Apparently Hussein is not the only young Karbala man to be fooled in this way. The current security crisis in Iraq, caused by the extremist group known as the Islamic State, is chaotic and characterized by disorganisation in the Iraqi army as well as the presence of many different unofficial fighting groups. Many locals knew about all kinds of corruption in the Iraqi military so perhaps it’s not surprising that young men here think they can buy their way into the army.
The Iraqi military offers a regular wage and even social standing to those who can get in – and often you can only get into the army if you know the right people. So it is not surprising that the idea of buying your way in seems quite possible – although recently, in dozens of cases in Karbala, also not true.
Usually the swindlers involved say they have close contacts in the Iraqi army and that they can help locals get into the ranks. Some, like the man Hussein spoke with, say they can even guarantee a higher rank and thereby a better salary.
Haider Abdul-Amir is another of the Karbala locals who says he fell for this trick even though, as he puts it, he was very cautious.
“A man who is well known in my neighbourhood offered to help me become a captain in a military unit called the Karbala Defence Battalion,” Abdul-Amir says. “But I told him that I wouldn’t pay the US$4,000 he wanted until I actually joined the military unit and got that rank.”
Abdul-Amir was then taken to a camp in the desert where he was signed into what he thought was a military brigade. He saw a number of men in uniforms who seemed to be officers or soldiers.