Sun, Jul 25, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Iraqi toy shops wary of Saddam doll

AFP , BAGHDAD

Some Iraqi toy outlets have withdrawn a singing, plastic doll of Saddam Hussein, accessorised with Kalashnikov and grenades, for fear that ridiculing the former Iraqi president could lay stores open to revenge attacks.

The battery-operated doll comes complete with walkie-talkie and a wardrobe choice of military fatigues or bolero jacket and gold trousers. Press the button and the figurine breaks out into idiotic song or a sardonic snigger.

Ammar Djelil, a toy shop manager in the smart neighborhood of Mansur in Baghdad said customers quickly snapped up 250 of the Chinese-made Saddam dolls after he bought them in bulk.

But after second thoughts, he has discontinued the line.

"They sold well. But about 1 percent of customers disliked them and perhaps this 1 percent will harm us. People advised me to stop. Given the situation, I don't want to implicate myself any longer," he said.

Insurgents continue to target Saddam loyalists and enemies of the former regime, as well as members of the new Iraqi security forces, in near daily bombings and shootings.

For the most insistent shopper, Ammar keeps a last doll hidden in a backroom, which he is happy to sell for US$8.

The rival Koshkool shop has run out of stock and Saad Jawad, standing behind the counter, is adamant that it will stay that way.

"Officials from the former regime live in this area. Some of them were angry when they saw the doll."

But for most shoppers, the doll brought only smiles.

For those who suffered under the Baath party regime, "the doll finally allows them to mock Saddam," Jawad admitted.

The dolls, like the deck of playing cards featuring the 55 most-wanted members of Saddam's former regime issued by the US forces after last year's invasion, sold like hotcakes.

Until recently, Koshkool stocked fake cigarette lighters with Saddam's picture on the front that emitted an electric shock in place of a flame.

"That showed that, while we got rid of Saddam, he still tortures us," laughed the shopkeeper.

But Dhia Said, who runs Mansur's Al-Ghadi toy shop, also said he had no desire to stock the famous doll.

"There are still Saddam Hussein supporters and the security situation is unstable. Perhaps I'll sell them in two years or so."

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