Christians concerned about Muslim illegal gambling premises and alcohol shops
Hundreds of Iraqi Christians have been organising protests in Ankawa against an alarming new phenomenon that is making everyday life even more depressing in the city suburbs where they now live.
Protesters handed over a petition to a representative of the governor of Erbil with a list of specific demands to the local administrative authorities. They are asking for decisive action to resolve the current unacceptable situation and prevent it escalating into an emergency.
In the city of Erbil, capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, a plague of often illegal and unlicensed entertainment venues has spread all over the Christian part of town. These include shops selling alcohol, discos, casinos, gambling establishments and “massage parlours” that are really a front for prostitution.
Data provided by the local Ministry of Tourism shows that in the only suburb of Ankawa where various Christian communities – Chaldeans, Syrians and Assyrians – live, 13 new unlicensed shops for the sale of alcohol have opened recently.
The reason why these unlicensed premises are spreading so rapidly is directly related to the economic crisis. The volume of business generated by nightclubs and massage parlours – even illegal ones- is the only one that continues to grow, along with the trade in weapons.
So who is funding these unlicensed and often illegal venues?
A local source revealed that Muslim Kurds living in the high areas of Erbil where the sale of alcohol is banned and there is no nightlife are responsible for funding these undesirable and often illegal premises offering alcohol , gambling and sex, which are turning Christian suburbs of Ankawa into the ‘Las Vegas’ of Iraq.
The administrative control authorities in the governorate of Erbil do carry out interventions from time to time against gambling, unlicensed alcohol shops and prostitution. These are often done in response to periodic complaints of Muslim religious representatives. However, these episodic initiatives have proved ineffective in stemming the tide of illegal venues which threatens to take over the whole Christian sector.