Journey to the light
Though reading Between Two Worlds: Escaping from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam is a sometimes painful experience, this memoir of a daughter's coming to terms with her parents' decades-long high-wire act as unwilling members of Saddam Hussein's inner circle is also the author's hopeful vision, both for her own life and for the future of her native country.
Zainab Salbi was raised in a comfortable upper-middle-class Shi'a household in Baghdad. Her family's liberal, westernized way of life, the norm among Iraqi elite, was rudely intruded upon by a leader who came to power just as Salbi's childhood was coming to an end. Saddam Hussein, seemingly frustrated by his humble origins, attempted to worm his way into the upper echelons of Baghdadi society. Salbi recounts his influence on those he forcibly drew near him, and the terrible fate of those who dared to resist, giving us a unique glimpse inside his rule of terror. Salbi's woes worsened once her father was tapped to be Saddam's personal pilot, marking her for fear and resentment by the rest of Iraqi society as one of "Saddam's friends." Not surprisingly, the threat of murder, imprisonment and deportation that hung over her parents' heads slowly changed them from a fun-loving apolitical couple into a feuding husband and wife, torn between staying and leaving. Desperate to save her daughter, Salbi's mother arranged for her daughter's marriage to an Iraqi immigrant in the U.S., only to unwittingly land her in the arms of an abusive husband. Salbi's story of her second escape, of the founding of the war victims' charity Women for Women Inter-national, and of finally coming to terms with her parents' own stories before her mother's death, form a remarkable tale of emotional and mental resilience. Jehanne Moharram was born in the same year as Zainab Salbi, a few hundred miles south of Baghdad, in Kuwait. She now writes from Virginia.