"Every family in Iraq has their own memories, steeped in rage and sorrow, of Saddam Hussein’s time in power. A spouse who was executed, sons who died in war or daughters who vanished without trace. Everyone has something they remember with horror. Every time there was a knock at the door, people were afraid. Who’s there? Who will be taken, and by whom? What’s going to happen? Guilty or innocent, it didn’t matter, and asking for reasons was pointless. In order to understand my story, it is essential to understand this situation. Saddam Hussein was a man who did not balk at murdering his own family. Why should he spare me?"
In the autumn of 2002, one year after the terror strike on the World Trade Centre in New York and six months before the USA-led bombing raids on Baghdad, which were praised by some and criticised by others, the American television channel ABC broadcast a highly acclaimed interview with Parisoula Lampsos, who is of Greek extraction but lived much of her life in Iraq. She was introduced as “Saddam Hussein’s mistress". Which she was. Among other things. However, Parisoula Lampsos’ long and close relationship with the Iraqi dictator, which lasted for over thirty years, was much more complex and multi-faceted than this bald statement suggests, as was her own life. In “My Life With Saddam", Parisoula Lampsos tells the whole dramatic story of her eventful life in the shadow of a feared dictator and the bloody conflicts in the Middle East.
The only daughter in a very wealthy Greek family, Parisoula Lampsos was born in Beirut and grew up in Iraq during the increasingly affluent decades, thanks to the oil industry, before Saddam Hussein came to power. As a young, high-spirited teenager she was known as “the princess of Baghdad", but her fate was forever linked to Saddam Hussein’s one evening when, at the age of sixteen, she was invited to dinner by a neighbour. After that meeting, Saddam Hussein regarded her as his property. He never let her go. When she eventually married and had children, he had her marriage dissolved, banished her husband and confiscated his property.
Parisoula Lampsos is the woman who was known as Shakraa, The Blonde, in Saddam Hussein’s palace. He made use of her excellent knowledge of languages, and for many years she worked within the Iraqi women’s federation. She was also appointed as an assistant to Saddam’s eldest son, Uday, during the time when he chaired Iraq’s Olympic Committee in his own capricious and brutal way.
Parisoula Lampsos fled from Iraq in 2001; this was a very dramatic journey that was to take almost a year, ending under American protection in Thailand. She has lived in Sweden since 2003.
The author and journalist Lena Katarina Swanberg has spent a considerable length of time interviewing Parisoula Lampsos, and has written this gripping, exciting and horrific book about her dramatic life.