Reiligion Issue in Baghdad – Physical barrier between Sunni and Shia

Although normatively questionable, ethnic cleansing may provide one explanation for the decline of interethnic violence. Some scholars believe that the best way to secure peace is to create a partition and physical separation between the ethnic groups. In April 2007, Baghdad security barriers were constructed across the city as part of the Baghdad security plan ‘Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon’. The U.S. army, Brigadier General Joseph Anderson and Colonel Gray Volesky account their population control in July-August 2007 issue in the Article “A Synchronized Approach to population control”. They described the population control measure as “physical activities meant to protect the population; influence operations that engage key leaders and an information operations strategy to build support for our actions; and the promotion, coordination, and facilitation of economic opportunities to reduce the pool of disenfranchised communities that enemy forces can rely on for support.”[1] Security control as one of the tactical population control methods. These solid wall of concrete barriers were constructed and placed strategically all over the Baghdad area. These walls forced the insurgents to engage coalition forces on preconditioned terms or not at all, also reducing the risk of bombing attacks.

Adhamiyah

The fence around Adhamiyah consisted of concrete barriers, was nearly 3 miles long, 12 feet high, and took a month of nights to complete. The wall “is on a fault line of Sunni and Shia, and the idea is to curb some of the self-sustaining violence by controlling who has access to the neighborhoods,” Captain Sanborn said.[2]

Ghazaliya

In April 2007, the U.S. army constructed 2.5 miles of concrete barrier around the Southern Ghazaliya which is an area of a Sunni stronghold. The area was notorious for relentless attacks on American and Iraqi soldiers, and for the execution of civilians who cross the insurgency. Once the wall erect in the site, it works limiting the movement in and out the area with two checkpoints: one on the east and one on the west. The violence then had declined dramatically. The sectarian violence dropped 50% in the weeks it was built. An Iraqi who lives in Ghazaliya and reports for TIME agreed that local violence — from kidnappings and killings to sectarian clashes — has been curtailed by the wall.[3]

The physical partition completely separate the states into two entities. Iraqi and U.S. government insist the 5m high concrete barriers were not aimed at separating Sunnis from Shi’ites in a city that has already grown increasingly divided along sectarian lines. The U.S. military put out a statement attempting to explain its plan to construct what it is calling gated communities in Baghdad, and arguing that some residents had welcomed the idea.

However, this rise an argument that the ethnic segregation within a city serves many similar functions by reducing contact between ethnic groups and establishing autonomous enclaves as well as the economy.  Sunni civilians inside the walled-off area lament the inconvenience and the effect on the local economy, their greatest fear is for the long-term survival of their community. They worry that the wall isn’t about security at all, but is rather an effort to fence them in while Shia militia clear the rest of the neighborhood of its Sunni residents. This suggest that the conflict between Sunni and Shia will not be solved by just adding wall between them. It may not be stable in the long-term and serve as a temporary fix to large-scale bloodshed.

Figure 1. An Iraqi woman walks past a three-mile-long concrete wall around Baghdad’s Sunni enclave of Adhamiyah, April 24, 2007. A similar wall is being constructed in Ghazaliya.

[1] “A Synchronized Approach to Population Control” By Anderson, Joseph; Volesky, Gary   Academic Journal Article, Military Review Vol.87, No.4   July-August, 2007

[2] “U.S erects Baghdad wall to keep sects apart” by Edward Wong and David.S Cloud, The New York Times, April 21, 2007

[3] “Behind the Baghdad Wall” by Charles Crain/ Baghdad, Times, May 09, 2007

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