Boozy Baghdad


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?

Full story here.

NEXT: Barry U.S. Bonds

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. No Iraqi Systembolaget, yet?

    [keed keed]

  2. Isn’t September when the casualties started dropping?

  3. Alcohol, is there any problem it can’t solve?

  4. Alcohol – the cause of, and solution to, most of life’s problems.

  5. It makes you wonder whether the Middle East might chill out a little if that whole “no alcohol” thingy in Islam went away. While you’re at it, throw out the “no pork” thingy too. BLTs and beer for everyone!

  6. Word. Maybe the middle east needs to be bombed with huge containers of pork products, kegs, and fine Kentucky bourbon.

  7. Is Madhi arabic for MADD?

  8. I think Iraq might be the worst place on Earth to get belligerently drunk.

  9. The light at the end of the tunnel says “Budweiser.”

  10. That’s ok.

    You don’t have to hang the “Cerfied Purveyors of the Miller High Life” sign in my shop window.

    I am very grateful, but please to just leave it on the counter.

  11. But can they sell absinthe?

  12. Paulus Ishaq, a Christian liquor salesman – I wonder what his life insurance rates are?

  13. Doesn’t matter. He’s going to heaven.

  14. For the next Iraqi step towards freedom, I humbly propose this.

  15. Grandma?

    dammit, Jsub. She was young. Gramgram needed the money.


  16. dammit, Jsub. She was young. Gramgram needed the money.

    She was good too. Those were the days.

  17. I recall the forbidden fruit of the Iraqi alcohol vendors in the early days of “post combat operations.” I never partook, honestly, mainly out of a fear of going blind. They are masters when it comes to fugazi product.

  18. Never knew GILFs did it for me until now.

  19. It is unfortunate that the US did not take this opportunity in (re-)building Iraq to prohibit the sales of alcohol. There are far too many social ills caused by alcohol, such as drunk driving and underage drinking. Perhaps when the US does nation building in North Korea, Iran or wherever the threat of terrorism finds us next, they will take that opportunity to relieve the citizens of the burden of a drunk populace.

    It’s for the children.

  20. andyinsdca

    I hope you’re joking. Prohibition has not worked in any of the countries it has been tried. What makes you think Iraq would be any different? I say, let them choose for themselves.

  21. 3W,
    nobody says ‘for the children’ around here unless they are being snarky

  22. Most of the Iraqi liquor store owners are Christian, a minority who have largely fled the country.

    Iraqi economy is like a lot of non-Western countries in that the economy is also split along sectarian lines with certain communities specializing in certain trades. It produced a double-whammy for the economy when the sectarian conflicts started, as not only did people feel unsafe to purchase goods, but areas of expertise would be lost from areas that needed the complementary skill sets of a diverse population.

  23. Most of the Iraqi liquor store owners are Christian, a minority who have largely fled the country.

    I find it ironic that most liquor and convenience store (stores which mostly sell booze, cigarettes, and lotto tickets) owners in America are Muslim.

  24. Pinette,

    Ah. I haven’t been here long enough to know that. My mistake (I hope).

  25. Prohibition has not worked in any of the countries it has been tried. What makes you think Iraq would be any different? I say, let them choose for themselves.

    Sure. Just as long as they choose to drink.

  26. I hope that all the mouth-breathers out there who claim that Islam is monolithic look at this and go “Mein Gott, maybe not all Muslims are fanatics!”

    Unfortunately, the United States Army still prohibits alcohol consumption for its troops. How much better would American-Iraqi relations be if we could drink together? Come now!

    What I don’t understand about the DoD’s ban on alcohol is this: if we invaded an Amish country, you can bet your ass we’d still use medical supplies. So what’s the dif?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.