September was a sad month for the Iraqi party scene. A recent report from al-Monitor details the forced closing of a number of night clubs in Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad. The report cites the official reasons for the closures to be complaints from local citizens complaining of “drunken people near their homes, stores, and markets”. Security officials also claim that night clubs “promote prostitution and host suspects”. Sound like any clubs you know?
Unofficially, the author claims that Iraq is moving to transform its security services into vice and virtue police. Sader Din Qabbanji, a senior member of the Shiite political party Supreme Islamic Council, is quoted as praising the crack down and calling for the implementation of the law of “propagation of virtue and prevention of vice”, a-la Islamic Republic of Iran style. The author also cites a political source who claims that Iraq is working in increments to “Islamize Iraqi society”. In my opinion, this may be an attempt to invoke the Islamist or Iranian boogeyman.
The call for vice police from the Supreme Islamic Council should come as no surprise. The council might be better known by its former name, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. SCIRI was founded by Iraqi Shiite leaders exiled to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Heavily funded by and supportive of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Guardianship of the Jurist, SCIRI worked to subvert the Iraqi Baath party and bring an Islamic revolution to Baghdad.
While the Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) once held a large share of power as part of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a Shiite political coalition that won Iraq’s 2005 elections, its influence waned when the UIA split in 2009. The SIC’s new coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance only won 19.4% of the vote in 2010. A proposed bloc coalition formed with the other main Shiite coalition, the State of Law headed by current PM Maliki, has renewed some influence but has failed to create a majority in parliament. However, the big winner of 2010’s election was the secular Iraqqiya party who took 25.9% of the vote. Clearly, an Iranian supported Shiite political party is far from possessing the ability to fully Islamize Iraq.
While it may be a sad day for Iraqi club goers, I do not foresee vice and virtue police in the near future.