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While Al-Maliki halts the walling-in of Al-Adhamiyah, other districts are to be sealed off, writes Nermeen Al-Mufti
Suicide attacks in Al-Sadriya, Sadr City, and Al-Kirada claimed over 200 lives in Baghdad last week. Meanwhile, the wall being built around Al-Adhamiyah attracted much comment in the local, Arab and Western media. Contradictory official statements regarding the wall offered further proof that Iraq still lacks a cohesive security strategy, despite the much-vaunted Operation Imposing Law. Concrete walls have been coming up in Baghdad since the security crackdown started over two months ago. Baghdad's inhabitants are now concerned that entire neighbourhoods will end up isolated or divided along sectarian lines.
At first, Al-Adhamiyah's inhabitants thought the concrete blocks were like others erected over the past few years. But when the US media started quipping about the Great Wall of Al-Adhamiyah, concern turned into alarm. US army public relations officer Sergeant Mike Pryor said that the wall was a "central component" of a new strategy to break the cycle of sectarian violence. Pryor said that the construction of the 3.5 metre high wall was still underway. Once the wall is completed, Iraqi-manned checkpoints would be the only way for inhabitants to enter or leave Al-Adhamiyah. According to The Wall Street Journal, other walls are being constructed around the dominantly Sunni Al-Dawra district in southern Baghdad.
Al-Adhamiyah's inhabitants, worried by US media reports, decided to organise a protest march against the wall last Monday. The government reacted by declaring a curfew on that day. Speaking in Cairo, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki said that he "objected" to the wall and gave orders to halt its construction. But senior Iraqi officers admit that other walls are being planned for Baghdad. Qasem Al-Mousawi, official spokesman for Operation Imposing Law, said that the "encirclement of some turbulent areas would give security forces a better chance of carrying out their duties. Every area that would be encircled would have one entry point and one exit point," he said. Maryim Al-Rayyes, Maliki's advisor on foreign affairs, said the Iraqi government knew about the wall.