Celebratory gunfire in Iraq poses lethal risk to innocent civilians

Muhammad Akram, 4-years-old, who was injured by a random gunshot in his home in a village in the Yusufiya not far from Baghdad on May 20, 2024. Photo: AFP

In Iraq, celebratory gunfire at weddings, football matches, and other events is a common practice. However, this tradition poses a serious danger as bullets often fall unpredictably, causing harm to unsuspecting individuals.

The country, still reeling from decades of conflict and a society heavily armed, has seen devastating consequences from this practice. Random gun battles also contribute to the problem, exacerbating the threat to civilians.

Baghdad mother Randa Ahmad experienced this firsthand. While busy with chores, she was startled by a loud bang and discovered her four-year-old son Mohamed bleeding on the floor.

A stray bullet had hit him in the head. Weeks later, Ahmad, 30, sits by her son, who now suffers from severe headaches and fatigue. Doctors have deemed surgery too risky, warning that movement of the bullet could result in paralysis.

Celebratory gunfire and gun battles, often ignited by minor disputes, are a daily occurrence in Iraq. Despite a period of relative calm, the prevalence of firearms remains high.

Iraq, with a population of 43 million, has been flooded with weapons over the years, particularly during the wars under former dictator Saddam Hussein, the 2003 US-led invasion, and subsequent sectarian conflicts and insurgencies.

By 2017, civilians in Iraq held an estimated 7.6 million firearms, a number believed to have increased since, according to the Small Arms Survey. Many households claim to possess these weapons for protection, reflecting the ongoing struggle with violence and insecurity.