The City of Walls – The Formation – Space and Politics

Having understood the cause and effect in the previous text about how the wall destroyed the social fabric, I would like to further illustrate how the Iraq politics are the ‘benefactor’ to the divided space in Baghdad and how it holds the power of the spatial dimension in cities.


In 2003, President Bush highlighted his objective of securing freedom and democracy in Iraq after the failure to find any weapon of mass destruction. To many, this objective of democracy building was to legitimise the Coalition Forces occupation in Baghdad and other places in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) of Iraq lead by Paul Bremer began to reconstruct and codify the sectarianism in the very foundation of the new political system of Iraq. As claimed by the CPA, their mission was to “restore conditions of security and stability.” and “create conditions in which the Iraqi people can freely determine their own political future.” (Coalition Provisional Authority, “Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 1506 of the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act 2003,” June 2, 2003, p.2. Available at omb/legislative.reports/.) 


However, it is the political intervention of the State, an outsider, that brought the instability and segregation to Baghdad. The walls that separate neighbourhoods can be read as a sign of sectarian division in Iraq’s government that continue to shape the spatial dimensions of politics on the ground of Baghdad. The walls proposed and executed by the Coalition Forces failed to address the root causes of the segregation, which also run deep in the present political system of Iraq. The codification of CPA in the new Iraq’s political foundation failed to obscure such important aspect, not knowing that the spatial divisions were because of the Iraq government, which empowers their leaders based on their sectarian identities. Having mentioned such phenomenon, the situation does have some reminiscence with European countries like France in the 18th century, where religious power was the priority before the political power.


Although the conflict continues, the power of Iraq government is still valid. Agreements between the parties can be reflected in the actions of the people and insurgents of either side. This also means that the smaller neighbourhoods are still under the management of one higher institution. To me, that is a sign of hope. Putting security aside, a walled neighbourhood often results in limited economic activity as the flow is limited to the businesses. This is also the same for the food and water supply. Moreover, the housing prices within these neighbourhoods increase over the years due to the limited units within the walled area while the population rises. As a result of the factors above, groups of individuals began their mission in removing the wall despite the security issues and the decision made by the political power.


In 2009, with the continuation of protest of some Iraqis in the effort of removing walls and the improved situation seen by many. The government of Iraq announced the wall removal plan. It is part of a bigger scheme to beautify Baghdad scarred by years of conflict. However, this campaign was short lasted, as the sectarian militia resume their attacks against each other. Therefore, the wall remained despite the politicians and medias’ effort.


The question remains: How can we resolve the scar that is left in ‘the city of walls’, Baghdad? In the next text, I shall explore the possibility of using architectural heritage as a solution to bring the people and the city back into a piece.





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