Babylon & Beyond

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IRAQ: Cement blast walls go up in another Baghdad neighborhood

June 9, 2009 | 12:32 pm

(Cement walls erected by Baghdad neighborhood. Picture by Usama Redha)

Less than a month before U.S. forces leave their bases in Baghdad, the Iraqi security forces are sealing off much of the northwestern Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiya with the towering cement blast walls that the Americans first erected in neighborhoods in 2007 as a way to stop the city’s sectarian fighting.

The move comes after the Iraqi government has said it wants to start removing such walls from around neighborhoods as it seeks to promote the idea that life is improving in war-scarred Baghdad. At the end of June, the government actually hopes to open a road to the public that cuts through the Green Zone as proof that better times are here. 

Kadhimiya, home to a Shiite holy shrine, has been bombed several times in the last year and an official from the interior ministry said that the walls were meant to thwart bombings. The official also said that the government was sealing off the district’s perimeter as an alternative to closing off streets inside the mainly Shiite district. In late April, a pair of suicide bombers killed 71 people outside the district’s Imam Musa Kadhim shrine.

Locals reacted angrily this week to the sight of the wall being erected. “There is more than one military unit in Kadhimiya. How come they can’t protect the city,” said Kamal Mehdi, a Kadhimiya resident. Mehdi worried the wall will be bad for the district’s markets. “Kadhimiya as a commercial center is finished… Will you come to Kadhimiya when there is no place to park and you spend a long time waiting in an endless line of cars in the summer heat?”

 Zakariya, a 27-year-old pilgrim visiting the Imam Musa Kadhim shrine, also grew sad at the sight of walls being erected yet again. “I will think twice before I come here again. They are killing the city,” he said.

-- Times Staff Writer Usama Redha