With More Money to Spend, Middle-Class Iraqis Go Shopping


Oct 13, 1999

They were a father and son shopping for a car for the young man, a family ritual as common as any in the United States.

It was unfolding on a recent evening here, though, to the cadence of distant gunfire and explosions. Aadel Kadhem, 43, and his 23-year-old son, Mohammed, walked around a pair of black BMW's, opening the doors, staring through the windows. Aadel Kadhem paints automobiles for a living, and his income has risen tenfold since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, he said, allowing him to squirrel away $3,000 for a car for his son.

"The situation is still tight for us, but we have a bit to play with," Mr. Kadhem said. "In the past, the government wanted to fight against the citizens; they wanted this country to be underdeveloped. But my income now is much stronger than before."

Jamal Nasir, the owner of the car shop, the Black Gold Company, looked on with a glint in his eye and a smile on his lips. "Because of small salaries before, many people couldn't buy cars," he said. "Now I sell to all sectors of society. It's the wheel of life. Everybody's working, getting better salaries than before."