Stores selling alcohol in the Iraqi capital were shut down by the Baghdad provincial council on Monday amid protests from their owners, according to a report from AKnews.
Store owners were caught by surprise when police patrols arrived unannounced at their premises with orders from the provincial council to close down all unlicensed shops and casinos that sell alcoholic drinks.
Shop-owner Sulaiman Faraj told AKnews that the police patrols took pledges from the shop-keepers to cease future trading in alcoholic drinks.
Fellow shop-keeper Lukman Rasho complained: “Closing our stores has become the main concern for members of the Baghdad Provincial Council, as if they will end financial corruption and poor services if we stop our work”.
Rasho accused the council of “destroying the livelihood of people of other religions, as all the people in this field are non-Muslims”, adding that the move was part of a bid “to Islamicize Iraqi society”.
Baghdad provincial council member Mohamed al-Rabaie questioned the legitimacy of the order.
“The provincial council does not have the power to close down the stores,” he said, “The governor of Baghdad, and its monitoring team manage the province, not the provincial council”.
“The raid that occurred yesterday is a breach of the agreement made between the supreme authority in the State and the Interior Ministry not to attack the livelihood of these people,” he said.
Concerning allegations of the council attempting to Islamicize Baghdad, Rubaie said the owners must “submit a formal complaint at a police station, and I promise them that we will follow up the issue to know who was behind the raids”.
“Baghdad is not for one class or sect but it is the capital of Iraq and for all Iraqis.”
Baghdad Provincial Council issued on the twenty-sixth of November a decision to close all nightclubs and shops that sell alcohol, and have no official licenses. Basra is one of the southern provinces that decided to ban selling alcoholic beverages permanently.
In 1994, in the midst of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the UN in 1990 following the invasion of Kuwait, the former regime issued a decree forbidding cafes and hotel restaurants from selling alcoholic drinks that coincided with the government’s “faith campaign”, a bid to win the sympathies of Iraq’s Muslim majority.
In May 2009, the Baghdad Tourism Authority began using the 1994 decree, at the request of the provincial council, to close down more than 90 stores in the capital that were trading in alcohol.