Salam FatherDocumentary | 2010 | SBS, Al Jazeera
On the midnight of 12th of April 2007, at his home in suburban Perth, 31-year-old Salam Ziusudras receives a phone call from Iraq. He’s told that the remains of his father have been found in a mass grave in central Iraq. Why and how they ended up there, nobody knows.
When Salam (Sam) was just five his father simply vanished. That’s all Sam knows about him. The rest is a mystery; hidden; too difficult to talk about. But now a 1000 questions scream for answers. What happened to his father? What did he do? Who was he? And is this the reason Sam and his family have, for the last 26 years, lived as refugees?
With just sketchy details from his mother who pleads to forget, Sam embarks on the journey of his life desperate for answers. From Australia to Sweden and Iraq a world of underground politics, intelligence organisations, friendships and betrayal begins to reveal itself. Sam’s father is more than Sam ever thought he’d be.
1982. Saddam was in power. Sam’s mother, Mey, was thrown out of her house and her country by Iraqi security forces about a month after Sam’s father disappeared. She was left with nothing but her 3 children – the eldest being 5 year old Sam. Mey’s first country of refuge was the very one Iraq was then at war with – Iran. About 20 years later their search for a permanent home finally ended when they stepped off a boat in Australia.
To find out what caused these events Sam’s mother could only give him one lead; there’ an old friend of his father’s who now lives in Sweden. Sam flies to Stockholm and learns his father was an educated, respected and prominent member of his community. But it’s the news that his father held a prominent position in the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) that shocks Sam the most. Saddam had outlawed the Communist Party and any member was considered an enemy of Iraq. Spies and informants were commonplace. Sam’s Swedish contact believes Sam’s father was betrayed by a work mate who secretly worked for Saddam’s regime. The only place to learn the truth however, is in Iraq.
The journey to the land of his birth reveals more than Sam ever imagines. A visit to relatives he cannot remember takes him to a treasure chest. His father, it turns out, didn’t have everything taken by Saddam’s regime. Boxes of photos and super 8 footage shot by his father (who Sam learns was a keen filmmaker) have been kept in a relative’s garage for a quarter of a century. He finally begins to understand who he is and where he’s come from. Outside war continues to rage. But Sam must still search for answers – why was his father killed?
Sam finds many theories. Could it be politics, or was it that his father was Kurdish? Another theory is that his father had Iranian roots – or was he simply a victim of greed and corruption?
So many questions – so much to discover, but it’s the family that he’s re-united with that prove to be the biggest revelation. Sam’s mum, Mey, returns with Sam to Iraq and re-connects with a family she’s not seen for over a quarter of a century. There’s so much healing to do and so much love to catch up on – all in the midst of war zone. And Sam, while searching for his father, actually finds a family.