Residents of Baghdad are enjoying lively Ramadan evenings, thriving economic activity and entertainment that continues late into the night amid a stable security situation.
The holy month of Ramadan this year coincides with the opening of more streets to traffic and the removal of hundreds of concrete barriers that used to hamper the movement of residents.
Many Baghdadis flock to restaurants for iftar while others prefer to have iftar at home and then head to parks, gather at ice cream shops or spend hours in the capital’s shopping centres.
The Baghdad police department put in place a special security plan for the month of Ramadan that includes the wide scale deployment of police patrols and emergency vehicle patrols, especially in the vicinity of mosques and husseiniyah halls, Baghdad police spokesman Col. Nibras Ali told Diyaruna.
"The police force tightened security measures to protect residents in public parks and shoppers in markets which are very crowded during the month of Ramadan," he said.
Flourishing economic activity
The stable security situation in Baghdad has also contributed to an increase in economic activity, as commercial activity has been flourishing since the early days of the holy month.
The markets in the Karrada Dakhel district and the shopping malls in the al-Mansour and al-Harithiya districts and on Palestine Street are seeing brisk sales of food and clothing, and beverage shops are crowded with customers.
Commercial activity is monitored by the concerned government agencies to prevent merchants from taking advantage of the huge demand for goods during the holy month and to prevent price gouging for consumers, Baghdad Provincial Council member Ali Jaafar told Diyaruna.
"There is no justification for price hikes in the markets during the month of Ramadan, especially food prices, because merchants are given discounts and the state is keen on ensuring the availability of everything that Iraqi families need in the markets," he said.
Implementing a successful security plan
Security forces, specifically the Falcons counter-terrorism intelligence unit, have succeeded in establishing security in Baghdad and its environs and have dried up the wellsprings of terrorism, said security analyst Ghanim al-Aifan.
Baghdad is the country's capital and the centre of the decision making process, and "any breach to it is a breach to the whole country", he told Diyaruna.
"Ramadan now in Baghdad is safer than it was in previous years due to the fact that the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' (ISIS) has lost all its bases and was defeated militarily in Iraq and Syria," he said.
The security successes are not limited to the performance of the security forces, but also extend to the public awareness on the street and understanding the danger posed by the terrorist group, and repudiating it socially and ideologically, he said.
Remaining vigilant against ISIS sleeper cells
Al-Aifan ruled out that the recent speech by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would have any effect on the security situation in Baghdad or the rest of the provinces.
It does, however, serve as a warning against "slacking in pursuing the sleeper cells", he said.
Al-Baghdadi made his first purported appearance in five years in a propaganda video released April 29th.
In the video released by ISIS's Al-Furqan media arm, the man said to be al-Baghdadi sought to "invigorate [ISIS's] defeated remnants and sleeper cells with phrases that did not hide the state of misery he and his gang are in", according to Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji.
"Our forces are today stronger and enjoy experience, training and great intelligence capabilities in tracking and eliminating terrorists in co-ordination with the international coalition," he told Diyaruna.