niqash | Adel Kamal | Mosul | 30.10.2007Four years ago, personal weapons for Iraqis were signs of power and authority. At that time, exposing the handgrip of the pistol meant that the owner of the gun was a person authorized by a security service. With the fall of the former regime, carrying guns has become a common practice, same as carrying a pen, reading glasses or key chains. Jasim H., a police officer, says that, "today, those who do not hide guns under their clothes, have for sure guns in their homes." According to estimates of the Ministry of Interior made during the days of the second provisional government, Iraqis have approximately some 5 million guns. In comparison with the old days, when carrying a gun required a prior license from the government, the law today allows Iraqis to keep guns without a prior permission from the government.
In the storerooms of colleges and universities in Mosul one can find guns belonging to male and female students and to teachers and professors. Some put their guns in closed boxes and others keep them with the receptionist and pick them up when they finish their classes. This phenomenon is more widespread in other governorates, where people even take guns inside lecture halls and classrooms.
Sadeq A., a small gun merchant, who is under 30 years old and whose commercial activities are limited to Bab Sinjar, says that demand for guns has tangibly increased in the beginning of 2006 and is continuously growing. He added that prices are also increasing: a Pronk 9 mm pistol now ranges between $1000 -$1200, while it was selling previously at a price of $700. The price of a well-made 7-9 mm Iraqi Tareq Pistol can reach up to $1500, compared to $800 in 2006.
Yassin, a university student who lives in the Wihdah neighborhood, says that, "carrying guns has allowed youth the chance to gain experience in dealing with different kinds of weapons and to safeguard their personal security," indicating that, "the increase in the number of assassinations and kidnappings is among the main reasons for carrying guns and it is for that reason that shops and stores in Mosul will never become empty of guns."
Guns for women
In one of the pharmacies next to Yassin's house, N.R, a pharmacist, hides a Star pistol under cotton bags and another Smith pistol in the drawer of his desk. N. R says that he was twice attacked by thieves.
The Glock 9 mm pistol is the most tempting one. It is the one used by the Iraqi security apparatuses and the kind of pistol sought by organized gangs. Carrying this gun gives the impression that an operation is conducted by the secret police and the price of such pistol reaches $1200 in normal circumstances, and $1500 during security crises.
F.T, a guns' merchant who lives in the Zuhur neighborhood, says that he has sold Star and Glock pistols to teenagers by installments. He also mentioned that there is a yard in Qadisiyah used as a shooting site, where some rent their pistols and teenagers can fire them for a price of $1 per bullet.
Kholoud works for a government institution in Mosul. Her job is to inspect women to see what they are carrying with them. She told Nigash that women usually prefer to carry small pistols (5 mm) in their bags, a habit which did not exist prior to 2006. Kholoud says that, "some professions such as law and medicine oblige women to carry guns," adding that her sister Sawsan, who is a dentist, had bought a Pronk pistol to protect herself against the gangs of thieves targeting doctors. She first bought a 9 mm pistol for the guard of her clinic and kept a 7 mm pistol for herself. Her husband has trained her during the night, on the roof of her house, in how to fire her pistol using empty Cola bottles as targets.
Sadeq H, a gun merchant says that, "most of the guns are smuggled from Syria and Iran and the source of Glock pistols is the security apparatus. Big quantities of this gun entered the markets when armed groups raided the police stations in Mosul during Ramadan in 2005."
Trading with guns in Mosul is almost done in public and this is especially true in regard to small arms. In every neighborhood there is a person who estimates the price of weapons, trades them and exchanges one kind of gun for another. These people can conclude big deals with armed people and kidnapping and theft gangs.
Moreover, there are also those who have become proficient in maintaining guns, a job which brings in a good income. They are expecting a boom in their profession as long as Mosul, according to many scenarios, is expected to see continuous violence.
F.T, the one who came up with the idea of installments, in his business prefers to deal with youth "as they always seek to buy the best guns." He is always keen to buy old brands that are not widely used anymore today such as Makarov, Llama, and Diamond, which he sells to youth of limited income. The price of each piece of these brands can reach up to $400.
Iraqi security forces and US troops do not confiscate guns kept in peoples' houses and allow every Iraqi citizen to keep one piece in his house to defend himself against attacks. However, the city is witnessing many incidents of killing and injuries resulting not only from the tense security situation in the city and from gangs of murder and crime but also from the growing interest of youth in buying guns, trying them and misusing them.