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Anbaristan
police to hunt fast-breakers

Special Correspondent
"Before criminalizing non-fasters in public areas, security forces should be criminalized," said Suhayb al-Rawi, a resident of al-Malaab area in al-Ramadi city center in responding to an order issued at the…
1.09.2010  |  Anbar

The people of Anbar reacted in a very ironic manner to the new regulation adopted by the province's council to be watched by security forces. People's irony stems from the fact that many of those who publicly break-fasting are the police themselves who are responsible for enforcing the law. Some are bitterly seeing their own city turning into an "Anbaristan," instead of enjoying freedoms and liberties.

Dr. Muayyad Jubair, the provincial council's media spokesman said that "the new regulation was voted unanimously on recommendations related to Ramadan and its sanctity."

Rabiaa al-Alawani, a member of the provincial council, and a supporter of the regulation told Niqash that "before 2003, people have had more respect to the month and to laws governing it," adding that "such regulations were in place and respected."

Al-Anbar is known as a city with a Sunni majority. It is known for its tribal relations and its people's adherence to the teachings of Islam.

With the fall of the Baath regime in 2003, the Islamic State of Iraq Organization has succeeded in spreading its control over a huge area of the province and imposed on its people the observance of strict Shariah laws.

When tribal awakening councils, supported by the US troops, defeated the organization in mid 2007, people became less strict in adhering to Islamic laws. From 2007 until recently, it was common to see young people fast-breaking in public areas in Ramadan.

The huge destruction and havoc has made people abandon their religious beliefs," said Rabiaa, adding that "those who break-fast in Ramadan in public areas are mostly men."

The police command in al-Anbar province, upon orders from the provincial council, has issued instruction to arrest any person openly break-fasting: drinking water, eating or smoking in public areas. Penalty for violator is imprisonment until the end of Ramadan. Those detained for such offense will only be released after al-Fitr Eid.

Rahim Zain, Media spokesman of al-Anbar police, said that "a special unit was formed to hunt those who break-fast in Ramadan in public places. Fifteen persons have been already arrested in al-Ramadi city until now."

"The task of the unit is to hunt all those who do not respect the law including security forces members," he said adding that "all people are equal under the law."

People, even those who strictly abide by Islam teachings, have heavily criticized the new law.

Tamim al-Rawi is among those who respect the sanctity of Ramadan. "The majority of the security forces are not fasting and they eat and drink in public places, but are not punished for their acts," he said.

"We see them every day smoking and carrying cold water bottles when we cross the checkpoints spread all over the city. But the law does not apply to them."

Other citizens saw in the decision "a clear infringement on personal freedoms." Jameel Saad, an employee of the provincial council is one of those.

"High temperatures reaching above 50 degrees Celsius is among the first reasons why we cannot fast," said Jameel. "Cut-offs in the electricity supply and the difficult living conditions are some other more reasons not to fast. It is God, not man, who should decide the punishment and rewards for those who respect or disrespect the sanctity of Ramadan."

On "Facebook" many have criticized al-Anbar council's resolution and similar ones passed by other provinces. A commentator wrote on his wall: Welcome to al-Anbaristan Imarah.

Sheikh Hameed al-Dulaimi, al-Ramadi's mosque imam said that "as an Islamic society, we should all adhere to the basic principles of Islam, fasting is one of them. There are many reasons that might force people not to fast such as sickness and travel. But those who are unable to fast should respect the feelings of fasting people."

"Any person should attempt to fast but those who cannot fast shouldn't do it. However, they must respect others' feelings."

All restaurants, cafes and cafeterias were closed in al-Anbar and its different districts "in deference to Muslim's feelings. The regulation banned these shops from opening before sunset.

Al-Anbar is not the only province that adopts such a law. Almost all other provinces did with the exception of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq.

However, al-Anbar province council has made some exceptions to the rule. Some restaurants were allowed to open on the condition that they put a long curtain at their window for fasting people not to see others break-fasting.

Muhammad Fathi, media adviser to the governor said that "five restaurants were allowed to open in Ramadan in al-Ramadi city, the province's center. Two are located in the market place in the city center, the third in the industrial neighborhood, and two in the city's outskirts. These shops were granted the permission in order to serve passengers going or coming from Syria and Amman."