Truth behind political campaign against civilians in Iraq

Adnan Hussein

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Influential political Islamist parties who are part of the authority in Iraq are under greater pressure these days particularly those emanating from the civil movement. They have been pressured since protests erupted in February 2011 demanding reform and calling for fighting corruption and providing better services.

This pressure has increased since the end of August 2015 as the second wave of protests erupted and it has now increased as we begin the countdown for elections next year. These groups do not hesitate to fabricate accusations against civilians and the civil movement. They accuse them of “executing American and Zionist agendas” and of being “atheists.”

The situation seemed to have worsened for Islamists when Faiq Al Sheikh Ali, a Member of Parliament who represents the civil movement, spoke about Islamist parties’ role – particularly Shiite ones – in imposing illegal tax on gambling halls, pubs, night clubs and liquor stores in Baghdad.

Ali made this statement in October last year after the Parliament passed a municipal fee law in which Islamist Members of Parliament slipped an article in it. The article was not present in the draft law and was not read or discussed during the first and second meetings. The added article banned selling of alcohol.

Influential political Islamist parties who are part of the authority in Iraq are under greater pressure these days particularly those emanating from the civil movement

Adnan Hussein

Illegal tax

He also said that as Islamist MPs were busy in secretly adding this article, some armed Shiite Islamic parties have been providing protection to gambling halls, nightclubs, pubs and liquor stores in the capital, adding that most of these places are not licensed. According to Ali, these groups provided protection in exchange for illegal tax.

Ali did not alter the facts and he did not defame anyone. What he said is the truth. Many people know that very well. Those who doubt his statements can go ahead and ask the ministries of culture and tourism. Those with suspicions can request for information from the national intelligence apparatus or the national security apparatus as they must know the truth well.

There are more than 1,500 night clubs, pubs, gambling halls and liquor stores in Baghdad and most of them are not licensed. Therefore, they do not pay taxes to the state. The Islamist groups, which Ali referred to, had taken matters into their own hands and provided protection to these shops in exchange of huge sums of money. Ali said that one party alone received $0.5 million in one month.

When people asked how come these shops were allowed to operate without licenses, the former minister of tourism, who is from the Sadrist Movement, reportedly said that it was prohibited to issue licenses to these places. Public managers and the ministry’s officials have also echoed this response. Political armed parties thus filled the vacuum and began to collect illegal taxes.

Have you now realized the secret behind the escalating Islamic-political campaign against civilians? This is part of the secret.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.

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