On 10-Year Anniversary of Baghdad's Fall, Iraqis Remain Torn

By Arraf, Jane | The Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 2013 | Go to article overview

On 10-Year Anniversary of Baghdad's Fall, Iraqis Remain Torn


Arraf, Jane, The Christian Science Monitor


Ferdos square, where Saddam Hussein's statue stood until toppled by jubilant Iraqis on this day in 2003, was largely deserted today. Elsewhere in the capital, Baghdad residents struggled to get to work on streets choked with traffic and blocked by concrete walls and security checkpoints.

Iraqis have largely shrugged off the 10-year anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, even as they struggle still with the fallout of the US invasion: heightened security measures, ongoing violence, and a country much more divided than it was a decade ago.

In the first two years of post-war Iraq, April 9 was declared a public holiday, but later the day became linked with a US occupation that few wanted to celebrate.

Sections of the statue, erected in 2002 to honor Saddam Hussein's birthday, were sold as souvenirs and scrap metal after it was brought down. But part of his bronze foot, too embedded to pry out of the concrete, remains.

"They toppled about half of it and people were interested in his head," says Hisham Chaloub, one of thousands of Iraqis who gathered around the square 10 years ago.

He says when a group of Kurdish artists came with iron cutters for the rest, he convinced them he had a right to have part of it, and sold the section of the statue for less than $2 to show the contempt he held him in.

"Saddam was living in paradise and we were living in hell," he says.

Divided sentiments

In the north of Iraq, where Kurds were the targets of a campaign by Saddam Hussein that included poison gas and the destruction of thousands of villages, April 9 continues to be a public holiday.

But in Anbar province, tens of thousands of people turned out for mass prayers and a protest in which they burned American flags. In the largely Sunni province, April 9 is widely considered an unlucky day. Some parents even change the official birthdays of their children if born on that day.

The divide between Sunni and Shiite Iraqis that brought the country to civil war has widened again recently, with many Sunni Iraqis saying the Shiite-led government has discriminated against them since Saddam fell.

At Baghdad's National Theatre, not far from Ferdos square, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki attended a play commemorating the April 9 execution of the founder of the Islamic Dawa party two decades before Baghdad fell.

"The Tragedy of al-Sadr" tells the story of Mohammad Baqir al- Sadr, a dissident Shiite cleric who was imprisoned, tortured, and executed, along with his sister Amina, in 1980. Sadr was the father- in-law of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a leading political force in Iraq.

Struggling to move on

Many still blame the United States for the last decade of conflict and hardship. …

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