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Obituary: Muhammad Hadid


ALAN RUSH

FRIDAY 06 AUGUST 1999

1 This woman had the best


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MUHAMMAD HADID was an eminent Iraqi politician and industrialist whose


career began in 1931 and ended with the destruction of party politics by the
Baath dictatorship in the 1960s.
He was also controversial - accused by some of compromising his socialist ideals
after the downfall of the monarchy in July 1958, defended by others as a
pragmatist who could accept that Iraq's quest for a liberal democracy must
involve sacrifices to the grim realities of Iraqi public life. While people argued
over his attempts to square the desirable with the possible, all agreed that he
was an intelligent, lively and cultivated man who throughout his life aimed to
serve his countrymen.
Born in 1907 (officially 1906), Hadid belonged to a wealthy family whose
importance pre-dated the First World War when the region - then called
Mesopotamia - was part of the Ottoman Empire and had yet to be established in
1921 as a Hashemite kingdom under British mandate. Based in the northern city
of Mosul, his forefathers traded with Syria and Turkey before investing in
industry and real estate. His mother belonged to the Al- Dabbagh who ranked
for generations among the leaders of Mosulite society. His wife was the granddaughter of the enormously rich Muhammad Pasha Sabunji. Hadid himself,
however, was known less for his wealth than for the frugality for which Mosul's
merchants are renowned.
Hadid was educated locally and then at the preparatory school (now the
International College) attached to the American University of Beirut. In 1928, he
travelled to England and studied at the London School of Economics where,
guided by Harold Laski he acquired a life-long admiration for Sidney Webb,
Hugh Dalton, Maynard Keynes and all those other economists and socialists
whose Fabian ideas excited not only Europeans disoriented by the First World
War, but also Middle Easterners eager to raise a new social order from the
wreckage of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1931, Hadid returned to Baghdad and joined the Ministry of Finance. More
importantly, he became a founding member of the politically progressive Ahali
group which embraced the ideals of Britain's Labour Party and attracted other
leading personalities such as Abd al-Fattah-Ibrahim, Jafar Abu-t- Timman,
Kamel Chadirchi and Hikmat Sulaiman - some of them authentic idealists,
others disgruntled opportunists, but almost all of them people who, given a
chance, might have made Iraq a better place.

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Instead, their ideas alarmed the palace and British officials who quietly blocked

general Bakr Sidqi. Though the coup succeeded and several colleagues gained
ministries in the new government, disillusion came when Sidqi began seeking
dictatorial power at the expense of their own plans for public welfare and
reform.

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some say, for a secret meeting with Hitler - was shot dead at Mosul Airport. In
these adventures Hadid was involved as an Ahali member and yet more so
following his election as deputy for Mosul.
After lying low during the Second World War, he returned to public life in 1946
when he became Vice- President of the National Democratic Party. As successors
to the social democratic wing of the Ahali group, its members championed
agrarian reform, workers' rights and state control of Iraq's nascent oil industry.
Notwithstanding, Hadid and most of his colleagues firmly rejected Communist
ideas, insisting that the evils of capitalism should be fought, but not capitalism
itself.
In November 1946, in exchange for promises of free elections, Hadid agreed to
serve as Minister of Supplies in a transitional coalition government led by his
bete noire - that most cunning and ubiquitous of Iraqi politicians, Nuri Said.
Soon afterwards, faced with evidence of electoral interference, he resigned in
protest. Clearly he and his fellow National Democrats had fallen victim to a
typically Nuri-esque ruse designed to exploit and divide the opposition parties.
While representing Mosul in the Chamber of Deputies, Hadid extended his
commercial interests and became a leading member of the Council of the
Federation of Iraqi Industries. During business visits to the United Kingdom he
supplied the press with calls for genuine parliamentary democracy in Iraq where
British influence was still immense. Also, he opposed Iraqi participation in the
pro-Western defence organisation known as the Baghdad Pact.
In 1956, when Britain joined France and Israel in attacking Suez, he
spearheaded the Front of National Union through which Iraq's political parties
united in demanding "the combating of imperialist encroachments". Hadid
never opposed the institution of monarchy per se and he was appalled by the
massacre of the Hashemite royal family in July 1958. Nevertheless he was
disappointed by the family's tendency to exceed the powers laid down for it in
the Constitution: and by the 1950s he was certainly pleased to witness Iraq's
emergence as a republic. Only later, under Baathist rule, did he admit that most
Iraqis, including himself, enjoyed greater freedom under the monarchy than in
any period after its destruction.
Though he took no part in the coup d'etat of July 1958, he assisted the Free
Officers by meeting the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, in Cairo in
order to ascertain his position regarding their plans. Nor was he surprised when
he was appointed Minister of Finance in the government formed by the leading
rebel, Brigadier Abd al-Karim Qasim, who now styled himself Prime Minister
and Minister of Defence.
Encouraged by the Oriental Counsellor at the British Embassy, Sam Falle, Hadid
helped to ensure that, with only three exceptions, none of the friends and
members of the ancien regime who were condemned to death in the
revolutionary courts was executed. In this way he used his prestige and civilian
status to give Qasim's fledgling government a veneer of moderation that greatly
encouraged international recognition.
As Minister of Finance, Hadid used credit loans from the Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe to foster industry and pay for ambitious schemes to alleviate the
suffering of the Iraqi masses. But he also protected the interests of landed
proprietors and industrialists. Despite the fact that he himself benefited from
these measures, even his later critic, the National Democrats' esteemed leader
Kamil Chadirchi, declared that "as far as it is possible for a big capitalist to be
clean and idealist, Hadid is clean and idealist".
Although Hadid was gravely embarrassed by Qasim's eccentricities and
dictatorial rule, he stood firm when, in 1960, Chadirchi insisted that the
National Democratic Party must abandon him. Arguing that democracy needs
time to emerge, that there was still no acceptable alternative to Qasim and that
his overthrow would deliver Iraq into the hands of Baathist or Communist
extremists, Hadid broke ranks with Chadirchi and, in June 1960, formed his
own National Progressive Party which was intended to restrain Qasim through
what he called "constructive criticism". In later years this would be remembered
as the most regrettable act of his career since it split and gravely weakened the
democratic movement.

power struggle between Iraqi Communists and nationalists. In Mosul, in 1962,


professional assassins would happily eliminate any suspected Communist for as
little as 10 dinars (pounds 10). In July, after further appeals for Qasim to restore
order and institute an elected government, Hadid finally admitted defeat and
abandoned politics. But he was still considered a supporter of Qasim, a fact that

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in February 1963.

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Interned, put on trial and deprived of his assets, Hadid waited several years
before he was fully rehabilitated. Thereafter he confined himself to business
ventures and the administration of the Vegetable Oil Extraction Company, of
which he was chairman and part-owner.
Hadid loved his country and never wanted to reside elsewhere. But ill health and
inadequate medical services resulting from United Nations sanctions forced him
to spend his final years in England, the present home of his children, one of
whom is the renowned architect Zaha Hadid.

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Despite positive feelings for England dating back to his student days. Hadid
regarded British distrust of Iraq's intelligentsia as probably the earliest main
source of Iraq's present dilemmas. But he criticised his fellow Iraqis too. Besides
pointing to corruption in the army, he deplored the extent to which religious and
racial prejudice have so often divided Iraq's Sunni Arabs from Shias of Persian
origin, and both those groups from other ethnic communities such as the Kurds.
Questioned about Iraq's future, his reply was always the same - "I see no
substantial change for the next 30 years."
Muhammad Hadid, politician, economist and industrialist: born Mosul, Iraq 28
October 1907; married 1933 Wajiha Sabunji (died 1983; two sons, one
daughter); died Maidenhead, Berkshire 3 August 1999.

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