Reuters reported last week that Iraqi nightlife is on the rise, with Iraqis of all ethnic backgrounds coming together for late-night entertainment. Many Iraqi haunts have been shuttered since 2003 when the U.S.-led invasion resulted in increased violence and fundamentalist political activity. Khalid al-Ansary wrote that 17 nightclubs have since opened in the war-torn nation and while most feature provocative dancing, and some even lap dancing, they also offer more Western-style music and the requisite stocked bar. Entry into these nightclubs costs partygoers about $50 per person, but the higher cover charge is due to the small portion of the population visiting them. Iraqi youth are looking to the nightclubs for jobs, especially as the unemployment and underemployment rate in the country currently sits at 45 percent.
Belly dancers can make upwards of a $1,000 a month working at the clubs, and bartender and server positions are equally attractive to a younger generation looking to nightlife as an opportunity to bring down the barriers that exist between cultures and ethnic groups in the country, Reuters reported. It’s also a way to provide a younger working class, either those forced to work to support their family or those who want to work, with an alternative to joining the radical political movements in the region. One dancer the reporter al-Ansary spoke to said that while she feared for religious retribution either in this life or the next, she had to support her family after the death of her father. “My family's situation was what forced me to take this job, I fear God, but I had to dance to work," she told the reporter. When she is done dancing, she dons the traditional Muslim headscarf and cloak before leaving the club.
While Iraq still remains a dangerous and violent place, we are at least seeing some Iraqis emerge from their shuttered homes and hiding places and finding some semblance of life at night that doesn’t involve gunfire. Suicide bombers continue to rein fear across major cities and towns, but to one female dancer, the re-opening of these clubs is a major headway in the future of the country. As she puts it, "This shows there is democracy in Iraq.”