The City of Walls – The Formation – Fall of Baghdad

2003 marks the beginning of terror in Baghdad, the military invasion of Iraq by the US. The development of this war between 2003 and 2007 had also highlighted the drastic changes of the city’s urban fabric, which later on caused the installation of Baghdad wall. Since the fall of Baghdad is the basis to the so-called ‘City of Wall’, I shall first elaborate how the war has impacted the hardware and software of the city that leads to the construction of the wall.


Ever since the leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein has been viewed as a threat to the region’s stability by the Westerns and that his regime posses of weapons of mass destruction, the US President at the time, George W. Bush, announced to take action bringing down Saddam’s plot against the Americans. Therefore, in March 2003, the coalition forces (a combination of different countries’ special forces) began their strike from the south of Iraq to work their way up north through the expressway. On the 21st March, the forces march their way into the heart of Iraq, Baghdad, after taking control over the cities down south (Umm Qasr, Al Basrah, Nasiriyah etc).

fig1. Iraq War Map 2003 (ADuran. “Iraq-War-Map.” Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. July 3, 2007.


The Green Zone

Prior to the Infantry invasion, the airstrike was the first line of attack. It aimed at the centre of Baghdad, which is known as the Green Zone. It is a zone that served as the headquarters of the successive Iraqi regimes. It consists of military bases, government ministries and presidential palaces that host the Ba’ath Party and Saddam’s power. Lots of high-status residents fled the zone during the heavy fighting. The abandoned houses soon became places for the Coalition forces and the homeless Iraqis to inhabit, which are considered an improved standard of living.

fig2. Air Strike Map (Cumulative U.S. air strike. Digital image. The Washington Post. March 24, 2003.


Ethnic Religion

Religious beliefs have long been a heavy influential factor to Baghdad and any Iraqi societies. The fall of Saddam who supported Sunni hugely impacted the social stability of the city. The conflict between Shia and Sunni increased dramatically after the capture of him. Many areas in Baghdad that used to be a mixed neighbourhood soon divided into multiple ethnic neighbourhoods.

fig 3&4. Ethnic-Religious Neighborhoods (“Baghdad, Iraq, Ethnic composition in 2003 & later 2007.” Digital image. Infographs, Maps and Statistics Collection.


Sectarian Violence 

In 2003, Jaysh al-Mahdi militia (JAM) emerged supporting Sadrist political institutions and Muqtada who started the Sadrist Movement. Muqtada has demonstrated how a society can be heavily influenced by a religious and popular figure that has no official title in the government. JAM later on positioned themselves as security in protecting Shi’a neighbourhood after the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque. However by 2006,JAM engaged in sectarian cleansing. They started many violent campaign of expansion into Sunni and mixed neighbourhood in Baghdad. This caught the attention of the coalition forces and Iraqi commanders. An operation named operation peace began in Sadr City that clear the violence JAM group. Their plan is to “isolate and target criminals over time, eventually planning at some point to enter into the area.” (Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, Department of Defense New Briefing with Multi-National Division-Baghdad, June 2, 2008). Thus, the wall strategy was introduced as part of the plan.

Fig 5. Operation Peace Plan (“Operation Peace.” Digital image. Institute for the study of war.


These are the few major factors that contributed to the development of walls in Baghdad as well as the key aspects to the development of the war. We shall further discuss the rise of the wall in our next text.

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