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Gun Control in Kurdistan Divides Lawmakers and Security Officials

By Nawzad Mahmoud 7/7/2013
After decades of conflict, including the downfall of Saddam Hussein following the massive 2003 US-led invasion, all of Iraq has been flooded with weapons, and the autonomous Kurdistan Region is no exception. Photo: Rudaw
After decades of conflict, including the downfall of Saddam Hussein following the massive 2003 US-led invasion, all of Iraq has been flooded with weapons, and the autonomous Kurdistan Region is no exception. Photo: Rudaw

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Security officials and lawmakers in the Kurdistan Region remain divided over solving the autonomous enclave’s gun problem, differing over whether to collect weapons illegally owned by people or impose licensing regulations and tight ownership laws.

After decades of conflict, including the downfall of Saddam Hussein following the massive 2003 US-led invasion, all of Iraq has been flooded with weapons, and the autonomous Kurdistan Region is no exception.  There is no official data to show the number of weapons owned by civilians, but it is high enough to concern security officials.

“It is time for the region’s parliament to openly address this issue and come up with a resolution,” a security official said. But a Kurdish MP retorted that any attempt to limit the number of guns would fail without strengthening border security, in a region surrounded by the rest of volatile Iraq, war-torn Syria, Iran and Turkey.

Sarkawt Ahmad, police spokesperson in the city of Sulaimani, said that his department had drawn up a plan to tackle gun control, but charged that parliament had not been willing to seriously discuss the problem.

“The key point of the plan is to have the government repurchase all the weapons currently owned by people,” he said, adding that violators would be charged and their weapons confiscated.

“I am afraid implementing such a plan leads to the emergence of gun smugglers,” claimed Nariman Abdulla, member of the interior committee in the Kurdistan parliament. “The borders of the Kurdistan Region can be penetrated easily, and more guns can be brought into the region by new smugglers,” he added.

“The plan wastes government funds, because people will use the money to repurchase guns,” he charged.  “The best solution at this point is to lawfully reorganize weapons owned by people.”

Meanwhile, security officials complain that they have to deal with the consequences of lax gun control, with Ahmad explaining that guns kill dozens of people each year in so-called “honor killings,” family disagreements, tribal disputes and property ownership rows.

“Most of the social crimes are due to having easy access to weapons,” Ahmad said, with security officials adding they are surprised by how slight disagreements end up in capital crimes.

Sulaimani has recently witnessed a series of crimes where several people were killed and injured.  In addition, “a teenager shot and killed his entire family over nothing in Chamchamal town, and another five people were killed over tribal disputes in Erbil last year,” Ahmad said.

Lieutenant Nizar Abdulla, head of the interior department in Sulaimani’s governor’s office, said that licensing for weapons must be toughened. “Anybody can get a permission to bear arms,” he complained.

Abdulla said that his department formed a committee to deal with the issue three months ago.  “We sent our proposal to the interior ministry, but got no response from them,” he complained.

Abdulla warned that weapons have already been smuggled into Kurdistan. “We have information that arms had been smuggled into Kurdistan region from Libya last April,” he said.

“Any 18-year-old can obtain a license to carry weapons. The law should raise the age, so that a person has to be at least 40 to be able to carry weapons,” Abdulla advised.


CheinKR | 8/7/2013
Every home in Kurdistan should have a weapon. We have become too complacent with our security and forget that we are surrounded by enemies. As for the social issues we have, those need to be dealt with at the source. Honor killings and tribal disputes will not stop or diminish with gun control, that's just absurd. Lets not forget what got our freedom in the first place.
Kurd | 9/7/2013
Do the Kurd know where they live? Do the Kurds know what happened to them during the occupation? Criminal immigrants who come to Kurdistan from Iraq and other states have many guns and they use it against Kurds and they will not care about a ban. a ban will only harm the Kurds. The same situation in the disputed areas, where Kurds are attacked regularly from Al Qaida and the Pesmerge can not be everywhere. The Kurds must have the right to have guns.
AK | 10/7/2013
Guns cause more problems than they solve. Statistics show that in countries where guns have been banned completely there is a severe drop in the amount of crime in the area. guns make it easier for people kill because it is so fast and so impersonal that they don't have time to think about their actions. Many men who have killed their wives with a gun, would never have committed the act if it wasn't so easy to do (if the gun was not within reach). Guns clearly, based on the evidence that is displayed through my argument, increase the number of homicides and general crime that occur in the country every year. While they are effective means of self defence there are many other ways that people can protect themselves. Guns have no place in modern civilised society and cause so much more bad that they do good. Reasons why guns should be banned 1) It has been proven that a complete ban on guns does reduce the number of homicides 2) Guns are very effective killing machines that are statistically more likely to be used in criminal behaviour 3) It is very easy to collect guns with the government offering to buy the guns 4) Too many gun related killings are from domestic assault 5) There are many other ways for people to defend themselves without resorting to the use of guns 6) Continued development in gun technology is making it easier for people to commit mass murders 7) Gun bans allow police to charge people for possession of an illegal fireman before anyone is actually killed 8) Guns encourage people to act as vigilantes and to bypass the court system
Patriot | 10/7/2013
AK, true, but it seems to me that your analysis is based upon Western nations and their peoples attitudes. I doubt gun controls would have any large impact on the honor killings, tribal disputes etc. It is not a religious problem either. It is a cultural problem, and as CheinKR pointed out well, will not stop or get reduced by having gun controls. My suggestion would be to have far stricter sentences for those who kill people and not let them out after a couple of years. Giving murderers (also those in the honor killing category) very hard punishments without mercy, will make people think twice before they themselves commit such atrocities. Also we need to get more professional investigators, unfortunately today I am pretty sure a large amount of prisoners in Kurdistan are innocent.
anyone | 20/7/2013
We must have the write to own guns in Kurdistan, I understand there should be strict regulations however they can't stop issuing permits all together because first of all the well connected elite still carry guns, sons of high government officials and party members roam our streets freely with their American issued weapons so why can't normal citizens have it too? then you have got the issue of security, the only reason we have good security in Kurdistan is because the people are vigilant and always report anything that seems unusual to them, otherwise the police are very incompetent and ineffective. Furthermore those who have guns will not give it up just because they can't renew their licenses, you are only increasing the number of people who own guns illegally you are not changing anything else. Then there is the issue of murderers getting out of prison easily because they are well connected, fix those first.
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