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Iraq PM spokesman reportedly sacked over old song praising Saddam

Rafid Jabbouri was appointed in October 2014 as spokesman for Haidar al-Abadi after working as a journalist with BBC for many years
A photo of a statue of Iraq's Saddam Hussein on 28 April 1999 in Thar Thar City in northern Iraq (AFP)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has reportedly dismissed his official spokesman after a video of Rafid Jabbouri singing the praises of former Iraqi President Sadam Hussein circulated across social media on Thursday.

“Prime Minister Abadi has decided to dismiss his office’s spokesman Rafid Jabbouri after he watched a video of him praising Saddam Hussein,” an official source told Iraqi news website Karbala News on Thursday.

The song titled, “You are an Iraqi…Lift your head high” and includes footage of the Iraqi army and of Saddam Hussein in the background, seems to have been recorded many years ago.

The song lyrics, a national melody at the time, portrayed Hussein as an undefeatable leader.

“Saddam Hussein, your enemies will all fall while you will remain standing.”

After the video was widely shared across social media, Jabbouri confirmed on national and social media platforms that it was indeed himself who was featured in the song.

In an interview with local news network SNG, Jabbouri expressed his regret: “It was the biggest mistake of my life,” he said referring to the song he delivered.

In a statement published on his Facebook page, Jabouri said: “I am Rafi al-Jabouri, the Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s spokesperson. I admit that more than 15 years ago, I delivered a national song which did feature Saddam. I was under pressure to do so at the time. Such pressures are well-known to anyone who lived in Iraq before 2003.”

He went on to say: “Who among the Iraqis was capable of protecting himself in isolation of Saddam’s bloody regime. I confess that what I did was a mistake and apologise if I have wronged anyone. I was at that time, young and unwise. But even then, I was not a member of the Baath Party and I still am not a Baathist today,” he added.

Jabouri also said that he had chosen to work alongside Abadi because he represents his vision of the future of Iraq.

 “Throughout my life, I have never been involved in hurting anyone.”

In the same statement, he went on to apologise to Abadi personally.

“I apologies to Prime Minister Abadi, because he did not know anything about the song when he chose me as a spokesperson for his office,” added Jabbouri.

Abadi was reportedly extremely angered by the revelation, expressing his embarrassment for having been misled into appointing Jabbouri as his spokesman, according to a source close to the Iraqi government quoted in the Karabal news report.

Abadi had appointed Jabbouri in October last year and had at the time said: “He [Jabouri] is the most suitable person for this task” because of the rich skill set he possess, his years of experience as a journalist, and his perfection of the English language, reported Kul Iraqi, an Iraqi news website.

Ironically, comments on the video were nostalgic of the days when Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, reported Arabi21.

One individual wrote: “Iraq after Saddam Hussein is a combination of destruction, death and corruption. Thirteen years since Saddam and what has come of Iraq?”

Another person commented: “The Arabs have lost a great deal since the death of the martyr and hero Saddam Hussein.