This Week: 10 Years Since Saddam Statue Pulled Down


Traffic circulates around Firdous Square in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. But the scene here 10 years ago was one of chaos and jubilation.

On April 9 2003, a giant statue of Iraq's former President Saddam Hussein was pulled down, symbolizing an end to the dictator's rule.

Now, ten years later only a bronze foot with twisted metal remains on the pedestal.

Iraqis recalling the moment the statue fell, say they wish more would be done to develop the area.

Hameed al-Kifaei, the former spokesman for the Iraqi Governing Council says he'd like to see the square transformed into a forum where people can express themselves freely, similar to London's Speakers Corner, where people talk in public discussing different issues.

"The existence of the remaining parts of the statue does not change anything because the regime has been toppled and it will never return and there is progress of freedoms and they will progress further even if they staggered. I wish that this square will be turned into a platform for freedom of expression and opinions. I wish that anyone who wants to express his opinion can come to Firdous square to express his opinion. I hope it will be turned into something similar to London's Hyde Park,'' said Al-Hejwel.

The site was once home to a monument dedicated the Unknown Soldier, it was built in 1959.

But under Hussein's rule it was demolished in 1981 and a tribute to the former Iraqi leader was built instead.

For many Iraqis after the statue was toppled a decade ago, they hoped another statue would have been built in its place. But so far, nothing has replaced it.

"Firdous Square has a very sad history. When Saddam Hussein came to power, he demolished the Unknown Soldier monument and put in its place a statue for himself. After the change in 2003, I hoped to see a statue that embodies Iraq's tragedy and all the dictators who ruled and oppressed Iraq and the Iraqi people," said art critic, Sameer Al-Hejwel.

"Firdous Square is present not only in the Iraqi people's memory, but also in the memory of people of the world. We, who are concerned with the cultural issue have to give a priority to Firdous Square and turn it into an important edifice to be an indicative of the past ten years and years to come," added artist Mahmoud Shubbar.

In 2003, the decision by the U.S. and a few of its main allies to invade Iraq and depose its long-time dictator Saddam Hussein was hugely controversial. After months of rhetoric and international debate, President George W Bush issued a 48-hour ultimatum on March 17 for Saddam and his two sons to leave the country and spare it from military attack. Two days later, the bombing campaign dubbed 'shock and awe' began in full force.

While Saddam's forces put up stiff resistance to invading soldiers at the southern port of Umm Qasr and Nassiriya, the expected drawn-out battle for Baghdad between Saddam's Revolutionary Guards and invading forces never materialized.

U.S. tanks had faced relatively little resistance on the outskirts of the capital and U.S. tanks rolled into the center of the capital on April 9 as the Baath Party's stranglehold on the country disintegrated and statues of Saddam began to topple.

For many Iraqis that day in their history is etched in their minds. But the crumbling statue also stands as a reminder to them of their past and uncertain future.

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