Threatens life imprisonment

Iraq’s interior ministry urges surrender of heavy weaponry

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi Ministry of Interior has issued a stern warning to individuals possessing heavy weapons, such as mortars, cannons, and RPGs, urging them to surrender these arms to authorities or face severe penalties, including potential life imprisonment.

Ziyad Al-Qaisi, spokesperson for the Committee on Regulating and Controlling Weapons within the ministry, emphasized the serious consequences for those who retain heavy weapons and refuse to turn them in. “There are severe penalties for anyone who keeps heavy weapons and refuses to hand them over to the ministry,” Al-Qaisi said in an interview with Al-Sabah Newspaper. “Being caught with such weapons will subject the individual to legal proceedings, which could result in life imprisonment.”

Al-Qaisi clarified that the ministry encourages individuals to voluntarily surrender their heavy weapons to avoid legal action.

The Iraqi government initiated a gun buyback program across the country this year, which will continue through the end of 2024. Muqdad Meery, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, had previously announced that 697 centers across 15 governorates are being prepared for the purchase of firearms from citizens. Meery highlighted that the government has allocated up to one billion dinars (around $750,000) to each governorate as an initial payment, with two billion designated for the capital.

In recent months, the ministry has launched public awareness campaigns regarding the issue, which, according to Meery, “have led to significant citizen participation in selling weapons to the government and registering firearms.” The objective, he added, is to ensure that all arms are under the state’s control and authority.

Decades of conflict in Iraq have led to the widespread availability of arms, with many citizens possessing weapons without government-issued licenses. Gun control and regulation have been major demands of Iraqi citizens due to the prevalence of violence. However, it remains unclear how the government plans to address the presence of various militias that possess a wide array of weapons and often operate outside government control.