By Mohammed Hamid al-Sawaf.
Syrian violence has seen illegal weapons dealers in Iraq get richer. Now even the relatively safe, prosperous city of Karbala, where locals must check their guns in to officials before entering, is seeing an increase in the arms business.
The engineer from Karbala had been trying to buy a gun with which he could protect his family for some time. In fact, he spent more than a month searching for someone to take him to a dealer in illegal arms.
Although the city, southwest of Baghdad, is a comparatively prosperous metropolis with job opportunities in agriculture and tourism (Karbala is one of the holiest cities in the world for Shiite Muslims and draws millions of tourists annually to shrines and other sites) and also, relatively speaking, a secure city, citizens still fear kidnappings and extremist attacks. And local engineer, Watheq Abdul-Jabbar, was one of these.
But when he eventually met with a gun dealer, he was shocked at how many weapons the man had with him. There are checkpoints at entrances to the city where gun owners must hand over their weapons; they receive them back again, when leaving the city.
“The brazen behaviour of the arms dealer shocked me,” Abdul-Jabbar told NIQASH. “We were sitting in one of the coffee shops in the city centre when he opened a bag full of guns. For a minute, I was even suspicious – because he was so unconcerned about doing this. He was carrying a huge amount of arms with him.”
“How could one man own all of these guns”, he thought to himself. Abdul-Jabbar eventually paid more than one million Iraqi dinars (around US$840) for the pistol he eventually bought.