By The Assyrian Journal | Oct. 20, 2023
BAGHDEDA, IRAQ — Protesters on Friday evening lit fire to a house and barber shop in Baghdeda, Iraq that belong to the owner of the al-Haitham Hall.
Footage posted to Instagram shows dozens of young men marching to the home of Samir Nabo and, later, plumes of smoke and large fires through the windows of the building.
Al-Haitham Hall was a popular event venue in Baghdeda before it caught fire last month during a wedding reception that was reported to have about 900 guests, almost twice the number it was designed to hold. Witnesses reported chaotic scenes as attendees struggled to escape. The venue was enveloped in flames within seconds. At least 128 people have been confirmed dead and dozens are still in the hospital.
Nabo was criticized for using inexpensive and flammable building materials during a renovation of the hall and failing to install fire exits and fire extinguishers. Concerns of the building’s safety had been raised in the past, but disregarded by Nabo and local officials that issued the building’s safety permit.
Investigators last month looked into the cause of the deadly fire and called for the removal of a half-dozen government officials for their failure to maintain safety standards, including the removal of the town’s mayor.
The report also declared the fire was an accident. But locals disagree, and worry that politicians are using this moment to replace officials with members of an armed group led by Rayan Kildani, who has been sanctioned by the United States for human rights abuses and corruption.
A letter by Athra Alliance, a group of five aligned Assyrian political parties in Iraq, rejected the investigation and called for a renewed probe and compensation for those that were killed.
“Keep your political conflicts away from the areas of our people in the Nineveh Plain,” the letter read.