Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—More than forty years have passed since he first stood in the street directing the traffic, and locals’ affection for him continues to grow despite the fact he has the authority to enforce the law against them.
That’s because Baghdad’s most celebrated traffic officer Adnan Mohsen has his own very unique way of directing the traffic—using his whistle to play different melodies that have earned him the affectionate nickname “Baghdad’s Nightingale.”
He has whistled ever since he first took the job in 1975. “My whistle’s tune differs according to the signal I want to give. For example, a violator has a special tune,” Mohsen tells Asharq Al-Awsat. “I even participate in wedding processions through the special signals of my own creation.”
Mohsen has rarely had to hand out fines, as anyone who passes by tends to abide by the traffic laws just to keep him happy. He says that over the years his tunes have become well known and recognizable to those traveling across the intersection he stands on. Most people have come to expect a whistle in greeting.
He says: “Most young traffic men have refrained from using the whistle despite its numerous benefits.”
When asked about the good memories throughout his long career, he says: “I remember when late musician Munir Bashir requested to meet me after he heard me whistling. Bashir said my tunes were well-studied and pleasant to the ear.”
Mansour also speaks about the time he spent working near the Institute of Fine Arts in Al-Mansour district, where the music teachers used to express their admiration of his style.
“What pleased me the most are the moments I spent solving traffic jams, of which there are many in Iraq’s streets today,” he says. He claims he can clear a severe jam in a very short period of time.
There’s a rumor that locals are requesting a statue be made of Mansour to be erected in the heart of Baghdad. Mansour feels honored, “I’m proud of the relationships I developed with the people, whose violation rates decreased considerably, at least in the place where I stand,” he says, adding: “I feel successful because people’s love is the real harvest I reaped after all these years.”
However, years of standing in the midst of Baghdad’s polluted streets have taken their toll on his health. “I feel sick after diseases have found their way into my body,” Mansour says. He explains that he has plans to retire soon, though reluctantly, and adds: “Had God bestowed health upon me, I would have remained in this job until the last day of my life.”