Friday, August 26, 2005


A Few Iraqi Jokes

[This post is dedicated to ‘Circular’, a gentleman from New Zealand with a keen sense of humor.]

A Politically Incorrect Post

In Iraq, most jokes for the past several decades have been political. The rest are mostly politically incorrect.

Urban Iraqis generally relish a good joke, but a good portion of their jokes are ethnic or sectarian in nature. There were always Arab-Kurd and Sunni-Shiite jokes. Sectarian and religious jokes are only offensive when they are based on hatred and bigotry! Otherwise they are fun. There is little popular hatred in Iraq.

In Iraq nobody cares much for political correctness and you can hear all sorts of jokes everyday about Shiites, Sunnis, Arabs and Kurds… many of them told by the ‘targeted parties’. Rarely have I seen them causing ill-feelings.

Up until 1991 when the Kurds went semi-autonomous, most sectarian jokes were about the Kurds. Following 1991, those jokes suddenly disappeared. They were replaced by jokes about the Dlaim (or Dulaim) – a large, mostly Sunni, tribe that occupies the western region of Iraq, mostly the Anbar Province. Dlaim are characterized by being good natured in general. I don’t know why jokes are usually directed at good-natured people.

Following the American invasion, the Dlaim region became the center of the insurgency. ‘Dlaimi’ jokes suddenly disappeared. Jokes in general became few and far between. The state of shock was evidently not conductive to joke telling!

After the elections, with the appointment of a Kurdish gentleman as president, jokes have been back to Kurdistan.

I will give a few examples of jokes from these different phases. They may not be the best I have heard, they are the ones that I can remember at the moment. Please keep in mind that with the power cuts and the water shortage coupled with the unbelievable heat of our summer… not to mention the constant, ugly and needless violence, it is not easy to be in jocular mood! This is the best that I can do under these circumstances. I will edit the jokes slightly to make them comprehensible to ‘foreigners’!

Political – Saddam Era

At a meeting of the Revolution Command Council, Saddam announced that they had discovered an attempted coup that was led by a member of the RCC. His name started with the letter ‘I’. All sight was directed to Izzat Ibrahim who remained calm and indifferent. The one sitting next to Taha al Jazrawi noticed that he was shaking uncontrollably. He whispered “But your name doesn’t start with an “I”!” to which Taha replied, “I know, but His Excellency is always fond of calling me ‘Idiot’!


A jackal met another one in the western desert making a quick dash towards the Jordanian border. He asked him what the hurry was. The other said that Saddam’s people were killing everyone who had three balls. The first said, “But surely you don’t have three balls!” The other replied, “Of course not! But they only count them after cutting them off”.


On judgment day, The Lord was on his throne while all mankind were paraded, each group headed by their leader: Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, etc. For each group, God stood momentarily to greet them. Finally, it was Saddam’s turn. God remained seated. Before Gabriel began to speak, the Lord said, “Well, if I left my throne for a second, that man is liable to take it!”


After the first Gulf War of 1991, Saddam was scornful of other Arab leaders and of the coalition. He usually went on TV to say things like:

“When will their mustaches tremble?” [as a sign of anger or indignation]…
“What are you so afraid of? Look what happened to us… we haven’t evaporated, have we?”

Most people, with their country thoroughly devastated, found those words rather offensive. There were many jokes about them, particularly the one about the mustaches.

One particular Dlaimi was fond of impersonating Saddam. He usually did that in a local tea house… saying things like “When will those mustaches tremble?” People warned him about his recklessness, but he did not stop. Finally, the security people get word. They locked him up for a while and gave him a severe beating.

The man returns to his usual place and resumes his mocking impersonations! A friend was appalled. He asked him whether he was not afraid after so much beating. The man replied, imitating Saddam,

“What are you so afraid of? Look what happened to us… we haven’t evaporated, have we?”


Saddam’s second front man, Izzat Ibrahim (who incidentally is still at large) died. He immediately went to the gates of Hell, knowing his natural place to go to. He was told that his name was not in their books. Bewildered, he went to the gates of Heaven. There, he received a similar answer.

Finally, he was advised to ask God. He went there to ask and The Lord immediately said “You don’t look like I created you. Who did?”



A Jew living in the mainly Shiite town of Kut in the south was pressured by some of his friends to convert to Islam. Finally he promised to do it the next time he went to Baghdad.

After he came back from the promised journey, he was asked by a friend about what he did. The man replied, “Well, as soon as I got a taxi in Baghdad I told the driver what I wanted to do, so he took me the this mosque called Abu Haneefa (the founder of a major Sunni sub-sect) I talked to the Imam there and everything went well and we finished in 5 minutes”.

The friend snapped indignantly, “So, you became a Sunni? Damn you! You should have remained a Jew!”


The first 10 days of the lunar Muslim year are days of sadness for Shiites. On the tenth day, Imam Hussein was killed in a tragic battle. The ten days are regarded holy – days of remembrance and grief. The period is called “’A’ssure”. I have already referred to that. He had come from what is now known as Saudi Arabia to Iraq.

Drinking alcohol is forbidden in Islam. Non-religious people are expected to abide during holy days.

This Shiite old woman walks into the living room to find her brother having a drink with a friend during the holy days of “’Assure”. She looked aghast! But before she could say anything, her brother says: “Hold your horses, sister. His holiness hasn’t even crossed the border yet!”


‘Kurdish’ Jokes

A few old jokes…

A fellow came up to a stream of water during a walk. He asked a Kurd sitting nearby whether the stream was too deep. The Kurd said “No, go right ahead”. The man wades into the water and finds it too deep. He comes back to the Kurd to reproach him. The Kurd replied: “Funny, just a short while ago I saw a duck with very short legs crossing it”.


The main wholesale market in Iraq is located in central Baghdad and is called Shorja. A Kurdish retailer from Sulleimaneyya called once every month to buy merchandise. A shop keeper had trained his pet parrot to shout “Stupid Kurd! Stupid Kurd!” every time he saw someone in traditional Kurdish attire.

This particular Kurd was offended by that bird. He wanted to buy it with the purpose of retraining it, but the shop keeper refused. Finally they agreed that the shopkeeper would prepare some eggs from that parrot which the Kurd could buy the next time he called.

Come the next visit, the shop keeper had several eggs ready. He asked the Kurd to place them under a chicken so that they would hatch.

Back in Sulleimaneyya, the Kurd duly did as he was instructed. But when the eggs hatched, there were baby pigeons, sparrows, other birds… but no parrots.

On the next visit to the market in Baghdad, the Kurd, again came across that parrot yelling: “Stupid Kurd! Stupid Kurd!” He smiled and said to the bird, “I may be stupid, but everybody in Sulleimaneyya now knows what you really are!”


[I have also heard this joke in Britain, referring to an Irishman.]

The poor Kurdish laborer was hit on the head by a brick dropped from the third floor of a building under construction. He was taken to hospital.

The following day, he shows up at work with his foot wrapped in bandages. When asked, he said that he was apparently standing on a protruding nail when the brick hit him!”

An anecdote…

The last trip to the Kurdish north I made was in 1984! We went in a group of four families of friends for the summer holiday. A Kurdish friend was our guide and, for part of the journey, our host. In a city called Duhok we met our friend’s brother-in-law who was also a Kurd but our friend kept calling him “Sayyed” (a title reserved for descendents of Imam Ali and the Profit Mohammed’s daughter, Fatima). Kurds also sometimes use the word ‘sheik’ for those people. I asked him how his brother-in-law could be a Sayyed and a Kurd. He replied, “It is simple. He is not a Kurd. You keep sending us people to turn us to Arabs… but we convert them to become Kurds”.


A newer one…

The curfew in Baghdad starts at 11 pm. A Kurd who had joined the new Iraqi National guard was manning a check point. Around 10:30, this guardsman sees a man walking in a hurry. He aims and shoots the guy. The guy drops dead. The officer in charge of the guardsman came running. “What have you done? It’s only half past ten, you fool”. The guard replies in a cool tone, “There is no problem, sir. I know that man and I know where he lives. He couldn’t possibly make it home before 11”.

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