Friday, March 09, 2007

Perspective: Imagining hope in Sadr City

BAGHDAD: When Raheem al-Darraji looks at the dusty lots just east of Sadr City where scores of bodies have been dumped since last year, he visualizes a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and perhaps a merry go-round.

"We should have an amusement park," said Darraji, one of two elected mayors in Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite neighborhood where U.S. and Iraqi troops have been peacefully clearing homes since March 4. "We want to rehabilitate the area so that families can have fun."

In an interview at his office, Darraji said the amusement park was one of several projects that community leaders are pushing U.S. officials to fund in negotiations about how to handle the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia that has controlled the neighborhood for years.

A concentrated makeover of Sadr City, he said, would support plan's goals in two important ways: by giving young Mahdi militants an alternative to a life of violence and by providing residents with proof of the government's ability to improve their daily lives, diluting support for the militia.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune