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понедельник, 9 января 2017 г.

He murdered thousands but I still love my dad Khadija Amin

As a child, Khadija Amin’s father Idi was her hero – until she learnt the shocking truth about his past

When Khadija Amin's father died in 2003, it made front-page news around the world. But far from global outpourings of grief and remembrance, the headlines rejoiced in his death, expressing hatred and revulsion against the man Khadija had adored since she was a little girl.
"I was 20 when my father died, and it was only then, watching news footage of people celebrating in the streets of my home country of Uganda, that I finally accepted who my dad really was," she remembers.
Khadija with Idi Amin - the father she adored




The man Khadija affectionately called "Baba", who loved to sing and dance with her and take her swimming in the sea, was not simply the loving father she believed him to be. Rather, he was Idi Amin, the notorious Ugandan dictator responsible for the brutal deaths of an estimated 300,000 people.
As she read the newspaper reports following his death, Khadija found tales of gruesome murders, dismembered corpses and enemies fed to crocodiles. Around 80,000 Asians were expelled from Uganda in a bid to "Africanise" the country, thousands more were imprisoned in military camps and a vicious secret police force were allowed to kill without recrimination.
Khadija could no longer hide from the truth about her father, the man they called a monster. A corrupt dictator, drunk on power, Amin was branded the "Butcher of Africa", but preferred to be called "Big Daddy".
"Growing up, there had been clues about my father's past, but I had either been too young to understand them or perhaps I just didn't want to believe," admits Khadija, now a 27-year-old marketing executive living in north London.
Born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where her father lived in exile after he was ousted from power in 1979, Khadija remembers numerous occasions when she was aware something was different about him.
"Sometimes I went out with Dad in his car and everyone would want to shake his hand," she says. "He had been invited to live there by the Saudi rulers who sympathised with him. He was like a hero there and I realised he must have been very important back in Uganda. I felt proud to be with him."
But there were also times when it was obvious that not everyone was so fond of her beloved daddy. "I went to boarding school in Kenya, and one day a boy there asked me what my father's name was. When I told him, he said: 'They will come and kill you for this.' I didn't understand what he meant, but after that I noticed other children looking at me strangely and whispering," says Khadija.
"Another time, at home in Jeddah when I was seven, I found a video called The Rise And Fall Of Idi Amin. There was a man called Idi in it who looked like my father, wearing a military uniform just like the one I'd seen hanging in his wardrobe," says Khadija. "He was barking orders at soldiers and laughing at the sight of severed heads in a freezer. I was so confused and ran to ask my dad about it, but he brushed off my questions."
 How could I believe my father would do those things? 
And on two visits to Uganda between the ages of seven and nine, Khadija became aware of the huge security presence that guarded her family.
These incidents make it hard to understand how she could not have realised there was a very dark and dangerous side to her father. However, according to psychologist Kathleen Doorbar, an expert in family relationships, Khadija's reaction was perfectly understandable.
"No one wants to believe their parent is capable of evil," says Kathleen. "Khadija chose to believe what she saw - the loving, affectionate father instead of the life-rocking truth. She held him in such high esteem that for him to have been anything less than perfect - much less a monstrous tyrant - would have made her re-evaluate her whole life."

Forest Whitaker as Amin in The Last King Of Scotland
Khadija agrees. "How could I reconcile the father who raised me with one of the most feared figures in history? But by the time I hit my teens, the pieces were slotting into place. The TV reports about his 'brutal regime', his warning to be careful because some people didn't like our family - it all began to make sense, but I was desperate for it not to be true."
Aged 16, Khadija left school to study in London, where her mother had been living since her marriage to Amin ended when Khadija was just two months old. Still in denial about her father's bloody history, she was heartbroken to leave him behind.
"The day I left, he hugged me, said he loved me and told me to work hard," she remembers. "I was bursting with questions about what I had seen and read about him, but I just couldn't bring myself to ask them, so again I pushed them to the back of my mind."
In the UK, Khadija forged a relationship with her mother. "I had no bitterness over her absence. I grew up in a stable, loving environment and we became more like best friends than mum and daughter," she recalls.
 I feel like I live with blood on my hands 
Then, in 2003, when her father was 78, he became seriously ill with kidney failure. "We spoke on the phone while he was in hospital and he told me not to worry," Khadija says. The next thing I knew he had passed away." In keeping with his Islamic beliefs, Amin was buried within six hours of his death so Khadija was unable to attend his funeral.
She was devastated. But she had something other than her grief to contend with. The public outpouring of hatred towards her father, and her final acceptance about the man her father really was.
And this, according to Kathleen Doorbar, would have been even more devastating than his sudden death. "Finally being forced to accept the truth would have been appalling. And because Amin was dead, Khadija wasn't able to look to him for reassurance. She may even have wondered if, deep down, she was like him and capable of evil too."
"I couldn't go on burying my head in the sand," admits Khadija. "My father was branded one of history's most evil men. I realised he was grouped with Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin. I wasn't even alive when my dad was in power, so I don't know what it was like or what exactly happened. But as head of state, he was responsible for his people. And so many of them died.
"Sometimes I'd wonder: 'If I hadn't known this person in the flesh and had only heard the stories, how would I have felt? Would I have loathed him too?' and I probably would have done. As it is, I feel like I live with blood on my hands. So many families suffered while he was in power and I feel so guilty because of that.

For a long time I felt as though Dad was two separate people, and the bad man wasn't the same one I knew, but I've had to accept they were the same person."
Three years after Amin's death, the film The Last King Of Scotland, based on his life, was released. Watching it was an unsettling experience for Khadija, who recognised some parts of her father in Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker's performance - but not others. "Unbelievable as it may sound, I'd never seen his violence or temper," she says. "He never shouted at me, but just one look was enough for me to behave."
Even though Amin is dead, Khadija is still reminded of the hatred that exists towards her father. "Last year a close friend Googled my name out of curiosity. But when she discovered who I was, she was furious," says Khadija. "She confronted me, demanding to know why I hadn't told her. I explained that I am my own person, I did not commit the crimes of my father. I just wanted her to like me for me. I didn't want to have to tell everyone that Idi Amin is my father."
Luckily their friendship survived and, with the seventh anniversary of Amin's death looming on August 16, Khadija has finally made peace with her father's past.
"I'm still uneasy about how people will react when they find out," she says. "But I've done nothing wrong. I'm a normal girl with hopes and dreams. I just want people to judge me for who I am and not who my father was."
The life of a dictator






January 1925: Idi Amin Dada Oumee is born in Koboko, Uganda, to a local tribesman and his wife.
1946: Amin joins the King's African Rifles of the British Colonial Army as an assistant cook and works his way up through the ranks.
1966: Amin is promoted to colonel and army commander by then Ugandan Prime Minister Milton Obote.
1971: Amin seizes power in a military coup and declares himself President of Uganda.
1972: Deposed PM Obote tries to stage a coup against Amin but fails. Amin retaliates with the massacre of soldiers and civilians who support Obote. The final death toll is estimated to be between 80,000-300,000.
1977: Amin's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and rumours spread that he is a cannibal.
1979: Forces are mobilised against him by the Ugandan National Liberation Army, so he flees via Libya to exile in Saudi Arabia.
2003: He dies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on August 16.
2006: A film based loosely on his life, The Last King Of Scotland, is released.

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