Baghdad's Booming Business in Military Clothing

The planned supervision doesn't always work out though. As one of the salespeople in a store in the Allawi neighbourhood of Baghdad told NIQASH, his main concern is money.

“I just need to sell the products,” he said; he wished to remain anonymous. “It is the responsibility of the security forces to catch anyone making use of these uniforms for other purposes. I cannot play their role. I am just an employee of this store and I don't earn more than US$250 a month.”

Another salesman, Ali Abu Walid, says he did use to check the identities of buyers who bought the uniforms. But during the last two years, as sales have become more popular and all kinds of individuals come to buy the clothing, the process of checking identification “has become very bothersome,” he said.

“All of the equipment we have comes from the Iraqi government – because we are officially run by the government,” insists Karim al-Nour, a senior member of one of Iraq’s Shiite militias, the Badr organization. The militias, made up mostly of Shiite Muslim, civilian volunteers, have been fighting the IS group around Iraq and are considered both controversial and heroic by locals.

So the Badr organization doesn't work with these stores, he notes. However, al-Nour adds, “some of the fighters may need some extra items sometimes and they may buy them from these shops. But it is not official. Most of our equipment comes from the government.”

However as Ala Abu, a senior member of another militia known as the Peace Brigades who are part of the millions-strong Sadrist movement, says, “our Brigades don't use the uniforms distributed by the government. This is mainly because of their low quality. The high temperatures in Iraq mean they are easily ruined.

That's why they often buy their uniforms, in small quantities, from the stores. Our fighters believe these stores are licensed and that they are official suppliers – that's why the Ministry [of Interior] has allowed the sellers to go about their business,” he argues.

(Military image via Shutterstock)

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