“We have not recorded a single Saddam since the regime fell on 9 April,” said Imad Fakhir Hasan, an employee at the public records office in Baghdad.
Before US troops ousted the president, numerous parents chose to name their children after him.
Today, the most popular name for babies is that of Ayat Allah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the Shia Muslim leader killed in August.
“We recorded more than 20 in the week after his assassination,” according to Maissun Rabiar al-Amara, who heads the public records office.
“Before the war, birth certificates often gave 28 April as the day of birth, the same as Saddam, even if in reality the babies were born a few days later. That way they received 150,000 Iraqi dinars (then $75) every year after their first birthday”, said Hasan.
Salim, a driver, could not call his child Saddam because it was a girl. But she had the good fortune of being born on 28 April 2002.
“I called her Milad – birth – to mark the link with the birthday of the leader. But the Americans entered Baghdad 19 days before I could get the bonus”.
No Uday or Qusay
As Saddam’s name has fallen from grace, so have those of his children. “No more Uday or Qusay for boys or Raghad and Hala for girls, names that were very popular when he was in power,” according to Hasan.
“I expect Saddams will eventually come to change their bothersome name”
Yet, no Saddam has yet shown up to have his name changed, even though Iraqi legislation allows citizens to change their names and birthdates once in a lifetime.
“I expect Saddams will eventually come to change their bothersome name,” a public records office employee said.
In a reflection of the changes that have taken place, the Shia Muslim majority is making its presence felt in a country where it was long oppressed by Saddam, from a Sunni Muslim family.
“There is a noticeable increase in Islamic first names popular among Shia,” says Hasan. Members of the family of seventh century Imam Ali are top picks, including Nur al-Husayn, Fatima al-Zahraa and Abd al-Hasan.
“…today, an Iraqi can even call his son Bush if he wants”…
Emad Fakher Hassan
“Under Saddam, people were scared to proclaim their religious or political convictions. Today an Iraqi can even call his son Bush if he wants,” Hasan says jokingly.
“Thank God, nobody has done it yet.”
One baby was recently registered under the name Usama bin Ladin.
“We tried to dissuade the father, but he insisted on the name.”
Usama’s father is from Falluja, a hotbed of anti-American activity.