Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was born in the town of Al-Awja, 13 km (8 mi) from the Iraqi town of Tikrit, to a family of shepherds from the al-Begat tribal group, a sub-group of the Al-Bu Nasir (البو ناصر) tribe. His mother, Subha Tulfah al-Mussallat, named her newborn son Saddam, which in Arabic means "One who confronts"; he is always referred to by this personal name, which may be followed by the patronymic and other elements. He never knew his father, Hussein 'Abid al-Majid, who disappeared six months before Saddam was born. Shortly afterward, Saddam's 13-year-old brother died of cancer. The infant Saddam was sent to the family of his maternal uncle Khairallah Talfah until he was three.
His mother remarried, and Saddam gained three half-brothers through this marriage. His stepfather, Ibrahim al-Hassan, treated Saddam harshly after his return. At about age 10, Saddam fled the family and returned to live in Baghdad with his uncle Kharaillah Tulfah. Tulfah, the father of Saddam's future wife, was a devout Sunni Muslim and a veteran from the 1941 Anglo-Iraqi War between Iraqi nationalists and the United Kingdom, which remained a major colonial power in the region.
Later in his life relatives from his native Tikrit became some of his closest advisors and supporters. Under the guidance of his uncle he attended a nationalistic high school in Baghdad. After secondary school Saddam studied at an Iraqi law school for three years, dropping out in 1957 at the age of 20 to join the revolutionary pan-Arab Ba'ath Party, of which his uncle was a supporter. During this time, Saddam apparently supported himself as a secondary school teacher.
Revolutionary sentiment was characteristic of the era in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. In Iraq progressives and socialists assailed traditional political elites (colonial era bureaucrats and landowners, wealthy merchants and tribal chiefs, monarchists). Moreover, the pan-Arab nationalism of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt profoundly influenced young Ba'athists like Saddam. The rise of Nasser foreshadowed a wave of revolutions throughout the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s, with the collapse of the monarchies of Iraq, Egypt, and Libya. Nasser inspired nationalists throughout the Middle East by fighting the British and the French during the Suez Crisis of 1956, modernizing Egypt, and uniting the Arab world politically.
In 1958, a year after Saddam had joined the Ba'ath party, army officers led by General Abd al-Karim Qasim overthrew Faisal II of Iraq in the 14 July Revolution.
Read more about Saddam Hussein: Rise To Power, Political Repression, Personality Cult, Foreign Affairs, Gulf War, Postwar Period, Invasion of Iraq in 2003, Execution, Marriage and Family Relationships, List of Government and Party Positions Held
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“Theres no telling what might have happened to our defense budget if Saddam Hussein hadnt invaded Kuwait that August and set everyone gearing up for World War II½. Can we count on Saddam Hussein to come along every year and resolve our defense-policy debates? Given the history of the Middle East, its possible.”
—P.J. (Patrick Jake)