Iraqi Religious Right Target Porn Dealers

Matt O'Conner
BAGHDAD — Free from the state censorship of Saddam Hussein’s Bath Party, some enterprising Iraqis have dipped their toes in the waters of adult entertainment — but they face deadly opposition from religious zealots.

Constant insurgent attacks against newly formed and under-trained local police forces have created a Wild Wild West atmosphere throughout most of the country, leading to rampant unemployment.

Amid the chaos and desperation, dozens of young men have started importing sex movies from Europe, Lebanon and the country’s Arab neighbors, despite incredible risks, including death threats from religious fundamentalists.

“I am scared, but what else can I do?” Abu Mustafa, a porn salesman operating out of a car at Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharjee market, said.

Mustafa’s sells around 50 videos a day, typically hiding them in cases from music CDs or cartoon DVDs.

While Iraq’s interim government drafts a constitution, there are no laws against Mustafa’s new business venture, but he said the country’s Iranian-trained militia, the Badr Brigades, most of whom are Shi’ites, have launched an assault on him and his associates.

“They shot my friend Haider and then they burned him,” Mustafa said.

Ahmed Saad, another porn dealer working at the market, said militia members have told him they will burn his shop and kill his family if he doesn’t stop selling sex movies.

But a spokesman for the Badr Brigades denies that the militia is practicing frontier justice.

“We go through official procedures and raise the issue with the police,” Muhammad al-Turaifi said. “To suggest we go and beat these people up is absurd.”

But just this week, another dealer was shot in broad daylight, and Mustafa said the police have started extorting him and his colleagues, demanding payment for protection against the militia.

“We just have to work secretly,” he said.