Chinese Clothing Imports on the Rise In Iraq

“While previously the price of a Chinese shirt was higher than that of a used one, the price difference has become insignificant today to the extent that the buyer prefers to wear new rather than old clothes,” Saidi added.

Sociologist Rahim al-Taee, however, told Al-Monitor, “The Iraqi people believe that owning used clothes is shameful, and they are careful not to be seen wandering around the flea markets. They only visit them when they really need to.”

Zahra, an Iraqi teacher from Babel, told Al-Monitor that in early 2003 she shopped in flea markets, but she stopped doing that because of the diseases that spread there. “For example, one of my students wore a used outfit that caused her skin to break out in a rash,” she noted.

According to Zahra, “The time has come for these shoddy shops to close down and to ban the import of such cheap goods, in order to preserve the health of citizens and in respect of their dignity.”

Zahra’s proposal, however, has no meaning for those with a very low income, such as construction worker Ali Hassan.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Hassan noted that he “can save a lot of money by shopping at the flea market, where I can buy many items at a good price.”

Most Iraqi cities are riddled with flea markets and shops selling secondhand clothing. However, in light of the huge import of new ready-to-wear clothes — especially from China, southeast Asia and neighboring countries — used clothes are not as common as they were before on the market.

Kamel Jabouri, a women’s clothing salesman, told Al-Monitor, “Imported, ready-to-wear clothes are not of high quality. Conditions on imported clothes should be set to save Iraqi consumers from many troubles.”

“Iraqi citizens, however, have shown distaste for used clothes and have refused to buy them, even in periods when there was an economic blockade,” he added.

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