The City of Walls – The Formation – The Destruction of Social Fabric
The walls around the city have impacted the city’s social fabric dramatically. The debate about the city planning with the wall in Baghdad has gone on and on ever since the day it was installed. Are security and safety the utmost priority before a harmonised community? Or is the security measure of such the trigger to divide a community? Here we will discuss the social impact of the construction of walls.
The walls around the Green Zone had projected a distance between the public and the authorities even more than it used to with the physical presence of the barrier. The zone is often said to be almost self-sufficient, staff can be treated in the compound’s hospital and can walk around safely and freely. However, once they leave the zone, they are provided with an armoured car and military escort. Many Iraqis and foreign diplomats had criticised the “Bubble”, which the Iraq officials and the US thought it would be the vision for the New Iraq. The authorities have provided a limited possibility for themselves to meet Iraqi people outside of Green Zone. Traffic and congestion brought by the closed off of the zone was no longer the only concern, but the fact that the Americans and the high power walling themselves in, mentally and physically.
In terms of walls that are used to segregate the Ethnic neighbourhood, it had definitely worked in terms of providing safety and security to the community within. The sense of belonging is no longer the place but the people who share the same beliefs, and that the walls and barriers that bound the area became the manifestation of the beliefs. The feeling of freedom and safety is limited to a few hundred square metres. Main roads in the city are often perceived as a river that sets neighbourhood apart. Only one to two entry points can access the neighbourhood. These points became really intense, as they are usually the spots where suicide bombers of opposite belief attack. To me, the walls that contain the violence are just an illusion of peace. Although it is true that having 12-foot walls make it hard to kill your neighbour, the walls block the communication between the neighbourhood and the conflict still exists.
However, this was not always the case between Sunni and Shia. According to an interview with a local by the Guardian, there was a time when Sunni and Shia serve the army together, students at the school who never knew who was Sunni or who was Shia. He also thinks that this division became worst after the new government and the Coalition put up the wall.
Here we raise an important issue or dilemma so to speak. The wall has certainly reduced the casualties and violence in the city. Yet, it is worsening the relationship of neighbourhood causing fragmented and gated communities that leads to an unresolved time bomb. I personally think that this is a result of the failure or absent of political involvement, where actions overthrew the talking and discussion for a better solution. With the mind of a soldier that came up with the idea of the wall as protection for city planning, perhaps the next phase of planning is how Baghdad could resolve the conflict without a barrier.