Iraaqi Government in Exile

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On the 14th July 1958 young King Faisal II was deposed on a bloody coup led by the iraaqi general Abdul Karim Qassim. All major key figures of the Hashemite royal family, including the king and the crown prince and prime minister of Iraaq, Ibrahim bin Hussayn, were killed leaving both Iraaq and Hijaaz without ruler.

This was the end of 37 years of unpopular Hashemite domination over Iraaq and its personal union with Hijaaz. The royal family had to choose a new king and the choice was Prince Hussayn bin Hussayn who came to power as Hussayn I. In Iraaq Qassim self proclaimed prime minister and regent of the kingdom so as started the search for a local candidate for king.

The coup left in shock worldwide political class, especially the Arab monarchies, and almost no state recognised Qassim’s regime. The new king claimed the iraaqi throne which was recognised by the international community. But two countries, Saudi Arabia (ruled by the long lasting rival dynasty to the Hashemite, al-Saud) and the United Arab Rebublic (ruled by the pan-arabist and anti-monarchist Gamal Abdel Nasser) decided to recognise the new iraaqi regime. Such would lead later Hijaaz and Saudi Arabia into the Hajji War in 1959 after Hussayn I replied to their recognition by forbidding their citizens to enter in Hijaaz and therefore not permitting them to perform the Hajj.


Iraaqi Hashemite flag

On the 1st August 1958 King Hussayn I established the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraaq on Exile, commonly known as the Iraaqi Government on Exile. From then on this was considered internationally as the legitimous government of Iraaq and definitely an important personal victory to the king.

This political entity had as Prime Minister Ahmed Aziz, an exiled iraaqi who was between 1954 and 1958 Minister of Oil of the deposed iraaqi regime.

The Iraaqi Government on Exile represented worldwide Iraaq at the international organisations (League of Nations, Arab Community and COPEN) so had inherited the embassies facilities abroad. But had no real power over Iraaq while General Qassim ruled de facto his country.

Life in Hijaaz

Following the 1958 coup pro-Hashemite elements were persecuted in Iraaq. Many thousands were arrested, tortured and killed not only by the new regime from Baghdaad but also by ordinary people, usually Shiite, as the fallen political power was always Sunni.

Hijaaz received over 50 000 iraaqi refugees during 1958-59. These stayed under the Iraaqi Government on Exile jurisdiction. Sunni Arabs were largely the majority but there was also a tiny, but economically much important, minority of Christian Assyrians. These weren’t exactly pro-Hashemite, they were businessmen and their families who abandoned Iraaq after Qassim nationalised economy. Assyrians were often treated both by hijaazi and exiled iraaqi authorities as second class citizens. In time they would abandon Hijaaz to rebuild their lives and businesses mostly in Egypt where Christians were much better accepted. On the other hand the arab refugees didn’t have much problem to integrate into hijaazi society.

The Iraaqi Government on Exile functioned as a state within the hijaazi state. It collected taxes from the iraaqi, had its compulsory military service and justice and the refugees used among them the iraaqi dinar instead the local currency. Soon these situations tended to cause lots of confusion in Hijaaz in a time the kingdom itself suffered from economical stagnation due the loss of the iraaqi oilfields. Also Iraaqi exiled soldiers fought the Saudi at the Hajji War (1959) under iraaqi Hashemite flag instead the hijaazi one.

Local political events

Due to all the problems for having part of the population under different laws King Hussayn I started to cut on the exiled government autonomy in 1961. Iraaqi exiled military were joined to hijaazi armed forces, iraaqi dinar stopped being legal in Hijaaz and the exiled regime stopped to collect taxes. All this was disliked by the refugees who started to consider they were being amalgamated to the hijaazi.

Prime Minister Ahmed Aziz found himself reduced to a mere figurehead. He started to see the king’s positions as somekind of annexation of his country, thing which never happened before even when Hijaaz took the power in Iraaq in 1921. Iraaq was always a separate political entity, a full status state.

Aziz understood that he hadn’t now any real power over its population neither King Hussayn I had capacity to take Iraaq away from Qassim’s rule which was popular in its country. Hijaaz wasn’t powerful enough and its claims over Iraaq started to seem ridiculous and impossible to achieve. The prime minister finally dismissed himself in 1963 and fled for exile in Egypt. He was replaced by another iraaqi, Abdullah al-Sahaf, who was even more decorative.

Even so the Iraaqi Government on Exile remained internationally legitimous and recognized.

International political events

Tiny Kuwayt was in a difficult position, a small country recognizing King Hussayn’s claims while bordering the historical enemy of Hijaaz (Saudi Arabia) and Iraaq itself. In 1963 kuwayti government recognized “the right of the Iraaqi nation to have a local king”. Such meant the recognition of Qassim’s regime by an arab country.

At COPEN Saudi Arabia started to pressure the other member countries to recognize Qassim’s regime. Although representing Iraaq at COPEN its exiled government didn’t control its country neither had any oil to sell.

Persia was the first non-arab country to recognize the regime of Baghdaad in 1964 followed by the CSDS. Shah Aryamehr was well impressed with Qassim’s achievements. Soon industrialized countries started to be reluctant to recognize King Hussayn’s claims as the Iraaqi Government on Exile remained poor and economically inexistent while Qassim’s Iraaq had plenty of oil to sell and money to spend on its development plans so as to buy weapons.

King Hussayn I and Prime Minister Abdullah al-Sahaf became every year more isolated having their claims just recognized by two major blocks of countries: the Commonwealth of Nations (as they had good relations with the Hashemite since the First Great War) and the Snorist States (as they considered Qassim as communist). Beside these some of the arab monarchies (especially Libya which also saw Qassim’s ideals as a threat) and Roberto Tascon’s Castilian Spain (also anti-communist).

The end of the government

In 1968 Qassim gave up his search for an iraaqi king and proclaimed the Iraaqi Arab Republic having him as president. Feeling isolated as even his Commonwealth allies started to turn to Baghdaad King Hussayn I finally understood that the situation entered into a no turning back point and renounced to his claims.

The Iraaqi Government on Exile was finally abolished on the 14th March 1968 and the iraaqi refugees became citizens of Hijaaz.


See main article: Postal history of Iraaq

A stamp of 1959 issued by the Iraaqi Government on Exile

The Iraaqi Government on Exile had its own postal service operating from Hijaaz. Between 1958 and 1968 they issued over one hundred different sets of stamps.

Philatelists tend to divide those issues in two periods: 1958 to 1961 and 1961 to 1968.

Stamps from the first period were always engraved having as usual motives the Hashemite royal family, monuments and landscapes of Iraaq and oilfields.

These stamps are the only which were really used for postal expedition and are the rarer and most valuable. About twenty different sets were issued in this period.

When the hijaazi and iraaqi postal services were gathered, in 1961, the stamps from the Iraaqi Government on Exile became mere issues for philatelists and not for postal expedition. Stamps of this period are only possible to find in mint condition.

1961 was also the year when the exiled government stopped collecting taxes. Iraaqi exiled postal service started to use its stamps as a way to get funds among worldwide philatelists so as a way to spread pro-Hashemite propaganda.

To appeal the philatelists stamps from the second period became lithography made, large and colorful. These ones are nowadays not difficult to find and therefore affordable to ordinary philatelists.