Iraqi protesters set Dijlah TV station on fire after airing music show during Ashura

Court issues arrest warrant for owner, Jamal Karabouli, over insults to religious rituals

An aerial view of Baghdad, Iraq July 11, 2020. Picture taken on board a helicopter. Picture taken July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
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Angry Iraqi protesters torched the office of a television station in Baghdad on Monday after it aired a music concert during the holy Shiite month of Muharram.

Al Dijlah Tarab channel, owned by Iraqi businessman and politician Jamal Al Karabouli, broadcasted the concert on the night of Ashura, the tenth day of the mourning month of Muharram.

The channel is known to air traditional Iraqi songs and music.

Ashura is a period of mourning in remembrance of Prophet Mohammed's grandson Imam Hussein, who was killed in the battle of Karbala in modern day Iraq in 680 AD.

It draws hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims to the Iraqi city of Karbala from around the world.

Videos circulated on social media showed dozens of men standing outside the channel’s headquarters chanting “Oh Hussein” while fire is seen blazing in the background.

Protesters say the show was an insult to their holy rituals.

Local reports said the fire spread to a neighbouring residential building but protesters prevented fire crews from putting it out.

Security forces accompanied protesters but did not try to stop them, the report said.

The rituals of Ashura, that commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, involve self-flagellation, with crowds of mourners striking themselves and some lacerating their heads with blades.

An arrest warrant was issued for Mr Karabouli on Monday for violating the Iraqi Penal Code’s religious offences.

Mr Karabouli is likely to be handed a detention sentencing that will not exceed three years or pay a fine.

The headquarters of the channel is based in Amman, Jordan. Mr Karabouli is the brother of Sunni politician Mohammed Karabouli.

Earlier this year, Ahmed Abdel Samad, a correspondent for Dijlah TV, and cameraman Safaa Ghali, were gunned down in the southern city of Basra. The two men were reporting on anti-government protests.

Their deaths triggered nationwide anger at the government's inability to provide public protection and adequate services.

Hundreds gathered in the streets to mourn the loss of the two men amid anti-government resentment which have been occurring since last October.