Published August 02, 2003
AMMAN, Jordan – In television interviews that aired Friday, Saddam Hussein's daughters said they loved their father but didn't know of his whereabouts. They said they last saw him a week before the war started.
Raghad and Rana Saddam Hussein, 36 and 34 respectively, were granted asylum Thursday in Jordan with their nine children.
The pair appeared in a television interview with an American cable news channel and Raghad was interviewed alone by Al Arabiya (search), an Arab satellite station. The interviews were conducted at an Amman (search) royal palace, where the two daughters and their nine children are staying under the protection of Jordan's King Abdullah II (search).
"Nobody knows where he is. Nobody tells me that," Raghad told the American channel. "He's not going to tell anybody where he is now, even my mother."
In that interview, the sisters talked about what kind of father Saddam was. They were poised but appeared to choke up somewhat as they spoke of their family.
"He was a very good father, loving, has a big heart," Raghdad said. Asked if she wanted to give a message to her father, she said: "I love you and I miss you."
Added Rana: "He had so many feelings and he was very tender with all of us. Usually the daughter is close to her mother, but we would usually go to him. He was our friend."
The women refused to discuss their brothers Qusay and Uday (search), killed July 22 in a shootout with American forces during a raid on the house where they were hiding, in Mosul. A teenage son of Qusay's was also killed.
Saad Silawi, one of two Al Arabiya interviewers, said Raghad, who cried at the end of the segment, told him she did not want to answer questions about her father and brothers and that criticism of Saddam would make her acquaintances lose respect for her.
In the interview with Arab TV, Raghad said she was stunned by the quick toppling of her father's regime, which she blamed on the betrayal of his trusted associates.
"With regret, those my father trusted, whom he had put his absolute confidence in and whom he had considered on his side — as I understood from the newspapers — betrayed him," she said.
She did not specify who betrayed Saddam in the portion of the interview that was broadcast.
"They betrayed their country, before [they betrayed] Saddam Hussein or his family," she said, wearing a white headscarf that partially covered her light brown hair.
Friday's segment on Al Arabiya was brief, consisting of excerpts from the interview, which was to be broadcast in full later Friday.
In the portions that were aired, Raghad defended her father and his Iraqi dictatorship.
"Treason is awful," she said. "We are all Iraqis. If one is in a position to defend their country, they should defend it."
It was unclear how her pro-Saddam talk would affect the mood in Iraq. The U.S. had been hoping that last week's death of his sons would bring Saddam loyalists around to support the coalition's mission.
U.S. officials told Fox News that Saddam's daughters have not been approached by American intelligence operatives, and will not be approached. The two daughters are not considered to have any information that is of any intelligence value, the officials said.
On Al Arabiya, Raghad remembered repeatedly believing local radio reports that the war was over, even when it wasn't. Her sister kept telling her not to listen to the reports, she said.
Of the April 9 fall of Baghdad, Raghad said: "This is a great shock."
She described tearfully leaving Baghdad for a house on its outskirts the day the capital fell to coalition forces.
"The farewell moments were terrible," she told Al Arabiya.
"On the day of the fall of Baghdad at noon, my dad sent bodyguards and cars that picked us up … myself, Rana, our children and Qusay's wife and kids," Raghad told the station. "We were taken to a house at the outskirts of Baghdad. There we met with our mother. We took small cars and I had my weapon in my lap."
While in the house near Baghdad, she said, "the rockets were falling about 50 meters away. The shelling was so strong that the house was shaking."
After they left the Iraqi capital, there was "no reconciliation with our father," according to Raghad. "There was almost no link with [my] father and brothers because everything was over."
Once the capital toppled, Raghad said, "We drove with my mother at night. The next day at sunrise I looked at her and said, 'It's over.' She said, 'Yes, I think so too.'"
The women had to decide what to do next, she said.
"We decided to disperse, to have each of us go in another direction," Raghad said. "We went our separate ways until now."
Raghad said they hope to stay in Jordan.
"For the first time for four months now, since the war started, this is the first day I put my head on the pillow and I feel at peace," she told the American cable channel. "I'd love to stay in Jordan. I'd like to stay here for the rest of my life."
Raghad and Rana — who had reportedly been living in humble circumstances in Baghdad, since their father's ouster — arrived in the capital Amman on Thursday, Information Minister Nabil al-Sharif said.
The two daughters had lived private lives and, unlike their brothers, were not believed to be wanted for crimes linked to their father's brutal regime.
Instead, the women were seen by some as victims of Saddam, who ordered their husbands killed in 1996.
Saddam and his wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah (search), had three daughters and two sons.
Saddam also had a very public affair with Samira Shahbandar, daughter of a prominent Iraqi family, who has been described as his second wife. They were believed to have a son, Ali, who would be Saddam's youngest son.
Fox News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Bret Baier and The Associated Press contributed to this report.