Love that survived Saddam’s savagery: Horribly burned in an Iraqi war crime, this orphan was taken in by an English Baroness, but 28 years later he has made an astonishing discovery – his mother is still alive and has been looking for him all along
By Richard Pendlebury for the Daily Mail
A fisherman is casting flies on the bank of a Dartmoor river. The tranquillity and beauty of the Devon scene belie his tragic past.
Amar Kanim speaks with a West Country burr, but he first learned to fish in the waters of the Shatt al-Arab river in southern Iraq, 3,000 miles away and half a lifetime ago.
Back then, he was a carefree little boy in a close-knit family. That is, until the day in 1991 when he became the victim of a horrific war crime, much of the skin burnt from his face and body and his old existence erased.
Amar Kanim sees his birth mother for the first time on a phone
Rescued from the prospect of a life of pain, disfigurement and poverty by a campaigning British MP, Amar found himself an international cause celebre.
He began a new life in the UK and his mutilated face became a symbol of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s oppression of his own people. A charitable foundation was named after him and has since raised more than £50 million for other victims of war.
But Amar himself faded from view. He became estranged from his saviour, Emma (now Lady) Nicholson, the aristocratic then Tory MP for Torridge and West Devon, and pined for the biological family he had lost almost 30 years ago.
Approaching middle age, he was living ‘on the breadline’ in rural Devon, alone in the world — or so he thought.
Thanks to a chance meeting on a railway platform, the arrival of strange, unsolicited social media messages from the country of his birth and the forensic detective work of a BBC Panorama team, Amar Kanim’s life story has now taken an extraordinary and uplifting twist.
The mother he thought had died in the attacks that scarred him so badly is still alive. What’s more, she spent almost three decades trying to find her son.
The dazed little boy in a red bow tie who was greeted by photographers when he arrived at Heathrow airport in February 1992 for treatment in England is not an orphan after all,