The new year has gotten off to a troubled start for Iraqi member of parliament Wihda al-Jamily after a video of her shooting a handgun in the air went viral on social media.
The video shows al-Jamily sitting in the passenger seat of a car. While looking at the camera, she holds up a gun and fires two shots in the air. The man who is filming says, in Arabic: “Welcome, huntress!” ("Hala bessayyada!").
The expression "hala bessayyada!" is now becoming a popular hashtag in Iraq and neighbouring Gulf countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Many social media users who are using it are horrified by al-Jamily’s action. The timing is especially unfortunate because the video of al-Jamily started circulating online just after Iraqi authorities announced that one person died and 77 people were injured by firearms and fireworks during New Year’s celebrations.
Al-Jamily, who is a member of the human rights commission within the Iraqi parliament, posted an apology on her official Facebook page. She claimed that her action harkened back to popular traditions within in her tribe and said that the video was filmed during a wedding in the Ramadi region. However, shortly thereafter, her post was deleted.
A Twitter user shared al-Jamily’s post, along with a comment that reads, “Look at how they act with the people and then they try to deceive us.”
Celebratory gunfire and shooting in the air is banned in Iraq. Since the video started circulating, there have been calls for al-Jamily to be prosecuted for her actions, in spite of parliamentary immunity.
This cartoon shows al-Jamily shooting in the air, while exclaiming “I have immunity” while the text in front states that celebratory gunfire is forbidden.