The Times of London reports that with the Mahdi Army having (partially) retreated from the streets of Baghdad, abiding by a ceasefire agreement, Iraqi liquor merchants, once a fixture in the city, are slowly reopening—and doing a brisk trade. With Repeal Day behind us, let us turn our attention east and celebrate the return—how ever short-lived—of a slightly boozier Baghdad. From The Times:
The men emerged from behind the shop's metal grille clutching black plastic bags, or with pockets bulging, eyes peeled for the enforcers of Islamic law. They hurried with their precious, clanking cargo to waiting cars or quickly flagged down taxis. It may be furtive but, for the first time in years, alcohol is being sold openly again on the streets of Baghdad.
With security slowly improving in the city centre Iraqis are returning to a long-forgotten pastime—drinking.
Obviously, tippling in Baghdad is not without its dangers:
In September the Mahdi Army-a sprawling mob incorporating Islamist zealots and hardened criminals-was ordered to observe a ceasefire by its commander, the cleric Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, who was losing control. Since then the alcohol trade has started booming again.
"The Mahdi Army tried to make people live in an Islamic way," Mr Abdul said. "People are still afraid of them. Customers buy alcohol and hide it under their car seats, in the boot or they'll bring in a jerry can and fill it up."
But others are defiant:
Paulus Ishaq, a Christian liquor salesman, sells quite openly over the counter from his shop on Sadoun Street, close to the Palestine Hotel. "The Government controls the streets here. My other shop across the street was burnt down by the Mahdi Army four months ago, and I opened this new one a month ago," he said.
"The Mahdi Army are still around, but not like before. There are many shops opening now around here."
"Business is good now," he said. "Iraqis like to drink."
And who could blame them?