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Opening of Baghdad's Green Zone a sign of movement towards 'a prosperous future'

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By Sinead Barry  with Reuters
Opening of Baghdad's Green Zone a sign of movement towards 'a prosperous future'
Copyright  REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily

The fortified area of central Baghdad was largely off-limits to Iraqis since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. After years of restrictions, the area has finally been opened up to a new generation.

The area, in the Karrh district, was once the headquarters of US troops, followed by a succession of Iraqi regimes. For many citizens, it is viewed as a symbol of the conflict that ravaged Baghdad.

Now, the area is populated by foreign embassies, the Iraqi government building and even a public theatre.

The opening of the Green Zone is seen as a "message of reassurance and love" said one spokesperson, who believe the change "means moving from a painful past to a prosperous future."

Opening the area has had a huge impact on the day to day lives of Iraqis. After the zone was officially opened to the public in June, drivers' journeys have been shortened from a couple of hours to under ten minutes.

Reports earlier this year said that life in Iraq's capital is beginning to look like any normal busy city, with blast walls being taken down around 16 years after the US invasion. Families and friends hang out in public and traders sell goods in outdoor markets.

The Ministry of Culture is also hopeful that the recent recognition of Babylon as a UNESCO World Heritage Site will boost industry and tourism in Iraq.

"Babylon catches the eye of the world, and will also attract tourists from other countries, and public and private tourism institutions. said Bassem Zamili, director of information office at the Iraq Ministry of Culture.