Friday, August 26, 2016


Raid On Nightclubs Raises Fears Of Islamic State

Liquor licenses in Baghdad are only given only given to Christians or members of other non-Islamic sects although patrons can be from all backgrounds
Liquor licenses in Baghdad are only given only given to Christians or members of other non-Islamic sects although patrons can be from all backgrounds
By Moyad al-Haidari and Charles Recknagel
Customers playing bingo in a restaurant and intellectuals in a cinema club don't usually expect to be beaten up by Baghdad's security forces.

But because alcohol was served in the establishments that is exactly what happened to them.

On September 4, security forces raided 10 venues ranging from alcohol stores to bars to clubs. Behind them, they left smashed bottles, bruised bodies, and new fears Iraq could be heading toward an Islamic state.

The raids, some of the most violent in recent years, targeted places the soldiers claimed were selling liquor illegally. But the owners say they have licenses and, in some cases, the establishments were well-known meeting places for Iraqi intellectuals.

One is the Cinema Club, affiliated with the official Iraqi Union of Writers. There, security forces burst in at 8 p.m. local time, shouting curses and giving the 300 people inside to the count of 10 to get to the door.

Abdul Rida Shamari, an elderly man, suffered a broken leg as the guests panicked.

"My leg was fractured," he told RFE/RL. "They suddenly entered like madmen, about 40 armed men. We didn't know at first if they were terrorists or what. They beat us with rifles, cables, and electric prods, as if they were fighting enemies. But all of the guests in the Cinema Club are respected people and intellectuals."

The raids occurred in two neighboring areas of Baghdad with mixed Muslim and Christian populations: Karrada and Arasat. Under Iraqi law, licenses for selling liquor in stores or clubs are only given to Christians or members of other sects considered outside Islam, though the guests can be -- and often are -- of all backgrounds.

Sa'ad Yassen is from the Yazidi sect, which fuses traditional Kurdish, Zoroastrian, and Islamic Sufi beliefs.

'Get An Honest Job!'

According to him, some 150 people were playing bingo in his garden restaurant when the September 4 raid took place.

"We have been licensed to operate this club since 2009," he said. "Because we are Yazidis, we are officially allowed to have such an establishment [which serves alcohol]. The security forces came in and destroyed everything, beat us, and beat our employees. There were about 25 armed soldiers and they pushed the guests out and beat them with rifle butts and pistols."

He claims the soldiers also ordered him to get an "honest" job rather than sell alcohol.

Who the soldiers were remains a mystery. Some security officials have told the media privately that they were from the elite force commanded by the top security official in Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki's office, General Faruq al-Araji.

The government has made no public comment on the operation. Local authorities told Radio Free Iraq privately that the operation targeted illegal businesses and was conducted in a professional manner.

Baghdad stores selling liquor are occasional targets of police crackdowns, as well as attacks by fundamentalist militiamen and bombings by militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But the alleged involvement of elite troops in the September 4 action gives it political significance. The Iraqi government is dominated by Shi'ite religious parties which promote strict interpretations of Islamic values, including prohibitions on alcohol.

Some observers see the raids as part of growing pressure by the parties to move Iraq toward an Islamic state, irrespective of current laws.

No Constitutional Clarity

Shaikh Khaled Al-Mulla, a leading Sunni cleric, suggested the raids -- which were not by court order -- resembled those conducted by morality police in some other countries:

"We are not an Islamic state," he said. "The system of Iraq does not stand on a purely Islamic foundation. We have Islamic parties and there is a majority of Muslims, but there are also components of the population that are minorities who must be respected. The way the raids were done, using the same methods common in certain other countries, is not acceptable."

In both neighboring Iran and Saudi Arabia, the sale of alcohol is illegal and morality police raid parties at will.

But if there is pressure to more strictly enforce Islamic values in Iraq, countering it may not be easy. One reason is ambiguity in Iraq's own constitution over what kind of state Iraq should be.

"The second article of the constitution says it is not allowed to create laws that are not in accordance with the spirit of Shari'a [Islamic law]," says Shaikh Abdul Hassan Al-Furati, a leading Shi'ite cleric. "At the same time, it is not permissible to create laws that violate human rights and democratic values. We have to solve this contradiction."

Al-Furati, who proposes creating a committee of experts in Civil Law and Shari'a to address the problem, warns that until this ambiguity in the constitution is resolved the door remains wide open for powers to interpret the law as they wish.

Written by Charles Recknagel, based on reporting by Radio Free Iraq's Hazim al-Shara in Baghdad and Moyad al-Haidari and Samira Ali Mandi in Prague.
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Comment Sorting
by: Alex from: LA
September 11, 2012 15:44
Wow, what a surprise? Who could of predicted this, Wahhabi's? Saudi Arabian Power is growing everyday by the way of US Taxpayers, great job and two thumbs up USA leadership. Oil and Weapons our money makers more important than the Jihad on Jihad crime!!!

by: Tim from: USA
September 11, 2012 18:01
Now we know why Saddam ruled with an iron fist.

by: Jack from: US
September 12, 2012 01:29
US government is a friend and ally of Islamic theocracy and fundamentalist Wahhabi "democracy" called Saudi Arabia. So the fear as expressed in this RFE/RL article is not about Islamic theocracy, but about Shia Muslims getting upper hand in Iraq, which is what US government and its Wahhabi Sunni friends hate.
In Response

by: Dude from: US
September 18, 2012 16:12
I am not surprised that democracy seems to fail every time in this region. Just like when Chechnya tried to become a democratic republic, it was taken over by Kadyrovskiy pigs and then to be fought over by Salafi "freedom" fighters. Same thing happens again. Why do people aspire so much for "fake" democracy

by: Tony Filson from: New York
September 13, 2012 05:54
We have handed the Middle East and North Africa to radical interests that are no more than proxies of Communist China and Russia. Until America stands on moral ground and rejects, tyranny and communism in America, how can we support freedom and liberty outside of our own borders?
In Response

by: anon from: Kuwait
September 13, 2012 13:50
News flash, Tony. The Middle East and North Africa aren't yours to hand to anyone.What's it to you if a Muslim country doesn't allow alcohol?
In Response

by: Tony from: New York
September 13, 2012 15:30
Alcohol? Is that the only concern of those who stone women to death? The Middle East and North Africa are not the property of radical Islam. Nor are people property. Supported by Communist Chinese interests and Russia the most extream and radical are filling a void. When people are helpless there will always be criminals on the world stage to take away their liberty and freedom. Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro, Hitler..... History is filled with those who said.... "It's only a shower".

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 13, 2012 06:13
One more demonstration of how competent the US policy-making is: having spent 8 years getting killed in Iraq, US servicemen and servicewomen have only contributed to install an islamic state there. Good job, guys, your sacrifice has not been in vain!

by: bill from: finland
September 13, 2012 15:38
Whether a country becomes more Islamist or not depends on the
people. Freedom has always had to be fought for and defended
If people want a more liberal society they have to stand up for it. Even in so called liberal Muslim countries like Malaysia, there are excesses. However they are still much better than theocracies like Iran and Saudi

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