Iraqis disagree about how to respond to bombings

The government had plans to dismantle Baghdad's concrete blast walls in the next 40 days, but some residents now want them to stay.

A day after Baghdad's worst bombings since February 2008, shops that normally would have been packed with Iraqis buying food for the frenzy of Ramadan cooking that many engage in after breaking the day's fast had only scattered buyers. Residents who ventured out had conflicting views about whether the government should pursue plans to take down the remaining blast walls around the capital.

"Security was fine before yesterday but today a lot of people were afraid to go out in the street," said Ban Mahmud, her fashionable sunglasses perched on top of her head scarf as she shopped for children's clothes in the Baya district. A roadside bomb on the highway near the neighborhood injured two people Wednesday. It was the truck bomb attacks on two of Iraq's most fortified ministries, though, that have made Iraqis apprehensive about the coming months.

"This attack wasn't because of Ramadan, it was about the elections," she said, referring to the perception that political parties and insurgents have combined to create as much damage as possible ahead of national elections in January.

She said the government should keep the concrete walls and the check points on major roads that they had promised to take down in the next 40 days.

Baya itself is now ringed by a concrete wall – a legacy of the sectarian fighting that tore Iraqi neighborhoods apart two years ago. Shiites driven out of other neighborhoods settled here – some from adjacent Sadiyah, which was also ringed by concrete walls after mostly Sunnis remained. Both neighborhoods are now more mixed, but the walls and the checkpoints into them remain.

At the entrance to Baya, Sgt. Ali Adnan Saddam of the Iraqi Army watched for suspicious cars driving into the neighborhood. The searches sometimes slow traffic to a crawl but he says without them, gangs would roam the streets. "We need the checkpoints because it's still not completely safe," he explained.

The main shopping thoroughfare, 20th Street, was lined with sidewalk stalls and shops selling clothing from China and Turkey; plastic ware from Iran; and at a grocery store owned by Adnan Ali Abdul Majeed, sacks of rice, lentils, and spices.

The fan that turns only when the electricity is on for two hours a day made a half-hearted effort to move the 115 degree F. air as Mr. Abdul Majeed explained why he disagreed with some of his neighbors and felt the government should remove the barriers.

"In my opinion it's a brave and good step for the government," he said. "If someone really wants to attack us they will do it whether there is a concrete wall or not."

Awadh al-Taee contributed to this report.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.