Reactions ranged from hailing Saddam as a hero to condemning him as another Hitler. “Jubilation and anger,” from Reuters:
…”There is a feeling of surprise and disapproval that the verdict has been applied during the holy months and the first days of Eid al-Adha,” a presenter on the official al-Ikhbariya TV said after programming was broken to read a statement.
“Leaders of Islamic countries should show respect for this blessed occasion … not demean it,” said the statement, which was attributed to official news agency SPA’s political analyst.
“This is the worst Eid ever witnessed by Muslims. I had goosebumps when I saw the footage,” said Jordanian woman Rana Abdullah, 30, who works in the private sector.
Hesham Kassem, an Egyptian newspaper publisher and human rights activist, said airing the images was controversial, but added: “This man was one of the most brutal mass murderers in the history of mankind. He stands alongside Hitler and Stalin.”
But in the impoverished Iraqi village where Saddam was born, residents vowed revenge. “We will all become a bomb,” said one young man in Awja, 150 kilometres north of Baghdad.
Libya, the only state to show solidarity with Saddam in his death, declared three days of mourning and cancelled public Eid celebrations. Flags on government buildings flew at half-mast.
While many Arab governments refrained from comment, a senior aide to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called the execution “a tragic end to a sad phase in Iraq’s history”.
“We hope that the Iraqi people would focus on the future to be able to pass this stage, stop the violence and achieve reconciliation,” Hesham Youssef told Reuters in Cairo.
The Foreign Ministry in Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, expressed regret that authorities in Iraq went ahead with the execution, and for carrying it out on the first day of the Eid al-Adha feast.
“We hope that carrying out the execution … would not lead to more deterioration in the situation,” the official MENA news agency quoted the ministry’s spokesman Alaa El-Hadidi as saying.
The government of Iraqi neighbour Jordan said it hoped the execution would not have “any negative repercussions”.
Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, said Arabs wondered who most deserved to face trial: “Saddam Hussein, who preserved the unity of Iraq, … or those who engulfed the country in this bloody civil war?”
No street unrest was reported in Arab capitals, where Muslims were preoccupied with the Eid holiday, but thousands of Indians, mostly Muslims, staged anti-US protests.
Tajeddine El Husseini, a Moroccan international economic law professor, said Saddam’s “symbolic sacrifice” on a religious day when Muslims slaughter animals would make things worse.
In Afghanistan, a Taliban commander said Saddam’s demise would galvanise Muslim opposition to the United States.
“His death will boost the morale of Muslims. The jihad in Iraq will be intensified and attacks on invader forces will increase,” Mullah Obaidullah Akhund told Reuters by telephone.
News of Saddam’s death shocked Palestinians, many of whom had seen him as an Arab hero for his missile attacks on Israel during the 1991 Gulf War that ended Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait.
“The Americans wanted to tell all Arab leaders who are their servants that they are like Saddam, nothing but a sheep slaughtered on Eid,” said Abu Mohammad Salama at a Gaza mosque.
Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri said Saddam’s execution was a “proof of the criminal and terrorist American policy and its war against all forces of resistance in the world”.
In Kuwait, where Saddam is reviled for his 1990 invasion, parliament speaker Jasim Mohammad al-Kharafi hailed the execution, saying it had brought the country “two Eids”.