of liberation.
To be honest with you, no one thought it would happen. Even when the U.S. came in and was bombing Iraq, we thought this was just going to be another bombing, and it will end with nothing, because we know how powerful Saddam was at the time. No one believed how easy it was to invade Iraq.
I remember the day I was playing soccer with my friends on the freeway and all of a sudden, I saw this convoy come in. I am saying on the freeway, because no one was moving around, there was nothing happening. It was wartime. It was just us kids playing soccer in the street. Then I saw this U.S. convoy come in and my mind couldn't even register what it was. We thought it looked like an alien invasion or something.
They got out of their tanks and started giving us flowers and candy and pamphlets saying, "We're here to help you. We're not here to kill you." One of the funny things on the pamphlets was, "If you know any Ba'ath Party member, you need to turn them in."
I took the pamphlet to my family and we all just bursted into laughter, because all Iraqis were Ba'ath Party members. I was the only one in my family who was not. Because after age 13, you have to register in school, and they came in before I was 13-years-old. I was the only one not registered as a Ba'ath Party member. We were making jokes that I was going to turn them all in.
That should tell you how much the U.S. was not prepared and how much they didn't know about what was going on in Iraq. That was one of the mistakes that led to the civil war and why Iraq was in such trouble when the U.S. came in, because they didn't even know the simple information on the ground.
🔴 WATCH the full episode (56 minutes) and read the full script on Epoch Times: https://ept.ms/S1107SarahIdan
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