Monday, January 31, 2022

What happened to President Mubarak

Before the Gulf War, Iraq issued endless stamps, often between 18 and 22 issues a year. Under Saddam, Iraq had excellent weapon manufacturing capabilities (remember Project Babylon which was also known as Saddam Hussein's super cannon?) and both Israel and Iran were the main targets. Today Iraq, like Syria, doesn't really exist and both are controlled by Iran. However despite its weapon manufacturing, it did not have stamp printing capability. All the printing of stamps was commissioned to European printers and most of them to the state printer of Hungary.

After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the First Gulf War, Desert Storm, broke out. The Iraqi army was forced to retreat to behind Iraqi borders and sanctions were imposed on Iraq, under the auspices of the United Nations.

After the war Saddam tried to bring the country back to pre-war status and quickly the state infrastructure such as electricity and of course postal services were restored.

As part of the sanctions, Iraqi assets abroad were frozen and therefore had little access to foreign currency. She could also not sell her oil to generate foreign currency. As a result, Iraq's economy plummeted and this also affected the postal service and its services. There was no foreign currency to contract overseas printers. Remember that in the early 1990s, there was no real internet as we know it, that only came about in 1992 and there was definitely no WhatsApp. The main way to communicate was through letters and Iraq did not have the money to design and issue new stamps. As a result, the post office began to take old stamps out of storage and send them to post offices for use.

With the end of the war and the imposition of sanctions, President Saddam wanted revenge on the Arab states that had betrayed him. In 1989, with the establishment of the ACC, Arab Cooperation Council, Iraq issued a series of stamps depicting the leaders of the four founding states: Ali Abdullah Saleh of North Yemen, King Hussein of Jordan, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

But there was a problem with the two stamps we mentioned: one of the leaders appearing on them is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Egypt not only joined the UN Declaration condemning Iraq on the Invasion of Kuwait, but also actively participated in the coalition to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Moreover, Iraqi soldiers were captured by Egyptian soldiers! The embarrassment? How can you do something like that to your partner? This was unforgiveable.

But Iraq needed to use the stamps! So Saddam decided to kill two birds with one stone. To enable the stamps to be used, Saddam Hussein issued an decree stating that Mubarak's face be erased or removed from the Iraqi stamps! Postal officials were quick to comply with this order and the accepted method was to punch a hole through the stamp where the President of Egypt's face appeared.

The cover below was mailed in 1993 and uses one of the stamps in the series. You can clearly see the hole that removed President Hosni Mubarak's face, making it possible to use the stamp. It is interesting to know what Egypt's reaction was when these stamps appeared on the market.

The story, written by Nick Macris, appeared in the November 1993 issue of Global Stamp News. The pictures were provided to me by Mr. Van Someren and he gave me permission to use the images. Thank you very much.

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