9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2007
This is a well-written true story about a woman called Mayada who lived in Iraq throughout the rule of Saddam Hussein. It vividly describes the privileged position Mayada had in a rich Iraqui family, and through this, how she went from being one of Saddam's 'favoured' to being thrown into one of his many torture prisons.
Despite the author being obviously pro-US throughout the book, it is very well written book and depicts Mayada's life with dignity and respect.
The only downfall of this book is that there are so many books on sale at the moment that are 'true stories' about people's plights in difficult situations. This book could be easily overlooked because of this, which is a great shame.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2006
I found this book very interesting to read. Especially the episodes in the prison regarding the reasons' why Iraqi people were taken into prison.
Mayada life and aspects into the introduction of her family were excellent. I feel one needs to learn about the aspects and privelages a person has and how they deal with things their own way. The insight into the Sadam Hussian political system was interesting and very sad at times. This is just a small chapter in what went on in Iraq under sadam. It will be interesting to see how other people and families suffered in Iraq.
I found this book to be a smooth read. This was one of those hard to eplain books-that have a meaning that goes beyond certain adgenda's and political cruelty when playing games becomes normal for the people that give the pain. For the receiver it becomes the pain of leaving children, parents, siblings behind and getting roped into a political system that never seems to end.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2006
Jean Sasson has produced a book which is very graphic and quite disturbing in parts, as to the life of those under the regime of Saddam Hussain. Mayada has continuity of circumstances and events with no holds barred. It conveys a sense of the ultimate macabre and evil that any human being can not even begin to understand. This is the first reading of a particular woman's life in either Iraq or Afghanistan, in being interested in the particular culture and lifestyle with regard to the teachings of the Q'uran. There is, as this book (Mayada),conveys, something sadly amiss, in the way human beings are treated and particularly women, being second class citizens, under those that see fit to treat their citizens as such in the name of Allah. Mayada is a compelling read and certainly puts a different light on the subject of those being holier than thou from the teachings of the Q'uran. Well worth reading, if only as a matter of interest or part of studies in humanity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 March 2011
They took me away from my home,
They slapped me when I cried out for my children,
They imprisoned me,
They accused me of crimes I had never commited,
They interrogated me with their harsh accusations,
They tortured me with their cruel hands ,
They stubbed out cigarettes on my flesh,
They cut out my tongue,
They raped me,
They cut off my breasts.
I wept alone in pain and fear.
They sentanced me to die,
They staked me to the wall,
I begged them for mercy,
They shot me between the eyes .
They dumped my body in a shallow grave,
They buried me without a shroud .
After my death - they discovered I was innocent .
Mayada Al-Askari leads a pretty priveledged life - with a grandfather that fought alongside Lawrence of Arabia, and another who is regarded by many, including Saddam Hussein himself, as the first true arab nationalist, she's been raised as a respected and admired member of one of the senior familieds in Iraq. Having spent her early years as a child adored by very forward thinking and modern parents, she was lucky enough to have an education and career, unlike many Iraqi women, and in her career as a journalist recieved many awards, some of which she collected from Saddam himself .
However, all the powerful connections cannot save her when one day, her print shop is searched by the secret police . Forbidden to even call her young children to let them know what is happening, she is bundled into the back of a Toyota, and spirited away to Iraq's now notorious Baladiyat, where she is crammed into a tiny cell with 17 other women .
Living in a filthy cramped cell with a shared toilet and a diet of mouldy bread and lentils, the only things that while away the time and distract the women from the fear of being tortured, and the sound of others being tortured, is to share their stories - the tales of their lives before prison, and the people they knew in their free lives. With Mayada being something of an Iraqi socialite, her stories naturally fascinate the other women confined in her cell - but Mayada also tells the other womens stories too .
I found the book very fascinating . Some Dooyoo-ers may already know this, but at one point I was married to an Iraqi, and he had his own tales to tell about his country under Saddams regime. This book was a fascinating insight into the injustice of the Iraqi secret police in a country where even hearing a bad word spoken against the premier was a crime punishable with a long prison sentance.
As interesting as Mayadas story was, it was actually the stories of the other women in the cell I found the most fascinating . After all, Mayada was lucky, spending only a month in the prison and being tortured only once . Some of the other women had been there for years, with one woman being tortured so long with low voltage electricity that her insides actually begun to smoke .
One woman in particular really stood out for me - a stunning lady called Samara, who despite being in prison still took pride enough in her appearance to wash her clothes every day. Taking the role of the groups morale officer, she spends all her time trying to cheer everyone up, and encouraging them to build up their strength against whatever torture might be coming next. At one point Samara recites a poem that was carved by an anonymous dead woman into the wall of a prison she was previously incarcerated in - the poem really stood out for me, and seemed to sum up the fears of all the women in the cell so well . That poem is, of course, the one reproduced in part at the top of this review .
The book is very well written, although I do wonder how many of the words are from Mayada, and how many are the imaginings of the writer, Jean Sasson. I find it hard to imagine, for instance, that whilst being violently bundled into the back of the car, Mayada would have taken the time to note the colour of the sky, or that in her panic she would have gazed long enough at a mural of Saddam to take in every tiny detail .
I feel the book ended rather abruptly when Mayada was freed, and was very dissapointed that it did not follow up the stories of the other women in the cell . I really was interested in Samara and whether she managed to obtain her freedom, and I also wanted to know whether Sara suffered any lasting internal damage from the electricity torture .
Overall, I do think this is a good, readable book. I do think it ended rather abruptly and for this reason felt incomplete, and for this I am deducting two stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2014
I found this web of compelling stories to be an incredible, interesting read (albeit very sad at times).
In this book you do not only learn about the protagonist's life story, but you learn stories about former Iraq government officials - both noblemen and corrupt, despicable men - as well as the sad, unfair stories of the brave women who shared her prison cell.
The book is very well written and you will find yourself submerged in its fascinating descriptions of events that make characters come to life. The book was also an eye-opening account of the dreadful events that Iraqis suffered though Saddam's regime.
My only wish for this book would be to know if the protagonist was ever able to know the whereabouts of any of the women in cell 52. I really hope they were able to find freedom and be reunited with their family again.
on 3 August 2015
From a western perspective, 12 years on from the invasion of Iraq, we are only just starting to learn more of what life was like under the long brutal tyranny of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. Jean Sasson's book is a valuable contribution to how women were treated. Mayada comes from a well-connected and wealthy family who played a pivotal role in the founding of Arab nationalism and, subsequently, in Iraqi politics. Mayada's story, particularly through the women she meets, highlights just how grinding daily life was for so many Iraqis under the deadly combination of Saddam's psychopathic regime, years of sanctions and relentless wars: the murmur of protest impossible without risking the attention of the secret police, and their assorted instruments of torture, not just into the protester but into his or her's family. Although Ms Sasson's prose can sometimes verge on the breathless, the heart of her book beats strongly, and with great commitment, to give a voice through Mayada's own story to the many innocent women holed-up in Baghdad's prison with little hope of release or even long-term survival. Mayada's own published writings (which I would have liked to have read in greater detail) attract the interest of both Saddam Hussein and, in a different way, the notorious Chemical Ali, Saddam's cousin and his ruthless 'head of security'. The descriptions of Mayada's meetings with both men are a chilling reminder of what power without accountability looks like. The scale of the sadism and cruelty is breathtaking. No one is exempt. Although Sasson wrote this book soon after the Coalition invasion it stands the test of time and is an
important contribution to bringing more women's voices to the forefront of recent history. As Mayada's much-loved grandfather summed-up: 'history never sleeps...' The tragedy for Iraq is that while Saddam and Chemical Ali and Uday Hussein may all be dead, their tried-and-tested regime of terror lives on unabated.