Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 April 2019

Iraqi lawmaker caught firing gun into the air causes nationwide backlash

Citizens are demanding authorities to take serious action against Wihda Al Jumaily

A screen grab of Iraqi member of parliament Wihda Al Jumaily firing gun into the sky. Twitter 
A screen grab of Iraqi member of parliament Wihda Al Jumaily firing gun into the sky. Twitter 

An Iraqi member of parliament has caused controversy after she was filmed firing her gun illegally into the sky during a wedding ceremony on New Year's Eve.

Wihda Al Jumaily, a member of Iraq’s human rights parliamentary committee, was seen in a video, laughing as she fired two shots into the air, while a man in the background encouraged her behavior by calling her a “hunter”.

The video triggered an outcry on social media after Iraq’s health ministry announced a total of 104 people across the country were wounded because of sporadic gunfire and firework-related incidents that took place on Monday night during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Most of the incidents took place in Baghdad, which recorded at least 47 injuries, including 10 resulting from stray bullets. Baghdad's Al Rusafa district put the total number of those wounded in the area at 78, including at least 20 who were injured by stray bullets.

Mr Al Jumaily was forced to issue a statement on Facebook on Wednesday.

“I am seeking your forgiveness, I’m a woman from a tribal background and was attending a wedding in a rural area in Ramadi,” she said.

Ms Al Jumaily said in her statement that the shots fired were only "audible". It was unclear if her firearm was loaded when she fired the shots.

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Celebratory gunfire is commonly used in Iraq during occasions such as weddings, funerals and sports matches. But recent popular opinion seems to be turning against the longstanding tradition.

Iraqis took their frustrations to social media claiming that the politician is exploiting her legal immunity and is breaching the law.

"Iraq’s political elite have been violating and exploiting the country’s legal system. Ms Al Jumaily needs to be held accountable for her actions," Falah Hassan, a Baghdadi resident said on Twitter.

“Every person that has been injured or killed by sporadic gunshots must pursue a lawsuit against her,” he said.

Another user called on the interior ministry to arrest Ms Al Jumaily for "firing the gun and violating the law and risking the lives of ordinary citizens".

The current law on this matter stipulates that Ms Jumaily could face up to a year in jail if she is prosecuted.

Article 401 of the Iraqi Penal Code stipulates that any person who commits an immodest act in public is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 6 months, and may have to pay a fine.

In recent years the government has been attempting to impose laws and sanctions against guns and firearms, but it has been proving difficult to prevent tribes from ending this tradition.

Updated: January 2, 2019 06:32 PM

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