A ban on the sale, importation and production of alcohol is included in a law under pressure from extremist lawmakers. Iraqi Kurdistan will not enforce the law. For Christian leader, the law violates minority rights and is contrary to the Constitution.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – A law adopted by Iraq’s National Assembly banning the sale, importation and production of alcohol in the country "is contrary to the Constitution and citizens’ rights " and is a sign of the Islamisation of Iraq. This is why "we have decided to fight" it and in the coming days “we are going to go court to get it cancelled,” said Yonadam Kanna, leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and a Christian member of Iraq’s parliament.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the lawmaker. who sits on the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social Affairs, noted that such a rule is a sign that the country’s political elite wants “to set up a theocratic state," but "we shall oppose it with everything we have."
As public attention remains focused on the offensive to recapture of Mosul, held by the Islamic State since 2014, Iraq’s parliament passed a law banning alcoholic products. Added at the last minute by conservatives in a bill on municipalities, the provision blocks the sale, importation and production of wine, beer and spirits.
The decision has generated strong protests among non-Muslim political leaders and citizens because it violates civil rights and religious freedom itself. The country’s Christian lawmakers have taken the lead against what they deem to be an unfair law that infringes upon the rights of a segment of the population and especially oversteps what the constitution allows.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, attacks have increased against activities seen as contrary to Islamic morality. In recent years, shops and businesses selling alcohol have come under attack in Baghdad and other cities.
Whilst alcohol is not commonly found in restaurants and hotels in Iraq, its consumption is relatively widespread in the scores of small shops and bars in Baghdad.
In some areas, including Iraqi Kurdistan, some businesses – run mostly by members of religious minorities – sell alcohol.
Hence, the Kurdish regional government has already rejected the law passed by the National Assembly in the name of its legislative autonomy.
Official sources in Erbil expect the move by Baghdad to cause outrage among minority groups, but also please influential Shia Islamist parties.
If alcohol is a vice, it is widely perceived by Iraqi Kurds as a petty and banal one. A ban is also expected to create a black market like in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s
Yonadam Kanna told AsiaNews that the law "is contrary to the Constitution, which guarantees full freedom and rights for minorities".
It will have serious repercussions also on business and the income of many families, some of which depend on this trade for survival.
The Christian lawmaker said that he would rather take the legal route rather than political channels to get the law repealed because it harms part of the population.
"The law is basically discriminatory like the law that provides that the children of a couple where one parent is Muslim will themselves become Muslims,” he added.
Some people, he believes, are "pushing for the creation of a theocratic nation" in which Islam is "state religion".
This kind of law goes against the model "of secular country" and the "principles enshrined in the Constitution. For this reason, we shall appeal."
A 2014 report by the World Health Organisation on the rate of alcohol consumption found that Iraq was 12th among Arab nations.
Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, Muslim nations with some freedom for non-Muslims, top the list. Sudan comes in third. Iraq is among the last with 9.1 litres consumed a year per capita.