VIII. King Faisal I - Second Issue, 1932

First issued: 9th May 1932
Currency: Iraqi dinar (1,000 fils = 1 dinar)
Production: Bradbury Wilkinson & Company, London

The new currency issue belatedly arrived in Iraq in early May 1932 and was put on sale on the 9th May.[1] As can be seen, the design is extremely conservative — the old dies have been modified to bear new denominations, and that's all. Which was probably for the best: the 1931 design was very solid and sensible and presumably nobody at Bradbury Wilkinson felt the need to re-invent the wheel barely a year later. 

The usual service overprint, this time the horizontal orientation used on the middle values.

The usual service overprint, this time the horizontal orientation used on the middle values.

Anyway as we saw on the previous page, Iraq became formally independent on the 6th October 1932. Political tensions had increased in the lead-up to independence and so, as 1933 rolled around, King Faisal tried to ensure the country would start off in a convivial mood by firing some divisive ministers and bringing some opposition figures into the government. Faisal's hopes that things would calm down a little were not soon realised, however, and a fresh conflict soon arose, this time centred around the Assyrian population of Iraq. Assyrians inhabited the far north of the country — as Christians, and members of a separate ethnic/cultural group, they had long been distrusted by their (mostly Kurdish) Muslim neighbours. Under the Mandate they had enjoyed the protection and favour of the British, and a majority-Assyrian militia raised by the British had been instrumental in putting down Kurdish and Arab revolts in the early 1920s. Naturally the departure of the British left the Iraqi Assyrians a state of considerable apprehension — especially seeing as Britain, in its desire to be free of the Mandate as soon as possible, had blown off the League of Nations' concerns that the Assyrians would be vulnerable to reprisals and general ill-treatment without the British to protect them. The Assyrians were well aware that many Iraqis viewed the Assyrians as British minions, and believed that the British intended to use them as a vehicle to exert influence over the country in the post-Mandate era.

In May 1933 the Assyrian Patriarch (their religious/political leader) travelled to Baghdad to advocate for an autonomous Assyrian region, but he was rebuffed by the government and eventually arrested. This caused great alarum among the Assyrian population, thousands of whom tried to seek asylum in (French-administered) Syria. The French turned them back at the border, however, and as the Assyrians returned to Iraq they ran into detachments of the Iraqi army. Fighting broke out (both sides of course attributing the first shots to the other) and, while the Assyrians initially had the upper hand, the Iraqis duly brought up reinforcements and suppressed them.  About a fortnight later, in early August, Iraqi troops under the command of general Bakr Sidqi (whom we'll met again later) moved into the Assyrian region of the country and massacred thousands of civilians with little resistance.[2] Sidqi's actions seem to have been positively received by a great majority of Iraqis — on returning to his headquarters in Mosul he was greeted by no less than Ghazi, the crown prince, who congratulated him and his soldiers. Sidiqi later received a victory parade in Baghdad and a promotion. Details of the massacre leaked out of Iraq in the following weeks, to the outrage of the world. King Faisal claimed that the massacre had taken place without his knowledge, and that he was appalled by it — a claim met by varying degrees of scepticism. While the British seem to have taken Faisal at his word, they demanded that he punish Sidiqi and other perpretrators. The stress of having to deal with the fallout of the massacre severely compromised Faisal's health and he suffered a fatal heart attack on the 8th September 1933, aged just forty-eight.[4] The crown prince became King Ghazi, and we'll pick up his story on the next page.

Some more about the stamps, to close: this issue is, once again, fiddly to locate the higher values of: the 75-200 fils are fairly uncommon, the ½ dinar is rare and the 1 dinar is very rare (relatively speaking, anyway — the examples of the top values up there aren't great but it's the best I'll have for a long while, I assume). Like the previous issue, this one doesn't seem to have been invalidated as soon as the next one appeared — a quick search around the usual places shows examples on cover as late as 1938 (and there's nothing to suggest they weren't used even later than that).

14th September 1933: King Faisal's body arrives at Haifa, Palestine, before being brought onwards to Baghdad for burial. (  Library of Congress  )

14th September 1933: King Faisal's body arrives at Haifa, Palestine, before being brought onwards to Baghdad for burial. (Library of Congress)

[1] The 2 fils and 4 fils weren't issued until sometime in June, for reasons unknown.

[2] Of note, Sidqi was Kurdish, and his soldiers (some of whom would presumably have been Kurdish as well) were accompanied by Kurdish tribal irregulars during the massacre. One might have perhaps expected some mutual affinity between the Kurds and the Assyrians, seeing as both were autonomy-seeking minority groups, but evidently religious and other political considerations outweighed this in the end. And of course, not all Kurds were nationalist in disposition, Sidqi himself being a perfect example of a Kurdish person who was integrated into the Iraqi power structure.

[3] Naturally there was much suspicion of foul play in his death — whether these beliefs have any credibility I have no idea, but in writing this I've been very struck by how prematurely aged Faisal looked. Take a look at the picture on the previous page: he would've been forty-seven then, but he looks at least a decade older, to my eyes.