A decade after the fall of Saddam Hussein, an ingrained fear of the “tinted car” remains ingrained in Iraqi minds. If anything, since 2003 this fear has grown, commensurate with the increased number of ominous and inscrutable convoys shuttling senior officials around Iraqi cities. These dark, black litters glide by the people, symbolizing their hidden passengers’ strength and position.
Alaa Hassan, a member of the security forces working a checkpoint in southern Baghdad, told Al-Monitor, “The clout of the dark-tinted cars hasn’t changed at all today from what it was in the past. They can still pass through security barriers without being questioned or monitored, especially when it involves a senior government official.”
Hassan, who has worked in security for nearly 20 years, describes the people traveling behind tinted windows as “ghosts.” He revealed, “We’re forbidden to identify them. They’re shrouded in total secrecy.” He added, “In standard cases, we will get an official call when an important convoy is approaching, one that we have to clear the road for so the tinted cars can pass through. They dart through like an arrow, unburdened by the law or the checkpoint.”
Rahim al-Kallabi, a police officer in Baghdad, spoke to Al-Monitor about the difference between the Saddam and post-Saddam eras. He pointed out, “When Saddam Hussein was president, the law did not allow ordinary citizens to own tinted cars. It was something reserved for officials alone.” In fact, Iraqi law still prohibits tinting car windows, but the ban is widely ignored.