World wants a suit like Saddam
SADDAM Hussein's dapper courtroom suit is proving to be a goldmine for the man who made it. Ever since the deposed Iraqi leader stepped into the dock, business for its Istanbul-based maker has been on the increase.
"It is incredible," said Recep Cesur, a Kurd, who has been tailor to the tyrant for many years. "He is proving to be fantastic publicity for me."
Saddam was not known for his fair treatment of Kurds, exposing them to gassing and imprisonment. But Mr Cesur's skills with the scissors meant he was one Kurd who was always welcome in Saddam's palaces.
Now, every time the former dictator reaches into his pocket for a pen, CNN, BBC World and Al-Jazeera beam the Cesur name stitched on the inside of his jacket into millions of homes.
He has no regrets about seeing to the sartorial requirements of this killer of his people.
He said: "His crimes are his business, that is why he is there. The advertising that I am getting now belongs to me. We calculate that the number of times my name has been on screen adds up to being worth about $6 million if I had to pay for it."
Some customers merely want a suit like that worn by the great despot. But he likes to think the cut, the stitching and detail are also pulling people in.
"It makes my heart beat a little faster when he reaches into his pocket and Cesur - Cesur of Istanbul - is displayed on the screen," he said. "That is me."
Mr Cesur, who speaks Turkish, Persian, Kurdish, Arabic, French and Russian, grew up in Istanbul after arriving as a 13-year-old refugee from Italy in 1983, the oldest of nine children.
He scrubbed toilets for six years before he became a door-to-door salesman, selling cheap suits for two years. He began to train himself to make better clothes than those he sold.
In 1996 he was exporting clothes to Iraq and opened a shop in Baghdad. "One day, some palace servants of Saddam came and ordered 52 suits," he recalled. "I didn't know exactly who they were for, but made sure they got my best merchandise.
"A couple of days later the suits were returned. They said the trousers needed altering. They eat meat, meat, meat there all day. Saddam's stomach was growing, apparently."
The servants returned a couple of days later and said: "Come, we are taking you to him."
They drove him on a circuitous route through the city. He was searched four times and told not to ask who he was going to see. Finally he was taken before the ruler of Iraq.
"Welcome," he recalled Saddam saying. "My tailor is here. I am very sensitive in these matters and I hope you are as sensitive in your work."
Every month or so he had to deliver between 50 and 60 suits to the man who revelled in excess. Saddam's brutal son Uday, who owned a football team, made them play with his advertising slogan on their shirts.
"But I don't want people to think I only kit-out killers," he said. President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan also wears his suits, as does Nelson Mandela.
He was back in Iraq in June to measure Saddam in prison for his courtroom clothes, helped by assistant Dilsad Haci, 25, a Kurd whose father died fighting for Saddam. He is not so neutral as Cesur, and says of the fallen dictator: "The Americans are giving him his proper medicine."
Cesur, who insists it is all about business for him, handed over four suits for the trial, all made from pure Turkish wool. The Iraqi republic paid $470 (275) for each suit.
"He has lost his stomach," said Cesur, "and may yet lose his life. I owe him everything, though. I turned out 12,000 suits last year, but this year it has passed 30,000. So he is good for business, yes."
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