Iraqi children watch the grand opening ceremonies of the Jameat Market in Basra. The children were released from school early to attend the community-building event. (Royal Navy photo by Leading Airman Jannine B. Hartmann)
BASRA, Iraq (May 7, 2008) – Citizens of Basra, the third-largest city in Iraq, celebrated the opening yesterday of a central market that demonstrated a return of peace and prosperity to an area that until recently was a stronghold of Shia militias.
Schools closed early as families from the Jameat district gathered with local dignitaries, investors and media to watch the ceremonial opening of the Jameat Market, Multinational Corps Iraq officials reported.
"I am pleased to open the Jameat Market, which is an excellent example of the many projects contributing to the rebuilding of Iraq," said Nigel Haywood, the British consular general in southern Iraq. "This project will help establish prosperity in Basra."
The market was built on the site where the Jameat police station was destroyed Dec. 25, 2006. The construction of the market was paid for by coalition reconstruction funds, in conjunction with the provincial council. Local Iraqis built the market, which was completed on March 23 at a total cost of about $1 million, officials said.
Operation Charge of the Knights, a citizens group that works to restore peace and security to Basra, was credited with opening the market. The market is expected to open for business within 30 days, and vendors already have rented many stalls, officials said.
Traditionally, markets are a community focal point in Iraqi culture, and officials are considering proposals for similar markets in other areas of Basra.
In other signs of progress in the area, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday completed renovations on a vocational technical center in the Zubair district of Basra province, coalition officials said. The $1.5 million project restored two facilities that included at least 24 workshops for vocational training.
“Providing better educational opportunities will lead to better job opportunities,” said Army Lt. Col. Maura Gillen, a Multi-National Force - Iraq spokeswoman. “Vocational training is an investment in the economy, an investment in the development of a secure and prosperous Iraq.”
Also Tuesday, economic progress was seen in Baghdad when coalition forces awarded a small-business grant to boost fish farms in the area.
Sheikh Jaffar of Khidr accepted the grant on behalf of a local fish farm association to buy two aerators for facilities in the Iskandariyah area, about 30 miles south of Baghdad. The aerators will be used in a holding pond, where 3 million young fish, or fingerlings, are scheduled for delivery later this month, officials said. Aerators provide oxygen to the pond to increase the survivability rate of the fingerlings, they explained.
Provincial reconstruction team representatives say it’s important for economic stimulus projects to be driven by Iraqis.
"It’s important to help the Iraqis stimulate their own economy so they can have financial resources available to develop their own ideas and what they view as their own economic needs in their region," said Army Maj. William Kerr of the 415th Civil Affairs unit attached to the 3rd Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team