Nightclubs in Iraq: Revealing the dark side of entertainment

Nightclubs in Iraq: Revealing the dark side of entertainment

Shafaq News / Nightclubs in Iraq, often associated with entertainment, reveal many concerns that permeate Iraqi society's fabric.

Beyond the surface of what might be perceived as mere venues for leisure, these nightclubs are entangled in a web of security risks, social stigmas, gender inequalities, substance abuse, economic disparities, and clashes with traditional values.

In this exploration, we delve into the multifaceted challenges nightclubs face in Iraq, examining the impact on patrons, society, and the individuals working within these establishments.

From security threats to the exploitation of minors and the societal complexities that drive individuals to these venues, we navigate through the intricate landscape of nightlife in Iraq.


Women's rights activist Sukaina Haider emphasized the distinction between dancers at events and those in nightclubs.

She explained to Shafaq News that dancing is a popular art form in theaters and cultural activities, where performers showcase various styles, including Eastern, Western, classical, and others.

Haider added that there are diverse performance groups whose members wear decent specialized costumes, citing examples from festivals like the Babylon International Festival, where dancers wear Assyrian or Babylonian attire and perform specific dances.

She clarified that such dancing poses no issues. However, regarding nightclub dancers, the situation is different as "they may expose their bodies for commercial purposes, putting their lives at risk."


"I ended up working in a nightclub by chance while searching for employment opportunities to cover my mother's medical expenses and pay rent," said 35-year-old Suad (a pseudonym) when describing the beginning of her work in a nightclub in Baghdad.

"Working in such a place was not my choice, but circumstances forced me to accept it. I used to live with my mother, who worked in a shop, and her wages were sufficient for rent and basic living expenses. As for me, I had become a homemaker as I discontinued my education at the middle school level."

She added, "However, one day, my mother fell seriously ill, confining her to bed. With no income available, I started searching for a job with decent wages, but to no avail. However, during my search, I met a girl who informed me that I could find the wages I sought in nightclubs, where job opportunities were always available."

"So, I reluctantly decided to go to one of the nightclubs in Baghdad, and indeed, they said work was available, but wages depended on the customers. I started working with them and managed to provide medical care for my mother and cover the rent. I remained in this job even after my mother's death nine years ago, and I believe that working in such a place does not harm anyone, perhaps only myself psychologically, but I have no other place to go."

Notably, Iraqi TikToker and dancer Marwa Al-Qaisi tragically committed suicide on September 5, 2022, by throwing herself from the top of a building in the Lebanese Village complex in Erbil, where she died instantly.

Marwa Al-Qaisi has gained fame in recent years for her artistic roles, dance performances, and being a TikToker with over four million followers on social media platforms.

Inas Al-Khaldi, an Iraqi famous woman, was sentenced to imprisonment by the Iraqi judiciary on February 4 for her involvement in indecent content.

A source informed Shafaq News Agency that the Karkh Appeals Court in Baghdad issued a verdict sentencing Al-Khaldi to a four-month imprisonment after convicting her of disseminating indecent content.


The resort to working in nightclubs by young girls stems from various reasons, predominantly social and economic, according to women's rights activist Israa Salman.

In an interview with Shafaq News, Salman pointed out that "some families traffic their daughters to work in nightclubs, and sometimes family circumstances compel girls to leave their homes and resort not to community police to resolve the issue officially, but to the wrong individuals, leading to their exploitation."

"In addition, orphanages force girls out once they reach 18 years old, leaving them homeless. Consequently, they might turn to such places for refuge. However, a new directive is to keep girls in orphanages until they marry or find employment."

She noted that "many nightclubs in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region employ minors under the age of 18, which constitutes human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children."

"With no government shelters available to house and care for them, genuine measures should be taken to uncover these establishments and address the cases of the girls involved."

Salman emphasizes the potential risks, stating that "returning girls to their families might lead to their murder, and the perpetrator might be acquitted under Article 409 of the Penal Code, with the punishment potentially reduced under Article 128 as a crime of honor."

She stressed the necessity for "government intervention to monitor nightclubs and individuals exploiting children, along with the enforcement of compulsory education mandated by the Iraqi Constitution. Activating the role of social workers could address many societal issues and contain this plight."

Another female activist familiar with the happenings inside nightclubs told Shafaq News that the reasons behind the increasing employment of girls in nightclubs stem from social factors, notably family disintegration, which leads some girls to flee from their families, in addition to being subjected to injustice and oppression by their families, as they claim.

The activist, who preferred anonymity, pointed out that some girls come to nightclubs due to financial hardship amid a lack of job opportunities. Therefore, they resort to nightclubs, especially if they have children to support their families.

However, this job is temporary, and it may cause problems that could escalate to threats of murder, especially for girls fleeing from their families.

"Suppose the girl is below the legal age. In that case, this work poses a legal issue for her," according to the activist, who urged the government to provide shelters for these girls and to activate the domestic violence law to curb the resort of girls to nightclubs.


In this context, lawyer Qamar Al-Samarrai stated that "the law does not protect nightclub dancers who may engage in prostitution. Recently, there has been widespread awareness of the indecent content law, which penalizes indecent acts with imprisonment ranging from months to over a year, targeting actions that violate public decency."

Al-Samarrai clarified to Shafaq News that "Iraqi law under Article 401 of the Iraqi Penal Code No. 111 of 1969, as amended, stipulates imprisonment for up to six months and a fine for those who commit publicly indecent acts, which also applies to those who speak vulgarly."

She continued, "Currently, there is no punishment for girls who dance in nightclubs, but rather for indecent clothing, obscene language, and similar offenses.

In addition, Since the beginning of 2023, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and the Supreme Judicial Council have launched a campaign to pursue individuals accused of disseminating "indecent content" on social media.

Consequently, arrest warrants have been issued, and several individuals have been sentenced to prison for such content dissemination.


Last year, a video circulated on social media showing a 12-year-old girl dancing alongside a group of dancers in a nightclub, with reports claiming the club was located in Erbil.

However, Erbil's mayor, Nabaz Abdulhamid, stated on February 4, 2023, that the footage is old and not from Erbil but was filmed in Baghdad. He emphasized that "any such act in Erbil will be dealt with per the law; the place will be shut down, and its owner will be punished."

Furthermore, the head of the Iraqi Judiciary Council, Judge Faiq Zaidan, issued directives on January 25, 2023, to take legal action against the owners of nightclubs and lounges witnessing the phenomenon of scattering money on singers during loud parties, as well as bringing minors to these places.

According to a memorandum signed by Judge Zaidan and addressed to the Public Prosecution and all Courts of Appeal, "The recent spread of the phenomenon of scattering money and bringing minors to these clubs has been observed."

He added that "these uncivilized behaviors violate the law and existing regulations. Therefore, it was necessary to instruct investigative courts to form monitoring teams in cooperation with specialized police stations or national security units, each according to its territorial jurisdiction, to take legal action against the owners of these clubs, as well as those who frequent them and commit the mentioned violations."

Navigating the nightlife landscape makes it clear that nightclubs' challenges are not isolated; they mirror and magnify societal struggles. Addressing these challenges requires a collective effort, intertwining legal measures, social support, and an unwavering commitment to protect the vulnerable.

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