By Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry)February 21, 2007
MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq (American Forces Press Service, Feb. 21, 2007) - Last July, innocent women and children were killed here when terrorists attacked one of the only places that thrived with livelihood - the Mahmudiyah Marketplace.
Since the attack, which killed more than 40 Iraqis and wounded more than 100, Iraqi and coalition forces have worked together to rebuild the market.
Local Iraqis gathered at the Mahmudiyah Marketplace (now named the Martyrs Market in remembrance of the local nationals killed during the July attack) for the grand opening Feb. 14.
"Today we are sending a message to the terrorists that whatever they have destroyed we (the Iraqis) will, and are continuing, to rebuild it," said Moyad Alamery, the mayor of Mahmudiyah. "Today is a happy day."
Since the attack of the market - a place where it was safe to shop - small businesses had suffered. However, the opening of the market signified hope to the once terror-stricken area.
"Our store has been open for just a short while," said Muthana, an Iraqi vendor, as he stocked the shelves of his store. "We had spent months repairing our store from the terrorist attack, but we are up and running."
Muthana, like many store owners had to repair the damage caused from the July attack. The repairs in his shop ranged anywhere from holes in the ceiling to cracks in the walls.
Although Muthana and other Iraqi vendors had the funds to fix their store, many other Iraqis did not since their small store was their only means of survival.
"We helped the people with repairs to their stores by facilitating the projects the contractors worked on," said Taliv Abbas Jasim, the city council president. "We are helping to improve the quality of life and provide basic services such as water and electricity to the people."
With the city council and other Iraqis helping their neighbors the local residents are starting to have confidence in their government.
As the market was being built up again, terrorists still tried to stop the progress. Mortars were fired toward the area and bombs were set off. However, the Iraqis pushed on - fighting for a better Iraq.
"The Iraqi people have more confidence and trust with the Iraqi government," Alamery said. "It is through this type of event that the people gain confidence in their government."
Wanting to provide for their own, Iraqi government officials worked with coalition forces to help get the market open again.
"We coordinated the contractor work and helped to provide security when necessary during the renovation (period)," said Lt. Col. Bob Morschauser, a native of Fairless Hills, Pa., who serves as the commander for the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery, Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). "The initial phases of the work began in November following the attack."
With the help of the Soldiers, the Iraqis took the lead in getting the market running again. "Iraqi contractors repaired damages and the Iraqi City Council provided assistance," said Col. Ali, the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division commander. "The opening will help the Iraqis and bring them closer to the Iraqi government's efforts to help them."
Even though the market was opened there were still memories of the Iraqis lost in July. "The new market is something considered of great importance to me," Ali noted. "It is a remembrance of people who lost their lives."
Noting the market signifies a mending of hearts for loved ones lost, it also signifies the new relationship between two tribes that have been at odds for some time.
"We have both Sunni and Shiite vendors here," Ali commented of the market. "We hope to solidify the relationship - the market is open to everyone."
Since tension in the Mahmudiyah area is common knowledge, security was tight during the opening. Soldiers provided security for the opening, however; the event was peaceful as Iraqi men, women and children roamed the streets.
"I am happy that I have the chance to shop and not be scared," said Nawal, an Iraqi woman as she walked with her children through the market. "I was scared before, but I no longer am."
Nawal, just like many others, combed the streets of the market looking at anything from shoes and blankets to fresh meat and fruits. There was a wide variety of items to choose from.
"I think the market is good for the community itself - the people," Morschauser said.
Ali concurred. "It will help the Iraqis and their families," he said of the opening. "All Iraqis will benefit from the market."
The market, which currently consists of 92 stores, was built with extra security precautions to ensure the safety of local nationals.
"Our amount of customers has decreased since the new security measures have been taken," Muthana said of the road in front of his store that is used for a check point. "We are hoping to have more customers though and more advertising about stores located on the other side of the road."
The mayor commented about what the opening will do for the Iraqi economy. "This will help the economy of Iraq," Alamery said. "This market will be very busy."
From a time when terror-stricken citizens were afraid to leave their homes to a new beginning the market opening signified something about the Iraqi people - resilience.
"This shows that the Iraqi people are resilient," Morschauser said of the opening. "They are not going to let anti-Iraqi forces stop them from living their lives."