The Shia shopkeeper growing rich on Saddam

Share
Related Topics

Saddam in uniform, Saddam in business suit, Saddam in green beret, Saddam smiling upon his people. "Ten dollars," Mr Abu Mohamed says. Post-war, of course. The Arab masses did not buy such trash when the leader of the Arab Socialist Baath Party was in power. These are Japanese-manufactured, albeit not so classy as the new Chinese-made cigar-ette lighters.

"Anxiety peace we," it says inscrutably on the bottom. But the lighter itself is a cracker in every sense of the word. Snap open the top and a MiG fighter-bomber unloads its bombs on an anonymous target below, each bomb flashing red and each explosion a burst of blue light.

"The Russians like this stuff most," Mr Abu Mohamed says. "They tell us in Arabic that Saddam was so like Stalin: they both destroyed their people in endless wars. The French like these things, too, but I don't understand them when they speak."

Could there be, I wonder, in Mr Au Mohamed's crowded emporium, a certain Jacobin admiration for the blood of Saddam's countless revolutions?

"Now, you want to see the real thing?" Mr Abu Mohamed asks me. Of course I do. And out comes a smart Cartier box. "This was in Saddam's palace; it is his personal shaving kit." I open the box - it is genuine - and inside gleams a solid gold shaver, heavy, beautifully designed. "Pasha de Cartier" is engraved beneath the tip, still ready for its G-11 razor. I hold it to my cheek. So this once cut the whiskers of the man found in a hole in 2003.

But that is not all. Gardeners and staff at the Republican palaces across Iraq filched what they could when the regime fell, and a good deal ended up in Mr Abu Mohamed's hands.

He has a stash of fine Longines watches for men and women - $500 if you're interested - a chic little head of Saddam on each face, slightly reduced if it's for a woman. These were the "gifts" Saddam would bestow on his faithful or on the most fawning of foreign Arab diplomats, officials or, dare one suggest, journalists. It was a gardener again who rounded up this little treasure-trove. In a good week, Mr Abu Mohamed might make $5,000 (£2,700), in a bad week, nothing, he says.

There are packets of regime currency with a youthful Saddam standing proudly beside dams (250 dinar notes) or the Tower of Babel (10,000 dinars) and photographs of the banknotes of King Feisal I, the soon-to-be-executed President Kassim and President al-Bakr, predecessor of Saddam ("the great Uncle figure") who wisely gave up power to avoid losing his head. One of the most outrageous of Mr Abu Mohamed's gifts is a lighter bearing the heads of President George Bush and a certain Muqtada Sadr, the only Shia cleric to have fought the American occupation and whom an American spokesman once promised would be "captured or destroyed".

Of course, nothing of the sort happened; Sadr still lives happily in Najaf. "No, no to America" it says in Arabic along the lighter.

But does a man who makes so much money out of Saddam have any affection for the old rogue?

Mr Abu Mohamed doesn't hesitate. "I am a Shia from Sadr City," he says. "For a long time, I haven't liked him. He killed many of our imams." But Saddam still, it seems, can make a small profit for his former enemies.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea