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Masculine Revival:
In Wasit, A Manly Culture Club For Proud Owners Of An Arab Moustache

Mohammed al-Zaidi
Upset by what he saw as foreign incursions into local culture, one Wasit man has founded a club to rejuvenate local manhood. It’s all about growing the biggest, bushiest moustache.
6.04.2017  |  Wasit

Mithaq Qassim Abed, 45, is sitting in a coffee shop in the centre of the southern Iraqi city of Kut, smoking a water pipe. He asks the café staff to add some more pieces of coal to the pipe and then takes out his phone. He makes the call: He is here - and the other members of what is known as the Wasit Crocodiles club should come and meet him.

Within 15 minutes, the coffee shop is full of men who all have one thing in common: A large, bushy-as-possible moustache. Other patrons in the shop look on, curious and bemused while some of the club members begin to groom their facial hair

Club members are ranked according to their facial hair: The better the moustache, the more senior the member. 

Abed says he founded the Crocodiles club – named for the powerful nature and strength of the animal - because he feared that masculine values were disappearing form Wasit; he saw younger men take on the fashionable European clothing and hairstyles “of other cultures”. Often this means a bare face.

“All of us are unhappy to see young people with strangely shaped facial hair and odd clothing,” explains Abed, who believes that a long, well-groomed moustache is a mark of masculinity. “It is not easy,” he notes, “it is a responsibility, it is about taking a stand.”

In general, Kut is a fairly conservative place and derivations from the norm are quickly noticed and commented upon. However the Crocodile club has had a good response from almost every sector of society here.

Abed says he started the club with a few comments and call outs on social media. “The theme of this was about trying to convince younger people to abandon foreign cultural practices,” Abed told NIQASH. “I finally decided the best way to show this, and to preserve traditional masculine values, would be to form a club based around growing a traditional moustache.”

“At first there was just a few of us,” says one of the other men in the café today. “But then more friends with long moustaches came and we all started to go out together to markets and to public spaces. We began to organize meetings at places where university students gather, at school or around Internet cafes, and we began talking to the young men there. Many of them reacted positively.”

“When we first started to wander around the city together, people were quite surprised,” says another moustachioed chap, Atheer al-Hashimi, 30. “In fact, some of them were critical of us – and that included some of our relatives.”

Al-Hashimi has just come in from the street and he and his friends are carrying their combs with them, so they can groom their facial hair in public.

“We try to attract attention so that young people will notice us and allow us to speak with them,” al-Hashimi explained.

Abed and the other club members say more and more locals are joining the moustache movement all the time. One young man in the coffee shop says that some of his friends stopped wearing their hair in a European style because of the Crocodile club’s example. They also did this because additionally, they were scared the club members would make fun of them, he said.

Club members are ranked according to their facial hair: The better the moustache, the more senior the member.  

“These individuals are trying to stress the values of the Arabic culture through the traditional moustache,” Jamil al-Aboudi, a sociology lecturer at Wasit university, told NIQASH. “Of course, they’re trying to attract attention but in reality there is no relation between moustaches and manhood or virility,” he says, laughing a little.

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