History revised: Saddam vanishes from schoolbooks

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Iraq's children have returned to school for the start of a fresh academic year with a new syllabus that has all but erased Saddam Hussein from its history. After two years of debate, the education department has completed textbooks to replace those that portrayed the past purely from a Baathist view.

However, in a tribute to the sensitivities of post-Saddam Iraq, the revised version of history is, on some subjects, as partial and shot through with gaps as the old.

Baghdad no longer wins the Iran-Iraq war nor confronts the evil of Zionism alone. Primary schools will not have to teach reading with phrases such as "I love Saddam".

In fact, Saddam is rarely mentioned by name and his rule is left unanalysed, a compromise intended to placate those who see him as a tyrant and those nostalgic for the old regime.

Previously his picture appeared on the first page of every book. Since the fall of his regime in March 2003 schools have continued using old textbooks but with the most Saddamist pages ripped out and some paragraphs blacked over. Teachers complained they were forced to teach syllabuses that failed to acknowledge half a century's history.

There is no mention of the 1991 Gulf war, about which it was previously taught that "brave Iraqis forced the Americans to stop firing". The events of 2003 are described only as a "major shake-up" of Iraq.

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