His hands were bound behind his back, he was blindfolded, injected with almost enough anesthetic to cover the pain and had his left ear cut off by a surgeon acting on the dictator’s latest whim. But that wasn’t the end of it.

Realizing that they should have removed his right ear and not the left, the doctors promptly turned Dawoud over and had the surgeon slice off the other ear, too.

“I was taken to the hospital in the morning, and in the afternoon I woke up to find that I had had both ears cut off,” said the 29-year-old, as if not quite believing his own hideous misfortune.

He spent the next few years living at home, too depressed to venture out. People in the street would avoid him, knowing from his mutilation that he was a deserter. No one would employ him, no woman would marry him. He was as good as a social outcast.

He took to wearing a traditional keffiyah scarf bound tightly around his head, pulling it low to cover the place where his ears once were and every day longing for Saddam to go.

And then one day Saddam was gone.

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