Sunnis Protest Baghdad’s "Prison Wall"



Residents of a Sunni enclave of Baghdad demonstrated and shouted slogans yesterday against a newly built wall sealing off their neighborhood from the rest of the city.

About 2,000 people marched through al-Adhamiyah in east Baghdad carrying banners saying that their district was being turned into “a big prison”.

There was confusion as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said that the building of the wall must stop while the spokesman for the US-led security crackdown asserted that “construction of security barriers across Baghdad will continue without exception”.

Inside al-Adhamiyah, the three-mile long wall under construction around the area was being compared with the walls built by Israel to surround and control Palestinian towns and villages on the West Bank.

“Adhamiyah will be isolated from all other areas,” said one man in a cafe in the district. “We’ll be like the Palestinians and we will not accept that.”
The US military in Baghdad says it is constructing the 12ft high walls to create so-called “gated communities” in five different districts in Baghdad to protect them from sectarian attack.

But the Sunni see the walls as being primarily directed against insurgents, just as the French army walled off the Casbah in Algiers during the Algerian war in the 1950s and early 1960s to prevent anti-French fighters moving through the city. Sunnis in Baghdad are worried that the soldiers or police at the entrances to sealed off districts will be Shia soldiers and police who may detain anybody.

In many cases in the past, young men of military age have been routinely detained, tortured and their bodies found later. In al-Khadra district in west Baghdad one resident told The Independent: “My area is blocked off completely by heaps of dirt and rubbish and there is only one way in and out for vehicles. This is controlled by the security forces but nobody knows who they really are.”

The newly appointed American ambassador, Ryan Crocker, said the US military “would respect” the wishes of the Iraqi government after Mr Maliki said construction of the wall must halt.

But an Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier Gen eral Qassim al-Moussawi, said the Prime Minister was reacting to exaggerated accounts of what was happening. “We expected this reaction by some weak-minded people,” he said. “The aim of these barriers is to protect civilians and guarantee that security forces are in control and prevent terrorists from moving between areas.”

The US seems to have underestimated the hostility towards the new walls.
“There are other methods to protect neighborhoods,” said Mr Maliki during a press conference in Cairo. “This wall reminds us of other walls that we reject, so I’ve ordered it to stop.” The walls he was referring to were undoubtedly those dividing Jerusalem and the West Bank, which often feature on Arabic television.

There seems little doubt that Sunnis in districts of Baghdad being isolated by the walls do not see them as designed for their own protection. Banners carried by demonstrators yesterday proclaimed, “Separation is a big prison for al-Adhamiyah citizens” and “Children in al-Adhamiyah want a Baghdad without walls”.

People in al-Adhamiyah say they fear that, contrary to US and Iraqi army expectations, their district will become a fortress ruled by al-Qa’ida in Iraq. Extreme Sunni groups are allegedly already killing men who wear shorts or smoke or listen to music in public. A wall is also useless in preventing rockets or mortars being fired into the area.

Meanwhile in northern Iraq gunmen ordered 23 members of the ancient Yazidi sect off a bus, lined them up against a wall and shot them.

The killings were the latest development in a bloody dispute that began several months ago when a Yazidi woman converted to Islam and ran off with a man. She was later stoned to death by her disapproving relatives. The Yazidis, who number some 325,000, speak Kurdish and live east and west of Mosul.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.


Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving