When an empire fades there is a vacuum. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.
The stamp today displays an exotic picture of an ancient Sunni Mosque. The other stamps of the issue show other religious sites from the various religions in Iraq. The stamp displays the problem facing the British as it did the Ottomans before them and the Americans much later. The country is just not a cohesive place that lends itself to becoming a successful country.
The stamp today is issue A1, a one half anna stamp that was the first issue of a separate Iraq. There are earlier Baghdad overprints from the Ottoman era. It was part of a thirteen stamp issue of various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used. The 10 Rupee stamp featuring the Golden Shia Mosque at Kadhimain is worth $67 mint.
Iraq broke off from the retreating Ottoman Empire after World War I. When it became clear that there was going to be a British mandate to run Iraq, there was a rebellion. The head Shia Ayatollah issued a jihad forbidding Iraqis from working for the British and to press Iraqi demands peacefully at first. The rebellion was widespread and not just Shia. The British were able to put down the rebellion at high cost through the use of aerial bombing. The cost was such that Britain decided that they did not want to administer Iraq after all. At T. E. Lawrence’s suggestion, a Hashemite leader he had worked with in World War I was brought in and named King. He had previously served briefly as King of Syria until the French Colonial forces had removed and exiled him. He was originally from Mecca and could trace his ancestry to the Prophet Mohammed.
This choice was also complicated. King Faisal I was virtually unknown in Iraq and a Sunni. The Sunnis were a minority in Iraq and since the Ottoman administration was also Sunni, the majority Shia felt disadvantaged. Though Arab, the Shia also looked more to Iran for leadership and support. Faisal tried to overcome this by trying to appeal to a more pan Arab spirit. His brother was after all the ruler of neighboring Transjordan and covetous of Syria, Lebanon, Arabia, and Palestine. The choice of Faisal let the British step back from the mandate while still keeping it’s interest in the British owned Iraqi oil company.
The Hashemite’s rule was not successful personally for them. The three Hashemite rulers of Iraq were all murdered. Faisal I was murdered by arsenic poisoning in 1933. His young son King Ghazi died in a mysterious car wreck in 1939. He had been a disappointment to the British as he was openly pro axis and said so on his radio show. There was also a sexual scandal with a black servant boy dying of a gunshot wound in the Royal chamber. The King claimed the boy died after forgetting to remove his gun before laying down for siesta. In 1958, a still only 23 year old King Faisal II ordered the army to deploy to Jordan to support his ally King Hussein of Jordan. Instead they marched to the palace and lead a coup. The King’s whole family was shot after surrendering to the coup plotters. The King survived the shooting but the King died later in hospital. The crown price and prime minister’s dead bodies were dragged through the streets and then hung from a lamp post.
That was the end of the Hashemites in Iraq but the tradition continued with republic. The coup plotter served five years as prime minister before another coup where he was shot and then hung from a lamp post. Remember also Sadam Hussein being hung after being forced from office and found hiding in a sewer pipe. At least he was given a trial. Progress?
Well my drink is empty and so I will open the conversation in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.