When the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March of 2003, tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq fled from their cities and villages and took shelter in the hills.
One of these displaced Kurdish families included a boy named Awara, which means “refugee.” His older brother said Awara’s name would be changed to Azad, or “freedom,” once it was safe for the family to return to their home village.
By April, Saddam Hussein was out of power.
And along with the change in regime came a change in baby naming trends. The name “Saddam” and the names of Saddam Hussein’s children (e.g., Udai, Kusai, Rajad, Halla), which had been trendy up to that point, quickly fell out of favor. An employee of Iraq’s National Registry in Baghdad said in late 2003, “We haven’t had even one Saddam since the fall of the regime on April 9th.”
Instead, Iraqi parents started opting for other namesakes. The director of the National Registry mentioned that more than 20 babies had been named for religious leader (and Hussein enemy) Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim after he was assassinated in August, for example.
I couldn’t find any follow-up articles about Awara’s family, though, so I don’t know if they ever made it back to their village, or whether Awara’s name was finally changed from “refugee” to “freedom.”
- “No More Baby Saddams.” Arutz Sheva 2 Nov. 2003.
- McDonald, Mark. “Refugees of last Gulf War fearful of chemical attacks; few fleeing now.” McClatchyDC 26 Mar. 2003.