Earlier this decade, most of the people Dr. Ali Bayrakdar treated were seeking cosmetic surgery to recover from traumatic injuries. But, if he's like most other plastic surgeons in Baghdad, his patients are seeking something more superficial these days.
Cosmetic surgeons are seeing more and more patients — particularly women — seeking surgery to improve their looks by getting increasingly popular nose jobs or alleviate back pain by reducing their breasts. Surgeons are noticing the difference.
"Definitely we are performing more plastic surgery than before, mainly because the security situation of the country has improved," said Rida Ali, a plastic surgeon who estimates that half her patients are seeking cosmetic surgery, compared with less than a quarter a few years ago.
They include men as well as women, and most of them want nose jobs, which cost $600 to $1,000 each.
While it's good that the security situation is improving for Iraqis, I'm not sure that an uptick in plastic surgery is necessarily a development to be celebrating.
Some people think that plastic surgery is increasing in popularity because more Iraqis have access to pop culture and images of supposed physical perfection that are themselves surgically created.
The trend has been fueled largely by the arrival of satellite television, which since 2003 has beamed into Iraqi living rooms the glamorous Egyptian and Lebanese celebrities who are reputed to keep regular appointments with their cosmetic surgeons.
The results aren't always what the patient expected.
"Our patients get all their ideas from TV, then they come to us and request the operation," said Mahdi Hameed Abood, a senior surgeon at the Wasiti Center for Reconstructive Surgery.
Iraqis: they're just like us!
Many women say that they get plastic surgery to get a husband — or, in one case, to get her daughter a husband.
Marriage prospects are a major reason cited by Iraqi women for choosing to go under the knife. During the worst years of the sectarian war, matches were put on hold, and now many women feel they have to make up for lost time.
Mulook Abuid Wihhab, 49, believes she found a husband because of the nose job she had 23 years ago, and she dreamed of a similar operation for her daughter Noor, 21, a business student at Baghdad University.
She was finally able to get her daughter the nose job she always wanted to her to have recently, as doctors were less busy treating victims of violence. Who knew it would be so easy to come up with a downside to a reduction in violence in Iraq?
The New Face Of Plastic Surgery In Iraq [LA Times]