Conservatives Try to Close 'Immoral' Coffee Shops

Apparently the real reason for the raids was because of a campaign by conservative local community leaders living in Karada, one of Baghdad’s most populous and thriving commercial areas. In their official complaints, submitted to the Masbah police station in Karada, the offended locals said that there was “drug trafficking in the cafes as well as illicit relationships of a sexual nature being conducted between males and females inside them”. Those complaining believe that any activities like this are a violation of religious teachings as well as generally accepted social norms.

Other complaints say the cafes were fronts for a brothel – a police source inside the station said that the complainants thought that although the young women working here appeared to be waitresses, they were in fact prostitutes. In Iraq, women who appear on stage, act and sing, or do other public work unacceptable to the religious, are often described as prostitutes so it’s hard to say if this was actually the case.

Those filing the complaints also said this, and other things happening in the cafes, tarnish the reputation of the families of high ranking government officials who live in this area.

Before the campaign to close the cafes down began, the locals involved hung signs up around the neighbourhood. The notices said things like: “having females working in these cafes is an infringement on public morality” and “this cafe is against religious teachings”. The notices were signed “the Karada Clan” and they said the cafes were being closed by popular demand.

There is also apparently a petition going around, allegedly signed by about 1,500 people from Karada, in which they call for an end to corrupt and immoral cafes in their neighbourhood. The language is very similar to that used in the posted notices.

In a story Middle Eastern news aggregator, Al Monitor, reports that the conservative groups involved with the cafe closures may also have links to The League of the Righteous, or Asaib Ahl al-Haqin Arabic, a violent, conservative religious militia that consists mainly of Shiite Muslim members and has links to Iran.

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