After two decades of neglect.. will Baghdad’s Rashid Camp land be transformed into “green forests”?

For two decades, the land formerly known as Rashid Camp southeast of Baghdad, adjacent to the entrances to some of its most important areas (Karrada and Jadriya), has been a hub for gangs and beggars, a site for child rape, a dumping ground for waste, and a place for slaughtering dead livestock, including donkeys at times.

A year after the Cabinet issued a decision to transform Rashid Camp land in Baghdad into green spaces, Baghdad’s Secretary, Ammar Musa Kadhim, announced on Thursday that work on the project to turn the southern capital area into forests and sustainable recreational areas will soon commence. This project is “the largest of its kind in Iraq with an area of 5,000 dunams (about 1,235 acres).

Rashid Camp, which previously included a military hospital, was destroyed after 2003 and was neglected and scrapped by the Iraqi state. However, its vast area remained undeveloped with no new construction projects initiated. Plans for it, including building a modern hospital and contemporary residential complexes, remained only on paper and were never executed.

The abandoned space was exploited by citizens to build homes on state lands, locally known as “al-Hawasem,” leading to the creation of a makeshift neighborhood housing many disjointed families and some gang members.

Kadhim said during the opening of a new park in the Zaafaraniya area south of the capital, according to a statement from the secretariat received by “Al-Alam Al-Jadeed,” “Today we opened a new 4-dunam park in the Zaafaraniya area within the Karrada municipal sector, which was once a vacant and abandoned land, part of which was a waste dump. This is part of a plan to increase green spaces and create new recreational areas across all regions of the capital.”

He added that “the Baghdad Secretariat, with its own efforts through the Karrada municipality department, completed the rehabilitation of this land and transformed it into a recreational haven for families, inaugurating it in conjunction with the upcoming Eid al-Adha holidays.”

He continued, “The efforts of the Baghdad Secretariat are ongoing in all neighborhoods of the capital to improve its service reality, with new projects upcoming in the Zaafaraniya area and other parts of Baghdad.”

The Baghdad Secretary also noted that “the Baghdad Secretariat will soon lay the foundation stone for the project to transform Rashid Camp land into forests and sustainable recreational areas. This project is the first of its kind on a national level with an area of about 5,000 dunams.”

Families living in the makeshift camps survive by “begging,” with their children (boys and girls) scattered across the main road intersections in Baghdad, required to bring in specific amounts daily or face “severe punishment.” There are also numerous cases of sexual and physical assaults on teenage children by their families and relatives, often in view of security forces, which have taken no action, according to a resident of the camp.

A member of the parliamentary services committee, Daoud Aidan, stated in a previous report for “Al-Alam Al-Jadeed” that “what we identified in all previous government actions is the presence of private interests, and parties are loyal to themselves, not the country. Hence, we will no longer allow the establishment of a project based on partisan and personal interest, neither in Rashid Camp nor anywhere else.”

It is worth noting that the head of the National Investment Commission, Sami Al-Aaraji, announced on August 13, 2018, that an Emirati company would soon begin building seventy thousand housing units on Rashid Camp land as part of an agreement to build sixty thousand vertical housing units with various designs and ten thousand horizontal units to address the housing crisis in Baghdad.

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