Baghdad’s X-Rated Movie Market Rises From the Ashes
|August 27, 2010||Filled under Uncategorized|
BAGHDAD: The nude women on the DVD cover in a Baghdad street stall say it all: Change, whether you like it or not, is afoot in Iraq.
Hundreds of porn DVDs are stacked elbow-deep on a wooden table in Jassim Hanoun’s ramshackle stall on a downtown sidewalk. His other tables have Hollywood blockbusters, such as “King Kong.” It’s the sex, however, that sells best.
“I’ve got everything,” Hanoun says of his selection, flashing the kind of impish grin only a 22-year-old in tight jeans and slicked-back hair can pull off with real conviction. “What do you want? I’ve got foreign films, Arab, Iraqi, Indian, celebrities – whatever you like.”
The porn, in an odd way, has told the story of Iraq’s security and political situation since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003. It emerged in the anything-goes atmosphere that erupted in the vacuum immediately following the US invasion – then went back into hiding amid the anarchy when armed militias roamed the capital until 2008, targeting those they saw as immoral.
Its re-emergence since then reflects how security has improved but also how the fragile government is concerned with more pressing issues than spicy videos.
With politicians deadlocked over the past five months, trying to form a new government, whether Hanoun stays in business depends less on customer demand than on who takes the reins of power and if security in the capital is maintained.
The openness with which porn is sold in some of Baghdad’s streets is almost unheard of in the Arab world.
In every country in the region except Lebanon, Israel and Turkey, pornography is illegal. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist. International satellite channels and the internet pipe it into people’s homes, though many governments try to block obscene websites. Police, not having to grapple with daily bombings as in Baghdad, have more time to keep it off the streets.
After 2003, it appeared freely on Baghdad’s sidewalks – a sign of how all rules were suddenly sidelined with the toppling of Saddam, who strictly forbade such entertainment.
Gone were the all-seeing security services that brutally ensured law and order. In their place came a degree of short-lived jubilation and hope about the new Iraq.
For a few months after the invasion, restaurants did brisk business, nightclubs pulsated with the beat of Arabic music. And with the Western troops, and their support army of foreign security contractors, came the pornography.
Children touted it in the Green Zone, the fortified Baghdad district where the Iraqi government and the US Embassy are housed. Vendors sold it outside hotels where international media were based. “Girls of the Interior Ministry” was the title one jokester put on a collection. The postwar hard-core boom was short-lived.
After 2004, Iraq seemed to be being broken apart by militias and armed groups. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was at the peak of its strength, carrying out kidnappings, beheadings, suicide bombings and gun attacks.
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