Despite assurances from the local government that they will protect them, most of the women employed in local cafes and tourist venues have decided to leave their jobs for the time being, Kareem confirms. Nobody knows if the female employees will return to work. The other fear is that the religious extremists, believing women shouldn’t work at all, may attack other places where women work, including in shopping malls and beauty salons.
“Why are these cafes and entertainment venues being targeted?” complained Sanan al-Halfi, a former navy captain who owns the Arous Al Basra. “We don’t commit any violations of the law and the owners abide by all rules and regulations. The Arous Al Basra was a tourist attraction but it also hosted weddings, conferences and other cultural events. By targeting these places, they [the extremists] are ensuring that tourists will no longer come to Basra. Instead they will go elsewhere.”
Saying that the cafes were being bombed because they employed females made no sense to al-Halfi, who estimates that the bombing did about IQD500 million (US$420,000) worth of damage to his business. “There are women all over the world working in the service industry and if their work is supervised, it can only have a positive impact,” he argued.
The attacks were widely condemned. “These acts are a serious challenge to Basra’s security,” a statement from the Basra governor’s office said. “No one has the right to carry out attacks like this under the pretext of “promoting virtue and preventing vice”. And no one has the right to attack commercial places that are abiding by municipal rules and regulations.”
The council also announced a number of measures to try and prevent further attacks. The council’s media spokesperson told NIQASH that proposed plans included the installations of surveillance cameras and the employment of security guards who would monitor the establishments during working hours.