Saddam TV is on the air. A mysterious television channel dedicated to celebrating former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein made an unexpected debut across the Arabic world last week. The so-called Saddam Channel, launched by al-Lafeta TV, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, has no actual programming: instead, it presents a flattering montage of still pictures that show Saddam dressed in uniforms, a variety of suits, even straddling a white horse. Accompanying the pictures are recordings of Saddam’s speeches and poetic recitals, and a patriotic song urging viewers to “liberate our country.”
The Saddam channel is shrouded in mystery—nobody knows who is bankrolling it, or from where exactly it is being broadcast. The Associated Press tracked down a man in Damascus named Mohammed Jarboua, who claims to be running the channel, but he balked at divulging too many details due to “threats that the Iraqi government will shut it down [and] kill its employees.” He also denied reports that the channel is being funded by Baathist loyalists, former members of the outlawed Sunni-dominated political party Saddam once led.
Other versions of the station’s origins have also surfaced. The man who headed Saddam’s defence team at the start of his trial in 2004, Jordanian Baathist Ziad Khassawneh, claims it is supported by wealthy Iraqis in Lebanon, Syria, and other parts of the Arabic world, although he declined to mention who they are. The launch of the Saddam Channel on Nov. 28 coincided with the third anniversary of Saddam’s execution, according to the Islamic calendar. Officials in Iraq have labelled the channel “an attempt from the dissolved Baath party to return to Iraq’s politics,” but are undecided about shutting it down.