As Security Improves Life Returns to Normal in Iraq

Iraqis enjoy a ride at Amusement City in eastern Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007 at the start of the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha. Security will be increased at Baghdad’s mosques and other holy sites ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday that begins Wednesday, an Iraqi official said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Holiday Greetings- Iraqi-American Haider Ajina sends the latest good news from Iraq for this Friday. This is from Voices of Iraq Thursday , December 20, 2007:

Concrete, barbed wire barriers removed off Diwaniya’s streets

Diwaniya, Dec 20, (VOI) – Diwaniya’s municipalities department removed all the concrete barricades, watchtowers and barbed wire barriers off two main streets in the centre of the province, an official source said on Thursday.

“Under instructions from Diwaniya Governor Hamid al-Khudari, the municipalities department removed all concrete barricades and watchtowers off the streets where the old provincial council building and the police department are located,” the head of the department, Jawad Kadhem Gharkan, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq.

The step aims to end traffic jams and ease the flow of traffic, especially after the recent improvement in the security situation and the move of local authorities to a new building, al-Khudari indicated.

Speaking to VOI, Diwaniya Mayor said that order returned to the province following the wide-scale security operation Lion’s Leap, conducted by Iraqi police and army personnel more than a month ago. The Shiite province of Diwaniya lies 180 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Here is news from Azzaman, December 20, 2007


Flyovers (Overpasses) for Amara

The Ministry of Works and Municipalities has allocated five billion Iraqi dinars ($4 million) for the construction of five flyovers (Overpasses) in Amara, the capital of the southern Province of Missan. “The project is part of the 2008 budget earmarked for the reconstruction of the province,” said Governor Mohammed Saleh. Work on the flyovers (Overpasses) will start early 2008 and is expected to be completed in 18 months, the governor said.

The flyovers (Overpasses) are being constructed to ease traffic jams in Amara where the number of vehicles has doubled since the 2003 U.S. invasion. There are now more than 50,000 vehicles in Amara compared with 25,000 prior to 2003.

Iraqi families visit Amusement City in eastern Baghdad, Iraq on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007 at the start of the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha. (AP)

And, here is news from Karbala – Voices of Iraq Dec 19 2007

Absented life aspects back to Karbala

Karbala, Dec 19, (VOI)-In Jumhouri street downtown Karbala , a huge number of young men swarmed around Dhurgham when he put his wide wooden stack used for selling CDs of Iraqi singers and blockbusters of Arab and foreign films.

“Freedom is much better and youth are coming to this place buying CDs that have been absent in the city for three years out of fear”, Dhurgham (27 years) told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The sense of fear Dhurgham meant was the sense that dominated not only Karbala but several Iraqi provinces following the fall of the former regime in 2003. Unknown groups attacked CD shops and barbers. Hairdressing, dancing and even singing in wedding ceremonies disappeared on the ground they contained elements violating the code of religion and Islamic Sharia. Many shop owners were threatened or killed.

“I was unable to keep on my job after a militant group threatened me to leave the place or get tortured”, Dhurgham added.

His fellow Hussein, standing next to Dhurgham, said “I was beaten severely by unknown group which claimed that what I was buying was forbidden (haram)”.

”They broke up my CDs and disperse them apart, making me lose more than one million Iraqi dinars (830 us dollars) at that time”, he added.

He pointed out “it was two years ago, yet I come to my old job because it is a lucrative one and many young men want to buy CDs”.

Hussein attributed the change to the extensive security measure imposed following the unrest that erupted in Karbala four months ago and security forces clamped down on militiamen.

“Everything has changed since the mid-Shaaban events as security is getting better and we sell with full freedom,” Hussein said.

Four months ago, armed clashes broke out between gunmen and local police forces in Karbala at a time when thousands of worshippers from all over Iraq converged on the city for the mid-Shaaban visit or al-Ziyara al-Shaabaniya. Leaving hundreds of people killed or wounded, the bloody incidents were followed by a wave of organized assassinations that targeted religious and political figures and an escalation in arrests by security forces.

He added” you see the posters of singers came back hung against the shops facades, hoping that those who stand against people in their jobs realize that life can not be formed by one will or turn to one direction”.

Karbala has not witnessed wedding convoys out of militant groups’ threats. Woman’s barber shops were “empty of women wishing to have hair styled or dyed”, according to the account of barber’s shop owner who requested anonymity.

“Two years ago, I found a flyer stuck to my shop calling me to stop decorating brides or my shop would be blown up”, she added.

She maintained “I did not know who did this, I am quite sure it was an illegal militant group that was not belonging to any party”.

To make sure of the case, the barber sent her brother to “clerics’ advice offices and found there was no fatwa that forbid women be decorated”, the barber pointed out.

Yet she “left the job and worked in a different one without forgetting the fear of death threats” she regretted.

The barber referred to the change now and that everything has restored its normal condition.

“My salon is witnessing more than five brides on Mondays and Thursdays” she said, “even the wedding convoys take off from the salon as it was the situation three years ago”.

Wedding convoys came back again to the city streets, especially after the gradual downtrend of armed demonstrations and the spread of security forces, which have been absent from the daily scene, or showing low profile for fear of alerting those who were imposing a ban on celebration ceremonies.

Haider Ajina comments:

As the improvement of security throughout southern and western Iraq
continues, life is returning to normal. Shops are staying open longer, and traffic is increasing, both pedestrian and vehicular. Improvement in security is allowing the focus to spread to improving and developing infra structure and improving quality of life of Iraqis. The removal of barricades and check points is a show of that. Improvement in electricity supply in all of Iraq is very evident. The supply of water and garbage pickup is also improving substantially. Street and sidewalk beatification is being implemented. The more peaceful provinces can focus their battle against extremism as is the case in Karbala. The doubling of vehicle in Amara, in 4 years, is evidence of an improved economy and increased confidence in the future. When do people go out and buy cars? They do this when they can afford them, feel confident in their financial situation, feel confident in their employment and feel confident and hopeful about their future. This is why Auto sales in general are a leading indicator for the economy. With Basra now in the hands of the Iraqis, the only major provincial city left is Mosul and Nenewa province. This is the city were Sadam’s sons were caught. All this has been achieved thanks to our men and women serving in Iraq and the Iraqis grasping this opportunity.

Haider Ajina

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