Summit brings Baghdad to a standstill
BAGHDAD // Iraqis gave mixed reactions on Wednesday on the benefits of hosting the Arab League as the summit entered its second official day.
Baghdad has been on a security lockdown since Monday, with a curfew in place, the airport shut down and restrictions on all vehicles except those belonging to the military or officials.
The Iraqi government had declared a week of holidays during the summit, which ends Thursday, to encourage people to stay at home. But traffic in Baghdad had slowed to a crawl and residents who braved the streets were faced with a maze of checkpoints.
Some complained that the transportation problems have led to major increases in the price of food at local markets.
Still, Abu Sadiq, 38, an unemployed father of three, hoped the summit would inject new life into the economy of a country where security forces conduct door-to-door searches, electricity remains erratic and many neighbourhoods still have sewage running in open canals.
"I have hope this summit will help get Iraqis jobs and opportunities," he said.
Iraq has spent US$500 million (Dh1.83bn) in preparation for the meeting of the 22-member league, much of it on security dedicated to thwarting any possibility of attacks by Sunni militants, who last week staged near simultaneous attacks on eight cities, killing 46 and wounding more than 200.
In Baghdad on Wednesday, the increased security stopped many Iraqi human rights activists from attending a protest.
"They've blocked roads and streets in order to prevent us from making it to Tahrir square," said Akram Daham, a civil-liberties activist. "We want to demonstrate peacefully to express to Arab leaders about the bad political crisis we are living in, and the [government's] bad service and corruption."
Salman Al Musawi, an Iraqi MP, said the summit will broaden relationships with Arab countries.
"There are many Arab countries that have sent signals reflecting willingness to invest and set up many service projects and production in Iraq."
* With additional reports from the Associated Press and Reuters
Updated: March 29, 2012 04:00 AM