March 25, 2009 —
Children jump onto a flat-bed truck and celebrate as a crane removes several concrete barriers from a marketplace in Samarra, Iraq, March 23.
FOB BRASSFIELD-MORA (March 26, 2009) — Scores of Samarra citizens joined provincial and community leaders March 23 as concrete barriers were removed during a ceremony reminiscent of the opening of the Berlin wall nearly 20 years ago.
The concrete barriers, commonly known as T-walls, surround several government and military buildings throughout Samarra to provide a layer of protection against insurgent attacks. While T-walls have become a familiar site in Iraq, they are a sign of more dangerous times, and most citizens agree it’s time for them to go.
Samarra’s mayor, Mahmood Khalaf Ahmed, joined Lt. Col. Sam Whitehurst, commander, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, to witness the first step in a city-wide barrier removal project.
“Samarra has become very peaceful,” said Omar Khaled, a local produce shop owner. “The barriers remind us of bad times, but it is time to look toward the future and enjoy our peace. It is time to reopen Samarra.”
To the sound of cheering and clapping, a young Iraqi man dressed in sweatpants and sandals strapped hooked chains onto the lifting points of the barriers. Ten individual barriers were lifted, removed and placed on a flatbed truck.
Both Ahmed and Whitehurst spoke with Iraqi media, echoing Khaled’s sentiment.“The people of Samarra have a sense of security now,” said Ahmed, “a security they have not known in many years.”
“Many exciting events have transpired in Samarra over our last five months here,” said Whitehurst. “Today is, without a doubt, the most exciting of those events.”
Whitehurst concluded by saying “the progress and security that has come to Samarra is a direct result of the cooperation and partnership of the Samarran people. None of this would be possible without your help.”
The site selected for the initial barrier removal is in a section of Samarra that was once used for public executions in darker days. Today it is a peaceful marketplace.
The removed barriers will be given to the Iraqi Army and used for security around military compounds.