Sunday, April 19, 2009

Are Baghdadis naturally "sinful"?

or are humans naturally "sinful"? Is it sinful to want to party and mingle with the opposite sex? Girls and boys just wanna have fun, even in Iraq. This article will no doubt contribute to the chagrin of Arabs who don't want to hear about greater freedom in Baghdad.

Secure Enough to Sin, Baghdad Revisits Old Ways

Published: April 18, 2009

BAGHDAD — Vice is making a comeback in this city once famous for 1,001 varieties of it.

Gone, for the most part, are nighttime curfews, religious extremists and prowling kidnappers. So, inevitably, some people are turning to illicit pleasures, or at least slightly dubious ones.

Nightclubs have reopened, and in many of them, prostitutes troll for clients. Liquor stores, once shut down by fundamentalist militiamen, have proliferated; on one block of busy Saddoun Street, there are more than 10 of them.

Abu Nawas Park, previously deserted for fear of suicide bombers seeking vulnerable crowds, has now become a place for assignations between young people so inclined. It is not that there are hiding places in the park, where trees are pretty sparse; the couples just pretend they cannot be seen, and passers-by go along with the pretense.

It is a long way from Sodom and Gomorrah, but perhaps part way back to the old Baghdad. The Baathists who ruled here from the 1960s until the American invasion in 2003 were secular, and more than a little sinful. Baghdad under Saddam Hussein was a pretty lively place, with street cafes open until 2 or 3 a.m., and prostitutes plying their trade even in the bowling alley of Al Rashid Hotel.

Everything is going back to its natural way,” said Ahmed Assadee, a screenwriter who works on a soap opera.

Men gather in cafes to smoke a hookah and gamble on dice and domino games. On weekends, the Mustansiriya Coffee Shop’s back room is crammed with low bleachers set up around a clandestine cockfighting ring. On one recent day, the 100 or so spectators were raucous while watching the bloody spectacle, but they placed their bets discreetly.

Gambling, after all, is illegal.

Walid Brahim, 25, a bomb disposal expert with the Iraqi Army, and his brother Farat, 20, an electrician, recently sat side by side at a table in the Nights of Abu Musa bar, on an alley off Saddoun Street, working their way through a bucket of ice and a bottle of Mr. Chavez Whiskey, an Iraqi-made hooch.

“This is great,” Walid Brahim said. “We used to buy alcohol and just drink secretly in our house.”

The bar is men-only, as pretty much all respectable taverns are, but the brothers look forward to an even brighter future.

“If this security continues,” Farat Brahim said, “within a year all the waiters will be girls.”


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