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The Walls of Baghdad

<p>Walls and checkpoints intended to bolster security in Baghdad have made cross-town journeys almost impossible and turned the city into a collection of ghettos that are reinforcing sectarian divisions.</p>
September 11, 2007, 9am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"A city divided by high concrete walls, barbed wire and checkpoints; armoured columns moving through deserted evening streets lit by the glow of searchlights and emptied by official curfew and fear. This is Baghdad, seven months into the surge, and George Bush's last throw of the dice in Iraq."

"On the surface, the Iraqi capital is less overtly violent than it used to be. But for many Iraqis, the Americans have turned their land into a prison. The barriers, which have turned Baghdad into a series of ghettos, are meant to keep the bombers out, but they also keep residents penned in. People may feel safer inside their neighbourhoods, but are more wary of venturing outside them. A short journey across the city can take hours with roads blocked off and numerous checkpoints, discouraging people from visiting relations and friends and reinforcing the sense of isolation."

"Commerce, which the Americans are so keen to re-establish, now requires traders to hire different drivers for different areas, although one form of business which thrives is the levying of unofficial "taxes" by armed groups operating with little or no interference from the security forces."

"The walls, being put up by American contractors at a record speed, are formalising the break up of Baghdad. The city where Sunni, Shia and Christians once lived in comparative social amity – although not the same access to political power – is now so divided along sectarian lines that it may be impossible ever to reunify it."

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Published on Monday, September 10, 2007 in The Independent (UK)
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