Iraq to Close Nahrain Printing House - 11.12.2007

Video - Baghdad, Iraq - Dar Al-Nahrain, or “The House of Mesopotamia,” is a well-known printing and publishing house in Baghdad. It was established in 1980 and has printed everything from currency to passports and even many of Iraq’s postal stamps. Like most of Iraq’s Ministries and institutions, it was ransacked by looters after the fall of Baghdad.

It was perhaps considered a target of special interest to some, as it printed Uday’s periodical “Babil” as well as its more benign documents. It also may have been seen as just another emblem of Saddam’s Ba’athist-era Iraq, having been established after Saddam siezed control of the country. The Nahrain printing presses ran throughout the Iran-Iraq War, and as far as Alive in Baghdad could determine, even survived the sanctions regime of the 1990s.

Allegedly, the printing presses in the Baghdad institution even began printing official documents under contract with a number of nations on the African continent, but the exact details of this could not be determined.

Furthermore, the printing house survived the war and the looting, as one of the first institutions to begin running again after the fall of Baghdad. Of course, Dar Al-Nahrain would not print Uday’s paper again, but Iraqis found another similar use. It began printing Al-Sabah, “The Morning,” a new state-run newspaper. Eventually it began printing passports and other official documents again, as the Iraqi Government began functioning regularly once more.

There are many rumors surrounding Dar Al-Nahrain, such as accusations that it is run by the Mahdi Army, but these accusations could not be proven, and such rumors abound in Baghdad’s current chaotic environment. Although these rumors could not be proven, its known that after the bombing, before the Iraqi Government was re-established, some criminal gangs were using the presses to print counterfeit money.

Today Al-Nahrain employs 900 Iraqi employees, printing passports and other official documents, as well as the State-run newspaper, Al-Sabah. Because its office was originally located in the volatile Ameriya neighborhood of Baghdad, many of its staff members have been killed on their way to or from work, but the current employees assured Nabeel Kamal that they are a brave and noble group, more than willing to become “martyrs” to continue their work. They have been challenged by the Iraqi Government to produce a half million passports, as well as other official identification cards.

Despite all of this, it appears that the Iraqi Government is now determined to close the printing house, despite ongoing unemployment of fifty percent or more. The employees expressed frustration and a little understanding for the government’s actions. It’s difficult to understand with the apparent success of the institution. According to one article released by the office of the Iraqi Presidency, the World Bank has demanded its closure. One may assume this is tied to certain loan guarantees, but Alive in Baghdad has been unable to determine what reasoning led the Bank to believe the termination of 900 Iraqi employees will provide an economic benefit to Iraq.

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