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Self-Imposed Exile Ends for Iraqi Man

One extraordinary Iraqi man had been in hiding from Saddam Hussein’s regime for more than two decades. And now he is finally emerging back into the real world. Auria Aguilar-Makki reports.

Jawad Amir’s family and neighbors in the small Iraqi village of Jobah are welcoming him after a 21year absence.

“I feel as if I had just given birth to him again.”

Jawad has not been living in a foreign country or in another town. He has been hiding for more than two decades in an underground hole inside his family’s home.

The 49-year old man says he went into hiding after Saddam’s regime issued an execution order against him while he was a young follower of an outspoken Shiite cleric. Jawad was serving in the military at the time.

“When I felt the danger I escaped to my parents’ house, then I prepared my hiding place to keep away from the people so no one could report me to the regime.”

Jawad says he never ventured outside but he used to listen to the BBC Arabic service to stay in touch with events in the world. His only link to the outside world was this small peephole.

In his small cell he kept a few personal items, including the teeth he lost during his confinement. He had food and drank water from a small well.

The fugitive credits his faith and reading the Koran for giving him strength during his hiding.

“I was in a peaceful state because I believed I was doing the right thing and my companion was the holy Koran.”

Jawad says he decided to come outside his hideout after Saddam Hussein’s statue fell in Baghdad, to him the symbolic end of the regime.

Now he feels optimistic about the future and thanks the United States for saving him.