Iraqi MP’s ‘celebratory gunfire’ video sparks anger

Updated 02 January 2019

Iraqi MP’s ‘celebratory gunfire’ video sparks anger

  • Wihdah Al-Jumaili, a Sunni MP, she she was celebrating a friend's son's wedding
  • Hajer Abbas, 14, suffered a head injury from a stray bullet in the Iraqi capital on New Year’s Eve

BAGHDAD: A video of an Iraqi member of parliament firing into the air has sparked anger after stray bullets from celebratory New Year gunfire killed a teenage girl.

A further 170 people were either injured by guns or suffered burns from fireworks on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in the Iraqi capital, medical and police sources told Arab News.

Public anger over the number of people hurt was already high when a video circulated on social media late on Tuesday evening, showing Wihdah Al-Jumaili, a Sunni MP sitting in her car next to the driver and firing several shots into the air from a Beretta handgun.

Jumaili said she was celebrating the marriage of a friend’s son when the shots were fired. She wrote on Facebook that she shot in the air as “part of tribal practices adopted by tribes in Ramadi,” the capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province. But the video shows her car by the side of a highway in Baghdad’s Dorra district.

Shooting in the air is considered an offense under Iraqi law, and punishments range from between one and three years in prison, lawyers told Arab News.

Thousands of Iraqi Facebook and Twitter users expressed their anger at Jumaili, and demanded she be stripped of her MP’s immunity to face prosecution. 

Many said her actions encouraged others to break the law and use personal weapons irresponsibly.

Several lawyers filed a written request on Wednesday to Iraq’s attorney general, urging him to launch a prosecution.

Every year, dozens of people are injured or even killed by celebratory gunfire on New Year or during other festivities, or events like weddings.  

Hajer Abbas, 14, suffered a head injury from a stray bullet in the Iraqi capital on New Year’s Eve and died from the wound on Wednesday.

Jumaili’s video is the latest in a series of scandals affecting politicians who Iraqis see as behaving as if they were above the law.

Leaked intelligence information this week revealed the brother of the new education minister, Shaimaa Al-Hayali had acted as a leader within Daesh during the extremist’s occupation of Mosul.

Jumaili is a member of the Iranian backed Al-Binna’a parliamentary coalition, which is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, commander of the powerful armed Badr Organization.

Political opponents were quick to link her political loyalties to the video.

“This (Jumaili) lawmaker has proved that she belongs to Al-Binna’a bloc, which means the core of action and weapons,” Muqith Dagher, an Iraqi researcher tweeted late on Tuesday.

“Of course, no one will hold them accountable.”

Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

Updated 54 min 46 sec ago

Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

  • Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias
  • Among these are the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen

JEDDAH: Iran needs to dismantle its proxies and end its interventions in Arab affairs before seeking to normalize relations with its Gulf neighbors, a political expert told Arab News on Sunday.

“The Gulf countries have been calling for normal relations with their neighbors for years, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears on the Iranian side,” Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar, said.

Accusing Tehran of “playing games,” Al-Shehri described Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s suggestion that Iran wanted to improve relations with its Gulf neighbors as worthless “as long as it continues meddling in the affairs of other countries, and fails to halt its evil militias from sabotaging and destabilizing regional security.”

Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias, which indirectly supports, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. 

Zarif, who is on a two-day visit to Iraq, told a joint news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Al-Hakim that Iran wants to build balanced relations with its Gulf Arab neighbors and had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them.

However, Al-Shehri said that Tehran needs to address three key issues — its nuclear program; its terrorist militias, which have been spreading chaos in the Gulf region and beyond; and its ballistic missile program — before making any such proposals.

“The question is, would Iran be ready to give up all three files? If they want their neighbors to accept them and normalize relations with them, they have to be honest and stop playing games,” he said.

Al-Shehri described Zarif’s regional tour as an attempt to rally support and send a false message that Iran has friends and allies who would stand by them in their crisis with the US.

“Where were these countries when Iran’s terrorist proxies in Yemen, the Houthi militias, launched missiles and drones attacking the holiest Islamic site in Makkah and other Saudi facilities?” Al-Shehri asked.

Zarif said Iran will defend itself against any military or economic aggression, calling on European states to do more to preserve a nuclear agreement his country signed.

“We will defend (ourselves) against any war efforts, whether it be an economic war or a military one, and we will face these efforts with strength,” he said.

Strains have increased between Iran and the US following this month’s sabotage attack on oil tankers in the Gulf. Washington and other regional allies have concluded that Iran is most likely behind the attacks. 

Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the US has sent an aircraft carrier and extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concerns over the risk of conflict in the volatile region.