In the Spotlight - Iraq

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Dec 27, 2023, 4:48:14 AM12/27/23

In the Spotlight – Iraq
By Ed “Hazukashii” Howell
27 Dec 2023


Iraq now stands on the lands of ancient Mesopotamia, which had the capital city of Babylon.  The lands also encompass the area of the Assyrian Empire and the Ottoman Empire.  Although Iraq gained its independence in 1932, it still “remained subject to British imperial influence” until the monarchy was overthrown in 1958, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.   The Ba’ath Party then took over, and was led by Saddam Husayn from 1979 to 2003.  Like much of the Middle East, Iraq has substantial petroleum reserves, which has fostered a fair share of cross border incursions with Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Nearly 40% of Iraq is desert, with the two largest identified as Al-Ḥajarah in the west, and Al-Dibdibah to the east.  The current capital of Iraq is Baghdad.


As you might expect, the first hash to be founded in Iraq was the Baghdad H3.  John Haiste has been given credit as the founder in the HHH Genealogy, but this is surely in error, as in his own words he stated in a passage from 1982 . . .


     When I made the big mistake of coming to Baghdad I was aware that there was no Hash in existence here but as a dedicated Hashman of a few years standing I was sure there was potential.  As luck had it, just as I arrived last July I was told that some noble fellows were holding the first Hash run the following weekend.


He apparently was not too big on punctuation, but he was the first Hash Master of the Baghdad H3.  The actual founder is probably either Bob ‘Wrecker’ Shead, Ray ‘Lips’ Dalton, Graham Walsh, Barry Cooper, or Eric Schofield who were mentioned in various passages of documents found.  The first trail was set on 25 Jul 1981, by Peter Burns and Duncan Kirby.  While on an 8-hour layover in Abu Dhabi, in September of last year (which is quite a story in itself), I was hosted by Duncan ‘Dingbat’ Kirby who skillfully got me from the airport, to the hash . . .  and back to the airport just in time to be the last one to board my flight.  During our conversation, we talked about our various hash highlights, and he mentioned that he set the very first trail in Iraq.  Remembering this, I contacted him to get a more detailed explanation of his involvement.


Dingbat stated he was only 21 at the time of his arrival in Iraq, and he was there to help construct the new Baghdad University.  He went on to say . . .


     It may be a surprise but at that time alcohol was freely available in Iraq.  There were three breweries and you could generally find whisky and wine in the souq.  We had set up a bar in our camp (the 345 Club) which was fairly well stocked and open to other expats in the city. Bearing in mind that the Iran/Iraq war was going on, we were subject to the occasional air-raid and our contingency plan in case of invasion was lock-in in order to ensure that no one got their hands on our stock.


     So sometime in June/July 1981 over a few jars of the local beer (Sherazade), the idea of setting up a hash was born. As a rugby player the concept sounded intriguing and a further meeting was organized to iron out the details. It was decided that although the traditional hashing day was Monday we would hash on Saturday as in Iraq Friday was the day off.


     It was also quickly agreed that the best venue for the inaugural hash would be the 345 Club, at that time it was fairly isolated and surrounded by farms, close to the Tigris River, with plentiful beer and BBQ.  Around 25 hashers showed up, mostly from companies involved in the University project and enjoyed the short run, circle (organised by John Haiste, who quickly became the GM), learnt our first hash songs and downed copious beers. 


     Of course, groups of mostly men running around in shorts could not fail to attract the attention of the locals and our PRO asked me at some stage whether the Hash was a political organisation.  After he picked me up off the floor from laughing so much; he realised we were not a threat to Saddam Hussein.


     At the time Baghdad was incredibly safe for foreigners, no one locked their cars and the police preferred to look the other way.  We were also fortunate that we could go anywhere in our orange plate cars, whereas diplomats (who were all considered spies) with CD plates, needed special permission to leave city limits.  However, they were able to import luxuries unavailable in Baghdad such as imported beer, baked beans and bacon, as such we formed an unholy alliance where, in exchange with lifts out of the city to the lakes etc. they would help out through the diplomatic pouch. I still remember the arrival of 7000 cases of beer (possibly Fosters) in a container imported by the Australian embassy.


     I left Baghdad in November 1982 via Amman where I ran on the Hashemite Hash. 31 years later, after hashing in Oman, Cyprus, Athens and Beirut, I returned and ran with them for a couple of years. Never made it back to Baghdad.


Building off the success of the Baghdad H3, Brian Clancy founded the Babylon H3 on 8 Jun 1985 and Alfred 'Good and Tight' Zuber founded the Assyrian H3 in Jan 1986.  I have known Good and Tight for many years, but my attempts to contact him for comments have not been successful, but I will continue to try and include it in a future publication.


As mentioned above, the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) did not seem to have a significant effect on hashing in the capital, but when Iraq invaded Kuwait on 2 Aug 1990, the whole region was in turmoil and many fled to safer regions of the world.  I can find no record of hashing in the post Gulf War era, until the invasion of Iraq in Mar 2003.  The HHH Genealogy reflects several pop-up hashes that were certainly run in the confines of operational bases, and they include:


    - Saddam Bash H3, founded 5 May 2003 by Hugh 'Cummando' Kelly

     - Erbil H3, founded on 23 May 2003 by Boy Toy

     - Al-Kut Chee H3, founded on 23 May 2003, by Phil 'Turd Bird' Kendro

     - Baghdad Post Saddam H3, founded on 30 May 2003 by David 'Foreplay' Hodgkinson

     - New Babylon H3, founded on 21 Jul 2005 by Marty ‘Garfield’ Hanratty

     - Fallujah H3, founded on 11 May 2006 by Chris ‘Ghost Rider’ Calhoun


There were likely more during this period.  I was in Iraq for several months in 2007, and ran with what I recall was the Baghdad H3.  The club ran in the Green Zone of Baghdad on a weekly basis, made up mostly of contractors, and they had plenty of alcohol.  I had just arrived, and got word of the start location.  Venturing over to the meet point, I was surprised to see Racheal ‘Neon’ Frame was there, who I had hashed with in Richmond, VA and Seoul, South Korea previously.  Trail was about 45-50 mins long, dashing around the Green Zone, and at one point after running through the famous sword arches at Victory Field, the Green Zone Police stopped to question us.  It was just dark enough that I was able to sneak behind some bushes and avoid interrogation.  That incident, and all the alcohol (which was counter to General Order #1), gave me enough pause that I decided not to become a regular attendee.  I also found some trail marks while out at the Marine base at Fallujah, so hashing was one of a limited number of diversions taken up by deployed forces in theater. 


Currently, there is only one hash club still active in Iraq, and that is the Heart of Baghdad Full Moon H3, founded by Adam ‘Scrummie Seconds’ Martin from the Heart of Texas H3.  I was able to track down Scrummie Seconds back in Texas, and told me he started in Dec 2021, and they run the Friday nearest the Full moon.  He also stated . . . “We only have trails on the US embassy, so sadly it isn’t open to anyone that doesn’t have embassy access.”  He also stated that the ‘logo was modeled after the Heart of Texas Hump Day H3 . . . with a camel in the middle of an Iraqi flag colored back ground.”


Iraq is probably not high on anyone’s list of family vacation destinations, and your hashing opportunities are nil.  So chalk this one up for reconsideration some years in the future.


For many more articles like this on the history of hashing, check out . . .   



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