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Saddam Hussain’s Abandoned Palaces

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Maqar-el -thartar palace, lake Thartar, June 11, 2003. Credit: Marco Di Lauro

Absolute power can be a terrifying prospect in any society. With out the necessary checks and balances that modern democracy brings, having just one man in control brings about the tyranny of a dictatorship.

Saddam Hussain, certainly fulfilled the role of the ruling despot. During his near 24-year stay in power, he had the country of Iraq at his beckon call.

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Photo Credit: Richard Mosse

Naturally he enjoyed the riches of that power, building dozens of palaces (between 80 and 100 according to different accounts) across Iraq.

Palaces were built -most of them after the end of the 1991 Gulf War- in every major city as an expression of his authority.

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Photo Credit: Richard Mosse

These palaces provided housing not only to the dictator of Iraq and his family, but also to his party officials, friends and countless mistresses. U.N. documents list eight main Saddam Hussein palace compounds containing more than 1,000 buildings — luxury mansions, smaller guest villas, office complexes, warehouses and garages — and covering some 32 square kilometres (12 square miles) in total.

Saddam Hussain's Abandoned Palaces
Photo Credit: Richard Mosse

The grandiose architecture and the luxurious environment, dominated by marble surfaces and gold was supposed to support the image of a powerful leader for his followers and that of an eccentric dictator who was out of touch with the reality of his citizens for the rest of the world.

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Photo Credit: Richard Mosse

After the Fall of Baghdad in 2003, some palaces were occupied by the American army, while others were heavily looted by Iraqi citizens. By now, all of them have been handed over to the Iraqi government. Some of them will be maintained, others repurposed, sold to developers or demolished.

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Photo Credit: Richard Mosse
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Uday Hussein’s palace, Baghdad, April 10, 2003. Credit: Tyler Hicks
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Tikrit, Iraq, September 1, 2003. Credit: Murad Sezer
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Saddam Husein’s Presidential Palace, April 13, 2003. Credit: Romeo Gaced
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Qasr-el-Salam (Peace Palace), Baghdad, 25 June, 2003. Credit: Timothy A Clary
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Photo Credit: Richard Mosse
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Photo Credit: Richard Mosse