Baghdad celebrates end of 12 years of curfews

Baghdad celebrates end of 12 years of curfews
Residents of Iraq's capital revelled in the cancellation of its night curfew. However, a string of explosions killed dozens only hours earlier.
3 min read
08 February, 2015
Flag waving and horn honking were the order of the night [Getty]
Residents of Baghdad took to the streets in their thousands to honk horns, pull wheel-spins and stage parties as they celebrated the end of a night-time curfew that had lasted for more than a decade.

"Long live Iraq!" one young man shouted while hanging out the window of a car early on Sunday morning.

It was the first night in years that Baghdad residents could stay out as late as they wished, after Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi ordered an end to the long-running curfew that had most recently lasted from midnight to 5am.

The restrictions were introduced in the wake of the 2003 US invasion.

Pictures on social media showed residents of Baghdad enjoying scenes they had been denied for over a decade.

And while most residents stayed at home, some chose to mark the occasion in a more lively fashion.

Young men made up the majority of the revellers, many of them driving US muscle cars or large motorbikes, but some families also turned out to celebrate by driving when they previously could not.

Dozens of drivers parked in a long line on one side of Jadriyah bridge, with some young men dancing to music blaring from speakers in their cars.

In a cafe in Karrada Dakhil, central Baghdad, the head of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, Karim Wasfi, treated those around him to renditions on his cello.

The doyen of Baghdad's music scene, who completed his cello studies under the renowned Hungarian Janos Starker, previously described the orchestra as an elevated alternative to the "barbarism everywhere".

"Before, we felt like we were in prison," said Faez Adbulillah Ahmed, the owner of the cafe. "We were restricted."

"We would have to leave by 11.30pm... to reach the house by midnight," he said. Now, "we will be free to stay".

An official from the Prime Minister's office said the decision to end the curfew was made despite the country being in "a state of war".

Ongoing conflict

The Islamic State group last year made advances around Baghdad, raising fears that the group could bring the battle into the heart of the city.

     Now, thank God, we are going out with the kids enjoying ourselves

In recent months however the group has lost key strategic areas around the capital in the face of coalition led airstrikes, as well as increased arms and training for Iraqi forces and Shia militias.

Much of the central, west and north areas of the country are still under IS control.

The curfew had done little to control bomb attacks in the city, which were often carried out at day time or early in the evening and in busy locations.

The hours the curfew have varied over the years and it has previously been cancelled but later reinstated.

Bombings killed at least 32 people and wounded more than 70 in the capital on Saturday, just hours before the curfew ended.

At least one of Saturday's bombings was claimed by IS, according to the Site Intelligence Group. But now, Iraqis are at least able to move more freely.

Walid al-Tayyib walked down Karrada Dakhil after midnight with his young nephew, which he could not have done just a night before.

"What do we feel today? We feel all the difference," he said. "Now, thank God, we are going out with the kids enjoying ourselves."