The stores don't just sell military uniforms. They also stock gear like batons, holsters, handcuffs, water bottles, knee guards, heavy gloves and sunglasses, among other things.
“The presence of these stores makes it easier for terrorists and gangs to buy military uniforms, wear them and use them illegally to commit crimes,” confirms Hisham al-Hashimi, a local security expert and researcher into armed militias in Iraq. “It requires much stricter security and supervision from the Ministry of Interior.”
And the increase in the numbers of these kinds of shops has happened for various reasons. Among them, al-Hashimi suggests, “ is a lack of discipline in the Iraqi military, which is responsible for importing these uniforms.”
Al-Hashimi also believes that many of the shops are actually owned by military officers or officials in the Ministry of Defence who obviously have a strong interest in keeping the stores running.
“Licenses are also given to the owners of the stores by officials from the Interior Ministry in return for cash,” al-Hashimi suggests.
“The Ministry has created a special section for licensed shops and has registered the names of all the sellers of uniforms,” explains Saad Maan, the spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior and the Baghdad Operations Command, which is responsible for security in the capital.
“The Ministry has also issued instructions to the store owners of these shops not to sell their goods to anyone other than members of the army. The store owners and the security forces cooperate and this business is well supervised,” Maan said, adding that he thinks it would be difficult for terrorists or criminals to get hold of the uniforms.