Amid blasts, Iraq glass salesmen smile

Amid the destruction wrought by car bombs over the past two years in Iraq, there are some merchants who, by dint of their trade, have done well out of the mayhem, and glaziers fit that profit-from-misfortune group.

Clearing up the mess after a car bomb blew up his glass-fronted restaurant, Ahmed Kadhum knew one person he was going to have to call - the glass salesman."These days, everybody needs a glass salesman," says Abu Omar, who runs a small but expanding glass repair business in southern Baghdad. "We have become the new celebrities of Iraq."

With demand soaring, Abu Omar is considering opening more shops around the city, where hardly a day goes by without a bomb or a mortar blast causing death, injury or serious damage.

On Wednesday, a car bombs struck a busy bus station in Baghdad, killing more than 40 people and wounding 80.

Sales triple

Earlier, before the violence began, Abu Omar says he only made good money when construction projects were going on, and those were fairly rare. Now, sales have more than tripled, he says.

The impact can also be seen in the price of glass. In Baghdad, a basic shop-front window pane used to cost about 90 US cents per square foot; now it retails for $1.20 or more.
So good is business that some merchants have taken to driving around town in minivans stocked with glass ready to pitch up 'ad hoc' at the scene of blasts, salesmen say.

Many residents, accustomed to replacing windows regularly, even those strapped with tape to limit damage, have adopted a stoic approach to dealing with glaziers, even as prices soar.

"They are helpful," said Um Mohammed, a Baghdad housewife. "Although they sell glass at high prices that some families cannot afford." Others are less forgiving.

"I've spent everything I've got on glaziers - I just can't take it anymore," said a resident whose house is on the airport road, where car bombs can strike several times a day.


Another group of workers in high demand are panel-beaters. For every car bomb that goes off around the country, there are at least half a dozen vehicles that get damaged, with not just windows shattered but the body work smashed up.

Ahmed Salih, whose car was hit when a roadside bomb went off a few dozen yards ahead of him, said it cost nearly $350 - most of his monthly salary - to get it repaired.

Abu Mohammed, 42, who runs a car repair shop in the old part of Baghdad on a street where dozens of people in the same trade are kept busy from dawn until dusk, described his good fortune.

"Before the war we used to get a few vehicles damaged by car accidents. Now, with the blessing of bombs, I don't have any space left in my garage," he says, barely able to restrain a smile.

There are others who quietly benefit from Iraq's hardships - ice and airconditioner salesmen do a roaring trade in summer, and coffin makers have seen a terrible rise in demand.

One other group that goes little reported are bomb-makers. Several months ago, US forces raided a house in Baghdad only to discover a small but complete bomb-making factory.

Rather than being explicitly tied to the violence, the owner apparently operated independently, using his skills to supply a demand in the market, US forces said. The price per bomb? Around $25, including some profit for the manufacturer.

600450 Amid blasts, Iraq glass salesmen smile
Date: 22 August 2005

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