On July 1, 2004, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s trial for crimes against humanity began. The deposed dictator, who was pulled from a spider hole a year earlier with a stash of Bounty candy bars and of 7 Up, was forced to face his accusers. Asked to state his name, Saddam fired back, “You’re an Iraqi. You know who I am.” In rambling speeches to the court, he took potshots at everyone from President George W. Bush to the Kuwaitis. The trial ended with Saddam’s execution two years later.
Saddam’s suit was made by a man who belonged to the very ethnic group the dictator had tried to annihilate
For some, the trial brought closure to a long nightmare. For others, it helped legitimize the post-Saddam state. But for Recep Cesur, who followed the trial closely from Istanbul, it was something entirely different—a commercial for his unique line of menswear.
“I watched the trial from the first day,” Cesur says. “I wanted to see how he looked in the suit.” Despite the intervening years, Cesur, who sports a gray beard, can rattle off Saddam’s measurements: “His shoes was 11.6, his trousers 54, and his jacket 56.”
Saddam Hussein during his trial, in a Recep Cesur suit.
Astonishingly, Saddam’s suit was made by a man who belonged to the very ethnic group the dictator had tried to annihilate. Recep Cesur is a Kurd. During Saddam’s Anfal campaign in 1980s, 200,000 Kurds were killed and 4,500 communities razed. At one point, in a move that foreshadowed the tactics of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people. “Saddam’s politics were evil, but he was a good customer to me,” says Cesur, a proud Kurd who holds a deep admiration for late Iraqi Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani, who fought against Iraq’s Baathist state and died in exile in 1979.
While still in power, Saddam’s entourage bought 220 suits from Cesur’s Baghdad outlet, 80 of which were worn by the mustachioed strongman himself. Before the trial, one of Cesur’s employees in Baghdad prepared another set of suits for Saddam specifically for his historic court appearance.