It’s not just terrorism Baghdad needs to worry about. The number of ordinary citizens killed by stray bullets at special events is rising but nobody knows how to combat this potentially deadly tribal tradition.
Every year on Iraqi social media, locals post stories about the problem with stray bullets. One such example involves a young man called Ahmed who ended up being killed on his wedding day – by one of the friends he had invited to the marriage. As is traditional in Iraq, those celebrating the union had been firing guns into the sky. A stray bullet hit the groom and he was killed.
It’s a long-standing tradition in Iraq to fire guns into the air at occasions like weddings, funerals and even sports matches. But recently popular opinion seems to be turning against the practice. This week Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, announced that he is going to launch a campaign to encourage people to stop firing their guns at special occasions.
The ministry of the interior joined in, announcing they too would be taking part in the campaign and saying they had arrested seven people over the past week for firing into the air. The ministry of health added that one person was killed and 19 others were injured after locals watched the recent Arabian Gulf Cup, when the Iraqi team won and moved through to the next round.
Part of the problem is the amount of gun ownership in Iraq. In 2012, the Iraqi government led by Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister at the time, said that each household could own one gun but that the weapon needed to be registered at the nearest police station. This rule didn’t really work – there are so many unregistered guns in Iraq as well as special gun markets in almost every city. One of Baghdad’s most famous is the Maridi market, in the middle of the low-income suburb of Sadr City.