Saturday, May 2, 2009

Iraq girl still grateful to Brit troops 6 years on - The Sun

2003 ... Samyeh Saleh leads out family

Defence Editor

ONE of the most moving images of the downfall of Saddam Hussain was little Samyeh Saleh rushing out to greet Royal Marines as they liberated Basra.

I took the photo of the amazingly brave six-year-old, her hands clenched in excitement, as she led her poor Iraqi family from their home in 2003 into a brave new world.

Six years on, I traced her and her clan to the suburb of Abu al Khasib.

And despite southern Iraq suffering a violent and bitter insurgency, they are alive, happy and full of hope.

The girl, now 12, said: “We are still so happy your soldiers came. There have been bad times but they gave us freedom and that is most important of all.

“We’ll always be grateful to your soldiers for that.”

When I had first caught sight of the family in March 2003, they were nervously peering from their shabby compound at me in my flak jacket and helmet. I beckoned them out.

Nathom, now 51, said “Good mister. Thank you.”

This week the dad of seven sons and four daughters, told me: “The Ba’ath Party had given AK47s to all the men and told us we must resist the British soldiers. But we had no intention of doing that.

“I remembering seeing you outside our house.

“I didn’t believe Saddam would fall because he was strong. But at that moment, I realised he wasn’t.”

Life has been hard for the Salehs but Nathom added: “I have liberty to do what I want for my family. I am hopeful for the future.”

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