We’d gone round to Samir’s brothers home. Mahar was angry and worried. He hasn’t worked since closing his alcohol shop shortly after Iraq was liberated.
In New Iraq it is almost impossible to find alcohol. The shops are targeted by religious extremists, like the Mehdi – Army. Mahar tells me that 3 days ago they killed his neighbour sitting in his alcohol shop. They came in and shot nine bullets into his body. Mahar wipes his worried brow. It is hot and sticky, the electricity is not working again. “His blood is gone with the wind now.. Mr Sean.. he left two daughters and one son.”
Mahar goes into the backroom and comes out with 3 bottles of Spanish wine. “$5 to you Mr Sean… but believe I sell these at $15 each now.. since these killings alcohol has more than doubled.” Samir looks concerned. “This bloody country is going to be like Iran.. I tell you I’m counting the days and minutes for my papers to come through and I’m leaving here.”
Mahar looks sad. Samir is his closest brother. “You know 20 years ago Baghdad was paradise.. we would have never dreamed of going to America.. we had discos, bars, cabaret.” Now Mahar is unemployed, selling alcohol to friends from his back-room. Like many Iraqi’s who work in shops, hotels or drive taxis, Mahar has a degree. His two sons both have degrees, but no-one in Mahar’s family is working.
We buy 3 bottles of wine, 10 cans of beer and one bottle of vodka. Samir looks at Mahar.. “Stop selling alcohol.. it is dangerous.. these religious crazies will kill you.” Last week five Christian alcohol shops were blown up, many people were killed. The alcohol shops were left to burn, in the morning the gangs wrote ‘Shop To Let’ on the charred walls.
A beauty salon was blown up for selling ladies underwear. “You know, the Medhi Army are in control of Iraq now… they say we have an interim government but they are powerless. They are the thieves who returned to Iraq after Saddam, and now you see them giving jobs to their relatives. They are all in the hands of the Americans.. and what have they done for us? Nothing.. I tell you Mr Sean we were a lot better off under Saddam. If you were an honest man Saddam would not touch you. He used to protect the Christians..”