Gunmen kill a Christian shopkeeper in Basra, the first victim of Iraq’s anti-alcohol law
Masked gunmen on a motorbike opened fire on Nazar Elias, killing him in cold blood. Two years ago, he had fled from Qaraqosh ahead of the Islamic State. In the south, he opened a grocery store that also sold alcohol. In Baghdad, a liquor store is blown up. For Chaldean Patriarchate, the new law hurts "national unity."
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Iraq’s new law against the sale, importation and production of alcohol has produced its first victim, a Christian man.
Sources with the Chaldean Patriarchate told AsiaNews that the victim is Nazar Elias Jaji Al Kas Putrus, who owned a store that sold alcoholic beverages in Basra, southern Iraq.
The Syriac Catholic man came from Qaraqosh, an ancient Assyrian city near Mosul, in the Nineveh Plains, northern Iraq. Born in 1969, Nazar Elias (pictured) was married and the father of five children.
Two years ago, when the Islamic State (IS) overran Mosul and the Christian villages in the Nineveh Plains, he fled seeking refuge (and safety) in Basra, southern Iraq’s main Shia city.
Unlike most Assyrian-Chaldean families who fled to Iraqi Kurdistan, he decided to move to the south, where he opened a shop selling foodstuffs, including spirits.
Only Christians and members of other religious minorities sell alcohol since Islam bans Muslims from buying, selling, and consuming it, a rule that is not rigorously enforced in the country.
According to Patriarchate sources, he "was killed Wednesday evening at 11.30", just three days after Iraq’s parliament approved an anti-alcohol law under pressure from the country’s right-wing forces.
"Armed men on a motorcycle wearing masks" approached him and "opened fire" killing him "in cold blood near a restaurant on a public highway”. The man’s trade appears to be the cause.
"Nazar Elias’s murder is not the only case of violence caused by the anti-alcohol law,” the sources told AsiaNews. “In Karrada, Baghdad, someone blew up a shop selling alcohol."
For the Chaldean Patriarchate, the anti-alcohol law is a "restriction on freedom" and "at a critical time like this," when there is an offensive in the north against Daesh (Islamic State), it "hurts everyone, in particular national unity."
"It is a crazy law like the one on identity card for minors" whereby when one parent becomes Muslim, his or her children automatically become Muslim.
Iraq’s Kurdish President Fuad Masum also slammed the ban. Some lawmakers have already started a process to repeal it, led by Yonadam Kanna, a Christian member of Iraq’s National Assembly. (DS)