Creating new perspectives since 2009

Iraq launches major buyback initiative to centralise weapons from citizens

May 8, 2024 at 2:58 pm

Iraq flag on May 25, 2021 in Baghdad, Iraq [Taha Hussein Ali/Getty Images]

The Iraqi Ministry of Interior has initiated a major programme to buy medium-range weapons from the public, establishing 697 registration offices across Baghdad and other provinces, according to Iraqi News.

The “Centralising Weapons in State Hands” initiative comes after the Ministry disclosed a budget of over $763,000 (one billion Iraqi dinars) per governorate to facilitate the purchases, as reported by Alsabah Daily, Iraq’s official newspaper.

Brigadier General Mansour Ali Sultan, the official responsible for weapons control, stated in November that 70 per cent of a database tracking privately held arms is now complete. “Iraqi law permits any citizen aged 25 or over to own weapons,” said Sultan, who also announced the launch of an app for registering firearms. “We will not permit an illegal arms trade,” he insisted.

Additionally, Sultan noted the closure of 420 unlicensed firearm shops across the country and identified 320 websites within Iraq that sell weapons, which also deliver to customers directly.

OPINION: Iraq and the interests and agendas of a multipolar world

A 2019 study by the University of Washington highlighted that Iraq had the highest rate of violent gun deaths per capita in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), exceeding even the US. In 2022, it was noted that Iraqi citizens have access to more than 7.6 million firearms throughout the country. Other estimates suggest that there are between 13 and 15 million pieces of medium and light weaponry in Iraqi society.

Ahead of the launch of the programme in March, Shafaq News reported that the most prominent weapons in proliferation are “AK-47 rifles, PKC rifles, and Russian RPGs, along with mortar launchers and RPG shells, which have recently seen increased use in tribal conflicts in the south and central regions of the country.”

While most of these are possessed by armed groups and tribes, the outlet notes that Iraqis have developed a post-2003 cultural inclination to keep weapons in their homes, driven by the necessity to “defend themselves against thieves and anticipated assaults.”