Friday, February 6, 2015

As a curfew is lifted, Baghdad is at long last partying again

The Iraqi government on Thursday abolished the nighttime curfew imposed on Baghdad by U.S. troops in 2003, heralding another small milestone in the city’s recent — and surprising — revival. - Washington Post

...Since Islamic State fighters overran much of the north and west of the country in the summer, a paradoxical sense of calm has taken hold. The initial panic that followed the militant onslaught has abated, and as residents have come to realize that the capital is not at risk of falling, Baghdad has sprung to life.

Nightclubs have proliferated, liquor stores dot the streets, and families pile into cars every evening to eat at one of the many new restaurants or stroll in the glitzy new mall. A glittering riverboat plies the Tigris River every night, serving dinner on one deck and coffee on another. A pink neon palace called the Barbie Clinic pampers women with beauty treatments late into the evening.

For those who can’t afford such venues, there are impromptu parties along the bridges and banks of the Tigris, where young men gather with cans of beer to talk, socialize and, after the drink has taken effect, dance in the streets....

Some say the Islamic State’s capacity to wage bombing campaigns has been eroded by the campaign to halt their advance.

Others credit the replacement of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki by Abadi, whose more relaxed and less Islamist style of governance has lifted some of the tensions....

The Shiite militias and government forces­ that preyed on citizens’ lives, blowing up liquor stores, shutting down clubs and assassinating rivals, are preoccupied on the front lines with the Islamic State. Many Iraqis fret about what will happen if they return to the capital in force.

But for now, “the militias are too busy fighting Daesh to bother us,” said liquor store owner Khaled Haidar, 45, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “The war is not in Baghdad now.” KEEP READING