Koutaiba Ahmed is an Iraqi wholesaler who holds Belgian citizenship and works in flea-market clothing sales. He told Al-Monitor, “Secondhand clothes come from Europe, which is characterized by large industrial production and where volunteers collect old clothes from families and donate them to charities. These charities sell them to traders, who export them to poor countries, where local merchants receive them in sealed, compressed packages.”
Shop owners do not stick to the spaces allotted to them to display their commodities, as one can see piles of clothes spread out on sidewalks and picked through by poor and low-income shoppers.
Salim Hussein, a trader in used clothes, told Al-Monitor that his commodities are of good quality and "mostly new,” but are classified as “secondhand” since they are out of fashion in Europe.
According to traders, the main source of used clothes is neighboring countries, especially Jordan. The clothes are first imported from countries such as France, the Netherlands and Germany and then imported via land borders to Iraq.
Kamel al-Asadi, an Iraqi health specialist, told Al-Monitor that the used-clothes trade could be classified as an “illegitimate” trade, as it does not meet health standards.
Asadi is not sure whether the parliamentary Economic Committee’s decision issued at the end of 2012 to ban the import of used clothing will be effective in preventing this trade, as it continues to be popular until now.
Although Iraqi doctors continue to warn against the health risks presented by secondhand clothes, the poor will continue to buy them, as they cannot find any other alternative.
Finally, Laith al-Saadi, the owner of a clothing shop, told Al-Monitor, “The market for secondhand clothing will inevitably come to an end in light of the cheap Chinese commodities invading the markets.”
Adnan Abu Zeed is an Iraqi author and journalist.
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