BAGHDAD – THE CITY OF WALLS (2003-2013) / Daily life inside the bomb busted Green Zone: Part I

Separation? – Daily life inside the Green Zone was quite extreme, experienced by two different groups of people, the Iraqi and the Americans. In fact, there was almost zero interaction between them, since there was so much open space, the two groups were able to live separately in respect to each other.


The ultimate urban pioneer – The poor and homeless Iraqi, who had spent their lives to survive on streets, took the opportunity of Saddam Hussein’s defeat. During the aerial bombings, these urban pioneers staked their claims to the residential area that had been abandoned by the Baath Party elite, and immediately moved in with relatives and friends. They were understood as civilians who were neither soldiers nor allies of Saddam’s regime, thus, there was no legit ways to kick them out of the houses. It was impossible to determine the number of these Iraqi population in the Green Zone, it could only be estimated range around 5000. “They lived in groups of 1-2 dozens under the houses design for 5-6 people, and because of the overcrowding and extreme poverty, their district had been turned into the slum of the Green Zone.” (Langewiesche, 2004) They made small income through selling soft drinks by the streets and doing manual labor work. Though, they have learnt and managed to pass through the Green Zone’s gates daily and had soon become the source of information of enemies on the inside.

Figure 1 – A bombed out Baath Party building.
Image source: Veneman, Jim . Reminders. November 19, 2003. First Set of Images from Iraq, Baghdad. Accessed December 12, 2017.

The foreigner – The American and Westerner- A district along the Tigris River consisted of luxurious villas, some with grand gardens and ponds at the backyards. Only several villas were reclaimed by the Iraqi stakeholders, who had returned to their home. Yet, most of the buildings were expropriated by the American contractors and agencies who managed to live well, spending their days with cigars and drinks inside the villas. The number of American and Westerners lived in the Green Zone differed from day to day. Therefore, it was almost impossible to determine the exact figure, but estimated to be about 5000. Other than expropriated the Iraqi villas,they lived in prefabricated and well-furnished residential modules, which were the tailor-made shipping containers, known as the trailers. (Langewiesche, 2004) Unlike the Iraqi, they consumed American food imported from abroad, and they had meals together in the enormous and efficient dining halls. In terms of their daily recreational activities, they had gym facilities, televisions, DVDs and digital computers. Telephones were also provided for overseas calls, allowing them to stay in touch with their relatives at their hometowns.

Figure 2 – American soldiers in tanks passing by the Swords of Qādisīyah, also known as the Arc of Triumph.
Image source:Lewental, D Gershon. American soldiers posing in front of the Qaws an-Naṣr (‘Victory Arch’), sometimes called the ‘Swords of Qādisiyyah’, after the 2003 invasion that toppled Ṣaddām.November 21, 2005. DGLnotes, Baghdad. Accessed December 13, 2017.

Urban transformation – The Iraqi pioneer and the American lived together inside the Green Zone but yet, they had undergone extremely different lives that were not planned out by themselves. In terms of the urban conditions, most of the building footprints turned into just monumental. “These monuments became military in nature, and also quite dull. One of the well-known example was the Swords of Qādisiyyah, which manifested the martial splendor of the parade ground where the former president Saddam Hussein inspected his Iraqi troops. This crossed sword had been an attraction to tourist, a monument that symbolized the Green Zone. Furthermore, utilitarian structures were scattered all across the cityscape of dirt, grass and trees, they were the grand and modern governmental buildings including the National Assembly, the Baath Party Headquarters, the Council of Ministers etc.. ” (Langewiesche, 2004) These architectures were once the formation of Saddam’s totalitarian regime, although some remained functional, most have become hollow shells of bomb busted concrete.

2 Comments on “BAGHDAD – THE CITY OF WALLS (2003-2013) / Daily life inside the bomb busted Green Zone: Part I

  1. This blogpost showcases the disheartening, existing situation that is happening right in front of our eyes. The extremity of the American-Iraqi condition is undesirable but understandable. We cannot expect groups of people from two completely different worlds to mesh, though under similar circumstances. This situation also digs into the human nature of selfishness and greed. Though the Americans are living in the same exact walled area, they are living the high life with their villas and cigars, meanwhile the Iraqi are living in slums and barely scraping by. If they were to share their resources and possessions, it can easily be a much more harmonised and moderate living condition. Then again, it is too idealistic to ask of this simply based on how we are as humans. Naturally, it is hard for one to sympathise and be understanding towards people who are different from them, and it is easier to just turn a blind eye.

  2. Misled by its name, Green Zone sounds a desirable place. However, the truth is totally different. Unlike other cities, the political uncertainty has changed both the Green zone and people inside.

    Different from colonization or other foreign country influences, the Green Zone is unique existence produced from wars. Americans inside are obviously superior than the Iraqi who are more like the captives, living with their enemies. This is an uncommon and distinct living place compared to the cities or districts we know.

    Moreover, surrounded by rebellions, armed soldiers and weapons, Iraq people can hardly treat Green Zone as home. Also, Green Zone was treated as a medium for the anti-American Iraq radicals to declare war or serious conflicts. Neglecting human right and social security, the Green Zone is a place demanding justice and peace.

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