Iraqis credit govt deal for peaceful holiday

Iraqis who spent a peaceful Eid Al Adha religious holiday this week credited the lull in violence on a political deal to form a new government and end an eight-month deadlock.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Sat 20 Nov 2010, 9:41 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:16 AM

In a holiday tradition, families on Saturday dressed in their finest clothes crowded restaurants and public places in Baghdad, considered the world’s most dangerous city for many years following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Streets in the capital rang out with loud music, honking car horns and fireworks, and city parks were jammed.

There were no major attacks in Baghdad during the festival, which began on Tuesday for Sunni Muslims and ended on Saturday for most Shia s. But roadside bombs and occasional attacks by gunmen were reported around the country during the week.

The festivities were in sharp contrast to the days before the political pact, under which Iraq’s prime minister, president and speaker of parliament were selected.

Tensions before the holiday ran high following assaults and bombings on Christians and in Shia neighbourhoods, and amid daily mortar and rocket attacks on Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone of government offices and embassies.

‘I feel more secure in this Eid than the previous one. There is more movement of people. They are feeling more peaceful. No explosions,’ said Ali Ahmed, 40, who took his three children to a Baghdad restaurant with a small children’s playground.

‘This has a direct relation to the session of parliament which took place before Eid,’ he said.

A pact on top government posts reached on Nov. 10 brought together Shia s, Sunnis and Kurds, and could help prevent a slide back into the sectarian bloodshed that raged after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion if minority Sunnis feel empowered.


Overall violence has fallen sharply since the height of sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007, but killings and bombings still occur daily, followed every few weeks by a major, devastating assault by insurgents in which dozens are killed.

‘The previous period was so tense, a lot of terrorist attacks and explosions, they created fear and tension in the street,’ said Ahmed as he helped his 4-year-old daughter climb a playground slide.

‘But the marvellous coincidence is the parliament session which came before Eid,’ he said. ‘It has had a positive effect.’

Politicians squabbled over posts in a new government for eight months following an inconclusive election. Insurgents sought to exploit the political vacuum through attacks.

Fifty-two hostages and police were killed on Oct. 31 in a raid on Our Lady of Salvation cathedral in Baghdad. That attack was followed two days later by explosions across mainly Shia areas of the city in which at least 63 people died.

Officials say Iraq’s insurgency has been weakened by the killing of many of its leaders this year but remains lethal.

The holiday did not ease complaints about checkpoints that dot Baghdad, contributing to severe traffic jams. But some residents said the dearth of attacks was a welcome relief.

‘The government formation has had an effect on security,’ Baghdad resident Iftikhar Mutlaq said. ‘I hope they keep up their efforts and choose the ministers.’

‘What is really annoying in Baghdad is the huge number of checkpoints, more than an hour and a half to move from one district to another,’ said Mutlaq, 60, who was sitting in a car waiting for her husband to bring food from a restaurant.

Um Hussein, who sat with her husband and one-year-old son on a swing at the Chef City restaurant in Baghdad’s Karrada district, said they would go to an artificial lake after lunch.

‘We decided not to come back home till late. The politicians’ agreement made us happy,’ Hussein said. ‘We hid following the explosions that took place at the church, but the agreement encouraged us to go out.’

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