November 12, 2017

Mostly uncertified cosmetic centres a huge draw in Iraq

Rampant phenomenon. A clinic and beauty salon in Baghdad. (Provided by Oumayma Omar)

Baghdad - Samar Ahmad wasn’t happy with her new look after a cos­metic procedure to increase the volume of her lips at one of Baghdad’s numerous aes­thetic centres.
“It does not resemble the voluptu­ous mouth of American actress An­gelina Jolie. I will not hesitate to do it again and again until I get the shape I want,” said Ahmad, an avid user of Botox and fillers and who has already had a nose job.
The 43-year-old government em­ployee said she embarked on a “beau­tification” spree despite the opposi­tion of her husband, who, however, is an admirer of Lebanese celebrities Haifa Wehbe and Nancy Ajram, who are reputed to have gone under the knife numerous times.
“It is not about pleasing my hus­band, as much as gaining self-confi­dence and self-esteem. I feel better about myself especially as I grow older,” Ahmad said.
Cosmetic surgeries are in full swing in Baghdad, beauty salons are thriv­ing and surgeons who have spent years performing reconstructive sur­gery to repair terrible disfigurements caused by war are trying to meet a surge in demand for elective cosmet­ic procedures.
Plastic surgeon Dr Ali Saadi warned against “the scary” ram­pant phenomenon that has led to the mushrooming of unquali­fied and uncertified cosmetic sur­gery centres that caused more harm than beauty.
“Most beauty salons are unreliable and do not abide by the criteria set by the Health Ministry and the order of physicians. They are money-makers seeking to drain the pockets of their clients regardless of the outcome of the surgery,” Saadi said.
Saadi said some physicians ob­tained licences for unqualified beau­ty salons in return for bribes.
“The surge in demand for cosmetic procedures is the main reason behind the phenomenal outspread of beauty centres. Iraqis are taking advantage of the relative improvement in se­curity after 2007 to enhance their looks,” he said.
The trend has been fuelled by the arrival of satellite television, which, since 2003, has beamed into Iraqi living rooms the glamorous Arab and international celebrities who are known to be regular clients of cos­metic surgeons.
The results aren’t always what the patient expected, however. Acci­dents and mistakes have occurred in uncertified and poorly equipped cen­tres, causing deformities and health problems.
Saadi said his clients include men, women and young girls who do not really need cosmetic enhancement.
“Botox and fillers are very popu­lar among young university students who seek to augment their lips or certain spots of their face to look more attractive and fresh. Whereas, facelifts and fat reduction through li­posuction are increasingly in demand among women of a certain age,” Saadi noted.
The most popular operation among all age brackets and both genders is rhinoplasty — the reshaping of the nose — family physician Dr Ahmad al-Radini said.
He said that a typical nose job, involving internal intervention to straighten cartilage and external beautification, charges range $1,500- $2,500. Liposuction can cost up to $4,000. Charges for fillers and Botox, respectively, are $150-$200 and $200- $250 per injection, depending on ma­terials used.
“Unfortunately, there are dozens of centres, operating without any con­trol, where serious medical mistakes and irreversible deformities have been committed because the mate­rial used is not original or expired,” Radini said, adding that the govern­ment should establish specialised institutes to form and train personnel to meet the increasing demand for cosmetic procedures.
There is no official survey of cos­metic centres in Iraq, which have been a booming business since 2003. A source at the Ministry of Health said cosmetic procedures are per­formed in more than 500 centres, of which only 50 are certified.
The source, who spoke on condi­tion of anonymity, said inspection committees are bribed or pressured by influential parties financing unli­censed centres to give a positive as­sessment of their performance.
Plastic surgery in Iraq is turning into a collective obsession, reflecting openness in the conservative Iraqi society despite the prevailing reli­gious rhetoric.
At the crowded Shaimaa’ Beauty centre in Baghdad’s al-Mansoor neighbourhood, 21-year-old Lama Aziz looked out of place. She has a beautiful face and slim body, which do not require any obvious improve­ment.
“I desire to have a ‘Texas jawline,’ which I consider as a mark of beauty,” she said. “It is true people admire my looks but the touches I seek improve my beauty and femininity.”
Saadi said the craze for cosmetic operations is a welcome change from treating the casualties of war and terrorism. He said Iraqi surgeons ac­quired unparalleled experience in fixing people, making conventional cosmetic operations a relatively easy task.