Iraqi government reopens Baghdad’s Green Zone to traffic

Area housing government offices and embassies has been closed off over security concerns

Iraqi security forces keep watch as motorists enter the Green Zone in Baghdad on Sunday. AP
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Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, home to government offices and western embassies in Iraq's capital, was partially reopened to traffic on Sunday.

The government said some entrances would be kept open from 5am to 7pm to allow cars to pass through the area, but lorries would be banned.

The move is part of a plan to ease traffic congestion in Baghdad that includes the recent removal of some security checkpoints.

“We have been waiting for a long time for the Green Zone to fully become open,” Usama Hassan, who works at the University of Baghdad, told the Associated Press. “This will make our life easier.”

Much of the nearly 10-square-kilometre Green Zone was home to Saddam Hussein’s palaces and offices before the 2003 US-led invasion that removed him from power.

Immediately after the invasion, the Americans cordoned off the area and placed it under tight security to protect the government, politicians, its embassy and troops.

For ordinary Iraqis, only those with special security badges and jobs inside could enter the zone.

Over the years, the zone became a symbol of the country’s inequality, fuelling perception among Iraqis that their government was out of touch.

It was first reopened in 2019 by former prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, shortly after he took office, but was closed off again after widespread pro-reform protests began later that year and demonstrators tried to enter.

Some entrances were reopened by Mustafa Al Kadhimi, who was installed as prime minister in May 2020 after Mr Abdul Mahdi’s resignation, but these were closed again amid heightened political tensions over the formation a new government following the October 2021 general election.

The Green Zone and surrounding areas were the scene of prolonged protests and sit-ins by supporters of the Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, whose bloc won the most seats in the election but was unable to form a government.

At one point, bloody clashes erupted between Mr Al Sadr’s supporters and Shiite militias, leaving a number of dead and wounded.

Updated: January 08, 2023, 1:18 PM