But now it has become possible to open a store selling beer and spirits. Anbar’s big cities such as Ramadi are seen as having particularly good potential.
“Some of our customers came to Baghdad regularly and they encouraged us to open a store in Ramadi,” explains Awat Haiwa, 54, a local from Baghdad who has just completed his application for a liquor license. His next step will be to find a suitable property in Ramadi where he can open the store. “They encouraged us because the province is now free of extremists and the people are feeling free.”
A lot of Haiwa’s customers come to his Baghdad premises from other parts of Iraq and take alcohol back to their home towns to sell. “This has resulted in a lot of unlicensed vendors who are exploiting the buyers, charging at least double what the price really should be,” he says. They also make for more competition for the licensed store owners such as himself, he notes.
Of course, not everyone in Anbar is happy about the new access to alcohol. One 48-year-old resident of Ramadi, Abdul Razak al-Fawhan, says he thinks this new trend aims to upset the local way of life and goes against religious, cultural, and tribal norms in Anbar.
“It is an attempt to undermine our values,” he told NIQASH. “Of course, we know that a lot of people go to Baghdad or to other provinces to buy spirits but it’s not logical to describe the opening of these stores as some sort of issue of personal freedom. The opening of liquor stores is dangerous for locals. They are going to see what God has banned, out in the open, and that the government is supporting it. The locals themselves don’t even get a say as to whether they want this or not,” he concluded.