Baghdad ink

Reporters on the Job: It doesn’t take much to discover how prevalent the tattoo culture is among the US military in Iraq.

But it wasn’t until recently that I started to notice that Iraqis were sporting American-style tattoos. The Iraqis who work closely with the US troops end up adopting a lot of the US cultural trends, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before Western-style tattoos caught on.

Still, many Iraqi soldiers are worried about getting harassed or arrested for ink-stained arms. Iraqi law forbids government employees and soldiers from having tattoos. And Islam considers it an unnecessary alteration of God’s creation.

At the tattoo parlor I visited (read the Monitor's story here), the artist was so worried that authorities might find his shop that he wouldn’t even let me photograph the designs hanging on his wall for fear that the photos could lead authorities back to him – never mind that he regularly tattooed Iraqi police and Army officers.

And, no, I didn’t get one. I was tempted, but was deterred by the overpowering smell of chemicals and watching the tattoo artist melt some ink in an old soda can.

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