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

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions