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Reshaping Al-Kadhimiya: the 5th Division Area redevelopment initiative

Baghdad ( – Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Sudani directs a project to open the 5th Divison Area for citizens.

Justice Camp, formerly known as the 5th Division Prison, was the center of operations for Iraqi Intelligence during Saddam Hussein’s regime. This prison in Al-Kadhimiya, north Baghdad, held countless dissidents. After the 2003 invasion, the Iraqi government transformed the facility into a base for both Iraqi and US forces. The area has been a base for Iraqi forces since 2010 until now.

Major Infrastructure Development Initiated

In February 2023, Al-Sudani initiated a major infrastructure development project in Al-Kadhimiya. By May 2024, the Cabinet took steps to transform the 5th Division Prison into a multifunctional leisure complex. The new facilities will include:

  • Educational centers: special education centers, and schools.
  • A medical city with a variety of centers.
  • A sports complex.
  • Event halls, a theater, and a public library.
  • Hotels, restaurants, and musks for tourists.

Al-Kadhimiya’s Growing Pains: Navigating Modernization Challenges

Al-Kadhimiya is a significant religious destination, attracting millions of Shia Muslims from around the world due to its spiritual and historical importance. The city’s appeal, however, extends beyond Shia Muslims. Tourists from various backgrounds and religions are drawn to Al-Kadhimiya’s rich history, cultural heritage, and the unique blend of ancient and modern Islamic architecture.

Despite its prime location along the banks of the Tigris River (Dijlah), Al-Kadhimiya faces several challenges in accommodating the large influx of pilgrims and tourists. The city lacks sufficient infrastructure to support the high numbers of visitors, leading to significant issues in terms of accommodation, transportation, and public amenities.

Al-Kadhimiya’s Transformation: Progress vs. Preservation Debate Heats Up

The responses to the decision to transform Al-Kadhimiya have been mixed. Some experts believe the project will significantly enhance the city’s infrastructure and boost its economy. The construction and operation will create job opportunities, benefitting the local residents. However, others fear it will erase the memories of those who suffered and died in this prison. There is a prevailing concern that the redevelopment may result in the dilution or even eradication of crucial cultural and historical narratives associated with the site.

Al-Kadhimiya stands at a crossroads where the potential for growth and development must be carefully balanced with the preservation of its historical and cultural identity. By addressing infrastructure challenges and capitalizing on its riverside location, Al-Kadhimiya can enhance its appeal to a global audience, ensuring that it remains a cherished destination for pilgrims and tourists alike. With thoughtful planning and sustainable development, the city can transform into a vibrant, inclusive, and resilient destination that honors its past while embracing the future.

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