Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Baghdad's Green Zone barriers come down

The partial reopening coincides with the anniversary of ISIS defeat

The concrete blast walls that wrap around Baghdad's Green Zone began coming down on Monday, in a move that coincided with nationwide celebrations marking the anniversary of the country's victory over ISIS.

Iraqi authorities began removing the imposing barriers in November - slowly reopening parliament, government offices, United Nations agencies and western embassies to the rest of the city. The anticipated move was briefly postponed to better secure the area.

For over a decade the Green Zone acted as an enclave of peace amidst turmoil.

But the peak of Iraq's violence came and went in 2006 and 2007, when sectarian violence washed over the country, killing tens of thousands of Iraqis. Today, the streets of Baghdad are safe to wander.

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The partial reopening is meant to portray increased confidence in the country's overall security situation and is also being billed as an act of transparency following violent protests against corruption and poor public service in the south.

Baghdad residents have become well-acquainted with the fortification and the tangle of barbed wire atop it. But for most Iraqis, the inside of the enclave has been largely inaccessible.

The wall has in some ways compounded the growing rift between Iraq's political elite and civilians, pushing the two worlds further apart and fuelling discontent among citizens. The frustration boiled over this summer in the south, when a lack of basic services like water and electricity sparked a string of deadly protests.

Despite the country's feeling of malaise the government declared Monday a national holiday to commemorate the defeat of ISIS and a moment of silence was held at midday.

"That victory and the relative stability in security is a golden opportunity for the government to rebuild the country and to meet the needs of its people," said Sameer Al Obaidi, who led an initiative in the capital's Sunni-dominated northern Azamiyah neighbourhood to distribute flowers to security forces at checkpoints.

"It is important to treat all Iraqis equally so that they feel that their sacrifices are appreciated," Mr Al Obaidi added.

Updated: December 11, 2018 04:42 PM

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