The City of Walls – The Formation – The Rise of Wall
The era of walls really began after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The walls in the context of Baghdad include more than simply T-walls that can withstand explosions. The term ‘wall’ also refers to Checkpoints that are designed to monitor every movement and act as an obstacle on main roads; Roadblock that restrict the movement of vehicles; Coils of razor wire, chain link fences and any physical obstacle that is designed to minimise movements (automobile and people) and to divide the neighbourhood for safety reasons.
After the US had taken control of the Green Zone, also known as the international zone, the US occupation authorities began working and living there. The Presidential Palace became the US Embassy and the new Ba’ath party headquarter is also relocated to the area. The significance of the authorities also comes with a security risk. Therefore, as soon as Saddam regime dismissed, the US began putting up walls around the zone, turning it into the ultimate gated community. A number of checkpoints are installed along the wall, regulating every movement. The main entrance into the heart of Green zone is the ‘14th of July Bridge’. It is one of the bridges that is connected to the main road network and crosses the Tigris River. After the capture of Saddam, the bridge was open and closed from times to times due to safety reasons. This had caused a massive traffic into the Green Zone as an extra half an hour would be needed to cross the river and enter the zone.
The conflicts between Sunni Islam and the Shia Islam have long been a problematic issue for the Middle East. With the loss of government power and the insertion of the western idea, the sense of identity soon turned even more religious than ever for the people in Baghdad. Religious beliefs became the license to live in a certain neighbourhood and that whichever religion that is dominant became the authority of the community. The conflict escalated to physical violence where killings continued to happen after the war.
Adhamiya, Baghdad, is the first district that the Coalition forces began installation of the T-walls due to the cycle of sectarian violence. Multi-National Corps-Iraq announced that “the wall is one of the centrepieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence. Planners hope the creation of the wall will help restore law and order by providing a way to screen people entering and exiting the neighbourhood — allowing residents and people with legitimate business in while keeping death squads and militia groups out.” (” Paratroopers Help Create ‘Gated Community’ in Adhamiyah.” Digital image. US Military website. April 2007. army.mil.)
fig 1. Adhamiya Wall (Seth. “Adhamiya Wall.” Digital image. Watching Baghdad Gated Communities Develop. 2006. http://www.fastblogit.com/thought/6920.)
In the mid-April 2003, Coalition forces began constructing the wall along al-Quds Street, Jameela and Tharwa neighbourhood in Sadar City in the effort of fighting against the JAM. The wall shall provide a safe neighbourhood for the southern Sadar, which the Coalition forces had done much success in other regions of Baghdad. It would also accelerate the humanitarian assistance from the Iraq officials and coalition forces in bringing the city back together. However, the new construction is to ultimately prevent militia entering from the northern section. In addition, it is a strategic move to limit the movement of JAM and act as barrier/ checkpoint ensuring the further safety of the Green Zone.
FIG 2. OPERATION PEACE PLAN (“OPERATION PEACE.” DIGITAL IMAGE. INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR. HTTP://WWW.UNDERSTANDINGWAR.ORG/OPERATION/OPERATION-PEACE.)
To conclude this text, the walls were put up due to various reasons including safety, religion and military strategy. Although the intentions were different, they all impact the community in a similar fashion and we shall discuss that in our next text.