Baghdad gets Sunni-Shi’ite separation wall

US troops are building a three-mile wall to separate one of Baghdad’s Sunni enclaves from surrounding Shi’ite districts, as part of a contentious security plan that has fueled fears of the Iraqi capital’s “Balkanization.” When the barrier is finished, the Sunni community of Adamiya, on the eastern side of the Tigris River, will be completely gated. Traffic control points staffed by Iraqi troops will restrict access, the US military said.

“Shias are coming in and hitting Sunnis, and Sunnis are retaliating across the street,” Cpt. Scott McLearn of the US 407th Brigade Support Battalion, told the AP. The project—nicknamed the “Great Wall of Adamiya”—began on April 10 and is being worked on almost nightly, with cranes swinging huge concrete barriers into place. (The Guardian, April 20)

The US has tried such tactics elsewhere in Iraq, including Samarra and Fallujah.

See our last posts on Iraq’s civil war and sectarian cleansing.

  1. Iraqi fears about security wall reported by news agency
    Ayyad al-Dulaymi in Baghdad writes for Quds Press web news agency, translated by BBC Monitoring on 22 April:

    People of Al-A’zamiyah fear US ‘wall’ around their city, equate it with Israeli wall

    The announcement by US forces about the construction of “the great wall” around the Sunni-majority Al-A’zamiyah city to protect it from the tense sectarian surroundings that are driven by the militias and death squads was not met with a welcome by the district’s population. The belief prevails among them that “the wall” is nothing more than an affirmation of the occupation’s control [over them] and the deepening of the division between the Sunnis and the Shi’is.

    The US forces say that they are undertaking the construction of a five-kilometre long and three-and-a-half metre high wall. According to press sources, military commanders have confirmed that the wall, whose construction is expected to be completed by the end of the current month, will make it difficult for suicide bombers, death squads, and militia fighters from the sectarian parties to attack each other and then return back to their own neighbourhoods. Yet the people of Al-A’zamiyah city do not seem very pleased by the wall, which they believe is similar to the “racist wall of separation” that Israel built around Palestine and isolated its villages from each other.

    Shaykh Sa’d al-Ubaydi, the imam and prayer leader of one of the Al-A’zamiyah mosques, believes: “The wall basically aims at an attempt to control the city, not protect it.” In a conversation with “Quds Press,” he adds: “If the American forces were serious about this, they would have more than one way to protect the city. We have witnessed the attacks that were launched by the militias against the city and they [i.e. the US forces] do not intervene until after the confrontations have occurred and the militias have been repulsed.”

    Al-Ubaydi accused the Americans of fabricating “false justifications” and said: “Throughout the past year they have tried to break the city’s strength. They assisted the militias and helped the sectarian government forces against the city’s people. After all of those attempts failed, today they have come up with the idea of the isolating wall. We are not worried by these areas around us because we know that these areas, even though they have a Shi’i majority, reject us being targeted. But they are helpless by virtue of the militias’ control over them.”

    Shaykh Sa’d emphasized: “The proper step for protecting Al-A’zamiyah and other cities in Baghdad is the inception of a political reform process and the purging of the security services.” He confirmed that the Al-A’zamiyah area is considered to have a Sunni majority and is located next to the Al-Rasafah area of Baghdad. It is one of the areas that witnesses constant operations against the US and [Iraqi] government forces and throughout the last summer, this area was subjected to constant attacks that were launched by the Shi’i militias. The city has also been subjected to constant rocket bombardment ever since the bombing of the Imam Ali al-Hadi shrine in Samarra and the ensuing sectarian attacks and confrontations that spread to Baghdad.

    The city contains the grave of Imam Abu-Hanifah al-Na’man and his mosque is located there, which is considered to be one of the largest mosques of the capital. The city is bounded on the north by the Shi’i-majority city of Al-Kazimiyah. It is bounded on the west by the Tigris River, on the east by the Al-Sha’b and Al-Waziriyah area, and on the south by the Al-Bab al-Mu’azzam area.

    The National Dialogue Front deputy, Mohammad al-Dayini, criticized the wall’s construction. In an exclusive statement to the “Quds Press” correspondent, he said: “This wall targets the areas that are witnessing resistance against the occupation.” He added: “Such US and government measures have targeted broad areas of Baghdad, where the Arab al-Jabbur area in the south of Baghdad was sealed off two years ago. The area was sealed off with barbed wire and concrete barriers and then bombarded. Now that the area has become deserted after its population fled.”

    Al-Dayini was afraid that this wall is the beginning of isolating the Sunni areas from the Shi’i ones in Baghdad. He said: “What happened with the professional way the Al-Sarafiyah Bridge was destroyed came about to complete this plan to isolate the Al-Rasafah area from Al-Karakh. This is the method used by Israel to isolate some of the Palestinian territories when it built the isolating wall between it and the Palestinians. Today it is being applied to the areas of the capital, Baghdad.”

    Despite the heavy US presence in the city, along with the government forces, the residents continuously complain of the abuses against them that are practiced by these forces. They accuse the government forces of being “sectarian.”

    Faruq al-A’zami, a teacher in the city’s high school, says: “We do not trust these forces. How will they guard the new wall and oversee the process of entering and leaving? I believe that the whole wall is tantamount to a US Government attempt to strangle the city of Al-A’zamiyah and untie the hand of sectarian forces to arrest the sons of the city. Likewise, it is the beginning of the deepening of the gap between Al-A’zamiyah and its surroundings,” he said.