Iraqi Kurdistan: Christians protest over arrival of sleazy nightclubs

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St Joseph’s Cathedral
Hundreds of Iraqi Christians living in Ankawa, a suburb in Erbil, staged in a peaceful demonstration on Friday, 9 October, to protest against the arrival of sleazy nightclubs offering gambling and prostitution in the area where their community is mainly concentrated.

The protest march through the streets of Ankawa started from St Joseph Cathedral, seat of the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Erbil. The marchers met a representative of the governor of Erbil, and presented him with a list of demands.

In recent years there has been an “explosive growth” of nightclubs, discos and brothels in the suburb. A local source told Fides the clients of these establishments are mainly Muslim Kurds from other areas of Erbil. “In their neighbourhoods alcohol is not sold, there is no nightlife, so they are turning Ankawa into their ‘Las Vegas’ …”.

The Christian campaigners, together with and local civil society organizations, are calling into question the actions of corrupt officials who they accuse of embezzlement and abuse of Christians. They say farmers and property owners have had their land expropriated of their land by the government, without receiving due compensation.

In the list of demands delivered to the representative of the Governor of Erbil, the organizers have asked the city authorities to shut down the clubs which are open around churches and residential areas, to encourage public housing for young families in the area, and to recruit young people of the local communities in the police forces.

“We do not need bars and discos, we need hospitals”, read a banner displayed at the event, which appears in photos and videos of the event posted on website.

Ankawa is located five miles from the centre of Erbil. In 2014, it became a refuge for Christians from central Iraq, who were expelled by ISIS insurgents.