Life in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, now normal

Life in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, now normal

As blast walls come down, Baghdad life edges towards normality

ByMaher Nazeh

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – With the blast walls finally gone, some 16 years after the U.S.-led invasion, life in the Iraqi capital Baghdad is starting to look like any normal bustling city.

A general view of cars at the Al-Shurja Market in Baghdad, Iraq April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

Families and friends hang out in cafes and shopping malls, people hold birthday parties in public and traders ply their wares from roadside stalls.

Saif Ahmed, an owner of a cafe in the upscale district of Zayyona in eastern Baghdad, said the removal of miles of the concrete walls from the streets had encouraged families to visit malls and cafes and stay until late into the night.

“Baghdad is looking different now, for the better. Families are staying until after midnight in markets, restaurants and cafes. I feel so happy to see Baghdad life is returning to normal,” he said.

The walls, put up a year after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, served to protect the city from years of sectarian civil war and the fight against Islamic State militants. Iraq declared victory over the group in late 2017.

Senior military commanders say there have been no attacks by insurgents for more than a year.


“Baghdad is enjoying considerable security. We managed to keep terrorists away from the capital,” said Lieutenant General Jaleel al-Rubaie, commander of the Baghdad Operations Command.

Soon after he came to power late last year, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ordered the removal of the towering walls to signal the improvement in security – letting light back into long obscured parts of the city.

For Hutham al-Ansary, who lost her husband in the violence in 2004, the feeling that Baghdad is finally safe brings tears of happiness.

“Baghdad is beautiful, despite all tragedies, with this improved security and peace. I still have a bitter feeling about the past but today is better than yesterday,” said Ansary, a women’s rights activist, with her two daughters at one of Baghdad’s parks.

Many people are now more comfortable about spending time outdoors.

“I’m happy that finally I can celebrate my son’s birthday in a public garden, something we were not brave enough to do fearing bombs,” Sally Adnan, a Health Ministry employee, said at Abu Nawas Gardens by the Tigris river.


“Life in Baghdad is more interesting now,” said Adnan, who was wounded in a car bomb in 2008.

“The wounds on my face are part of Iraq’s history. I’m keeping them to show my sons when they grow up,” she said.

Reporting by Maher Nazeh; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Alison Williams

Reuters Statndards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Kurdistan is a nation that historically never made it

Kurdistan is a nation that historically never made it

Will Kurdistan make it this time?

Kurdistan is a nation that historically never made it to be a fully-fledged state. The reasons are many and varied. Per The Kurdish Project, the contiguous Kurdish regions of IranIraqTurkey, and Syria sit in the north central area of the Middle East. Over the millennia, numerous ethnicities have migrated, settled or natively inhabited the area including Turks, Persians, Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Chechens, Azeris and others. To get a feel of how things are locally appreciated, we reproduce an article of ASHRQ AL-AWSAT written by Salman Al-dossary , former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, on a real Kurdish Project. Landlocked and spread over large portions of the above-named countries, it will obviously have an uphill development plan.
Meanwhile,  the recently held referendum according to many observers, has not helped the cause, on the contrary, it appears that it is only another and peculiar way of the current president to consolidate his hold on the country.

Before the Spark Breaks Out in Kurdistan

Kurdish people protest outside the Erbil International Airport in Erbil

On September 25, the region woke up on a decisive moment with 92.7 percent of Kurdish people voting for independence from Iraq. Then events accelerated and the Iraqi government announced, in coordination with Ankara and Tehran, its willingness to restore control over four cross-borders (two with Turkey and two with Iran) and to impose an air-embargo on flights from and to Iraqi Kurdistan with scenarios of likely armed conflicts in disputed regions especially the oil-rich Kirkuk.

Two days before the referendum, the Iraqi Army advanced to launch an offensive on ISIS strongholds in Hawija – the scene foresees a spark of military confrontation that would break out anytime.

True that the local government in Kurdistan confronted the international community with its insistence to carry out the referendum, but the tension in Iraq and the region wasn’t caused only by it. Announcing the referendum is not something new, its date has been previously set and the Kurds reiterated several times their determination to separate from Iraq.

Kurds attribute this demand to years of abuse that have made them realize that it is time to establish their own state. Where was this international rejection before? (Especially that of the US, European Union, Turkey and Iran) Back then, none of them attempted to reform ties between Kurds and the central state, especially that Kurdistan government has been accusing the central government in Baghdad for years of depriving the Kurds from fair shares in power and resources.

Despite all that, the dispute was neglected and this pushed Kurds to insist on the referendum, whose outcome came as expected. This gives Iraqi Kurdistan a strong card to use in upcoming negotiations with the central government on natural resources as well as reinforcement of its political position as a self-ruled region.

The severe escalation by the Iraqi central government, Iran and Turkey with the unprecedented siege and threats of starving the Kurds, disregard the fact that Kurds announced earlier that the referendum is not an announcement of independence — it only acknowledges the necessity to move to the next step and to negotiate with Iraq and neighboring states in addition to the international community the conditions of separation, if it happened.

Confederation with enhanced conditions and possibly a new version of the current self-ruling which means that Kurds moved on with the referendum after they lost hope in any of the main powers to understand the situation. They moved on with a referendum that enhances their condition and urges European countries to focus on reforming ties between Kurds and the central government.

It should be mentioned that it is difficult for Kurdistan dream of independence to become true amidst this regional and international rejection. Geographically, the anticipated Kurdish state has no navy border and is surrounded by states that reject its independence.

Economically, Kurdistan government economy depends on oil transported via pipes that pass through Turkey or is exported via the central government. Iraqi Kurdistan exports around 550,000 bpd – out of daily produced 600,000 bpd – via a pipe in Turkish Jihan’s Port overseeing the Mediterranean Sea. All these basic-income sources would be hindered if the tension remains. How would Erbil establish a state without the ability to export its oil?

With the referendum card in its hand, the government of Kurdistan has a strong negotiation card that permits it to move on with a confederation that maintains its status, doesn’t marginalize its people -as it is the case now- and ensures that Iraq remains united as everyone wishes.

This would contribute to finding solutions for pending topics, including the disputed regions between Erbil and Baghdad based on the Iraqi constitution and providing joint market and currency as Kurdistan maintains its independent cultural, economic, political and foreign policies.

Iraq set to get back to its pre-war Market Share

Iraq set to get back to its pre-war Market Share

A piece of information as reported by Reuters yesterday Saturday August 27, 2016 regarding an OPEC member oil producer of importance.  That is Iraq set to get back to its pre-war Market Share.  Its sight is on expanding its production and would not hear of reducing it at the forthcoming September meeting of Algiers.   

A general view shows a lake of oil at Al-Sheiba oil refinery in the southern Iraq city of Basra, in this January 26, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/Files

A general view shows a lake of oil at Al-Sheiba oil refinery in the southern Iraq city of Basra, in this January 26, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/Files

Iraq set on expanding oil output to gain market share

Flames emerge from a pipeline at the oil fields in Basra, southeast of Baghdad. (Image: Reuters)

Iraq is willing to play an active role within OPEC to support oil prices but will not sacrifice its goal of expanding market share and will continue to ramp up output, its oil minister said on Saturday.

Jabar Ali al-Luaibi, on a visit to the southern oil city of Basra, renewed calls for local and international oil companies in Iraq to increase production and announced plans to double crude storage capacity at the country’s southern export terminals to 24 million barrels in the “coming years” from 12 million barrels currently.

“The ministry has new ambitious plans to develop the oil sector,” he told reporters. “Among them, the most important is to increase crude output to reach a level that suits Iraq’s needs; we don’t want to specify a ceiling for future production like in the past.”

Luaibi, who became oil minister this month, said Iraq wants to “strengthen OPEC’s role in achieving a balance in the oil market,” but his comments on continuing to increase output suggested it was not looking to take part in a possible agreement to freeze output.

“Iraq is seeking to play an active role in order to support oil prices while preserving a share that is proportionate to its reserves,” Luaibi said.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are due to meet informally in Algeria next month on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum (IEF). Russia is also expected to attend the IEF.

Iraq’s production currently stands at around 4.6 to 4.7 million barrels per day for the whole country, including the self-rule Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Luaibi said.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday said the country has not yet reached its full oil market share, suggesting his government is not willing to restrain crude output.

OPEC’s second-largest producer, trailing Saudi Arabia, Iraq depends on oil sales for 95 percent of its public spending. Its economy is reeling under the double impact of low oil prices and the rising cost of the war on Islamic State militants.

The government has invited international oil companies to express interest in the country’s plan to expand four of its refineries, oil ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said separately on Saturday.

The government would consider investment offers on a build-own-operate or build-operate-transfer basis for the refineries, which are located in Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, and the southern regions of Samawa, Kut and Basra, the spokesman said.

Sources in OPEC and the oil industry this week told Reuters that Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, was sending positive signals that it may support joint action to prop up the oil market.

Tehran refused to join an attempt in April to freeze output at January levels, scuppering those talks because Saudi Arabia said it wanted all producers to join the initiative

By Reuters

 

Touching story about an all-girl school

Touching story about an all-girl school

The Dash of Zaha Hadid

This week on one of the national news TV stations, I saw a touching story about an all-girl school in Jordan which was already overcrowded.  When all the Syrian refugee girls started showing up, the principal of the school declared that the refugee girls could attend only if they brought their own chairs.  Of which they did.   It did not take long for the girls to feel welcomed and have a sense of belonging.  The atmosphere was prime for learning and making friends.  The following is a touching story about an all-girl school where Zaha Hadid started her life.

Desperately wanting to go to school is not the normal plea of most British, American and Canadian children.  But in the Middle East where oppression is the norm, I can imagine that girls must hunger and thirst for a sense of significance.  I venture to say, their sense of significance is derived by either being supported by their father or marrying well.  Given the chance, they cherish any opportunity for an education…it’s their ticket to a dream-life of independence.

Zaha Hadid was born to a wealthy Muslim family on 31 October 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq. . .

This article is available to members of MENA-Forum only.