Iraq’s ambassador has spent more than an hour at a stamp exhibition in London to “salute” an historic collection amassed by a member of Lauderdale Road Synagogue.
Dr Salih Husain Ali hailed the history of coexistence in his country after being shown around the exhibit of more than 2,000 stamps compiled by Freddy Khalastchi, part of a wider display of Ottoman era stamps on show at Spring Stampex at the Business Design Centre.
He invited the ambassador to mark the centenary of the issuing of the first stamps in Baghdad following the occupation by British and Indian forces – when so few were printed that they ran out within just 17 days. The exhibition – which spans the 50-year period until the end of the monarchy until 1958 – includes rare covers and special stamps issued specifically for Mosul in 1919 at a time when the region was the subject of a dispute between the British, French and Turks.
“It’s a glimpse of the country’s history through stamps,” said Khalastchy, who owns arguably the most comprehensive collection of Iraqi stamps in the world. “I asked the ambassador to come six months ago and he was very enthusiastic. It’s a great honour. He knew a bit about the Jewish community and came to pay his respects when my uncle Naim Dangoor passed away.”
Dr Husain Ali said: “Our presence at this exhibition is a message to the world that Iraq is proud of its diversity and relies for its strength on the contribution of all citizens regardless of religion or creed. Mr Khalastchi’s unique exhibition is a welcome example and we are here to salute it. People of all religions, sects and creeds have gathered here around this exhibition with being Iraqi as the only reference. This is how life used to be back home and with God’s help this is what will happen in the future.”
The display in London has even attracted column inches in a major paper in Baghdad. Khalastchi, who works in clothes exports, has entered the display on the Ottoman stamps into a competition at Stampex. The father-of-two has also launched a new book on the subject entitled ‘Baghdad in British Occupation. The story of the 1917 Provisional Stamps’.
Edwin Shuker, a former classmate of the stamp collector from Baghdad, said: “Jews were prominent in the establishment of the postal services in Iraq. Freddy’s collection is a link and a tribute.”
Dr Husain Ali speaking at the exhibit, in Arabic: