Postage stamps and postal history of Iraq

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This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Iraq.

The earliest postal service known in the area of present-day Iraq was operated by Assyria; archeologists have found a large number of commercial letters written in cuneiform on clay tablets, and enclosed in addressed clay envelopes.

The Ottoman Empire had post offices at Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, and Kirkuk around 1863. India operated post offices in Baghdad and Basra from 1868 to 1914. During World War I, British and Indian troops fought their way from Basra to Mosul; they used stamps of India overprinted "I.E.F." on their military mail.

The British overprinted a variety of Turkish stamps during the occupation, a grouping now conventionally called the issues of "Mesopotamia"; for details, see postage stamps and postal history of Mesopotamia.

The postal service of Iraq proper began with the British mandate granted by the League of Nations in 1920.

The first stamps of Iraq were a definitive series that appeared in 1923; the set of 12 included eight different designs depicting scenes and images from ancient history and the present day. They were denominated in annas and rupees, inscribed with "IRAQ" and "POSTAGE & REVENUE". The first stamp depicting Faisal I of Iraq was a 1-rupee value in 1927, followed in 1931 by a series of 13 values.

Image:Stamp Iraq 1932 3f ovpt.jpg
King Faisal I half-anna overprinted 3 fils, 1932

Independence in 1932 brought a new currency (fils and dinar), and the existing Faisal stamps were surcharged accordingly, and issued on 1 April 1932. These were followed soon after (9 May) by stamps of the previous design denominated in the new currency. The accession of King Ghazi necesitated new stamps, which appeared in 1934; they were of the same design as the Faisal stamps, but with a profile of Ghazi in the vignette.

Image:Cover IQ 1945 registered.jpg
Registered mail sent in August 1945, with stamps from the series of 1934, 1941, and 1942

Due to Ghazi's unexpected death and the infancy of his son, in 1941 a new series was issued featuring local scenery. Along with additional values and color changes issued the next year, the series totals 23 stamps. 1942 also saw the first stamps depicting Faisal II, who was still a young boy. He appears as a teenager in the next series, which was issued in 1948.

Image:Stamp IQ 1958 20f ovpt.jpg
King Faisal II 20 fils overprinted for the republic, 1948

Iraq's first commemorative stamps came out in 1949 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union. Faisal's 1953 coronation was also marked by a set of three, along with a souvenir sheet. The last of the Faisal definitives had only partly appeared before the revolution of 1958, and both issued and unissued types were overprinted.

Image:Stamp IQ 1960 30f Army Day.jpg
Qassim on an Army Day stamp of 1960

General Qassim's period was noted by the usual round of commemoratives, many featuring him as benevolent leader. Later presidents also appeared, though less frequently. Saddam Hussein, as vice-president, makes a first appearance in a souvenir sheet of 1976, and by the mid-1980s appeared on a great many Iraqi stamps.

Image:Stamp IQ 1976 50f defin.jpg
Definitive of 1976, showing ancient sculpture

The Iraq invasion of 2003 brought the stamp program to a sudden halt, the last Saddam-era issue being a Saddam University stamp on 5 February 2003. Two additional issues were planned, themed "Old Methods of Transportation" and "Popular Industries", and proofs had been made. The printing works were destroyed in the looting, but not the Post Office building, and the proofs survived. The Coalition Provisional Authority subsequently approved the printing of the Transportation stamps, and they were issued 29 January 2004. In the meantime, overprints appeared on various stamps, but none were officially authorized.

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Postage stamps and postal history of Iraq

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