Iraq celebrated the one-year anniversary of the official defeat of Daesh. The anniversary also saw the partial re-opening of the 'Green Zone' in Baghdad to civilians 15 years after it was set up in the wake of the US-led invasion and occupation.

Iraqis with security forces stop during a minute of silence, marking the one year anniversary of the military defeat of Daesh, at Tahrir square in Baghdad, Iraq on December 10, 2018.
Iraqis with security forces stop during a minute of silence, marking the one year anniversary of the military defeat of Daesh, at Tahrir square in Baghdad, Iraq on December 10, 2018. (Reuters)

A hush descended on central Baghdad on Monday as Iraqis observed a minute's silence for those killed in the battle against Daesh a year after the group was defeated.

Fireworks were scheduled to be set off later in the evening. 

The government has made the date a national holiday and dubbed it "victory day" but some Iraqis felt little cause for celebration, however.

Little reconstruction

Little meaningful reconstruction has taken place in cities decimated by battles against Daesh between 2014 and 2017, and Iraq is in the throes of a new political crisis which has prevented it from forming a government that can tackle widespread corruption and lack of jobs and services.

Meanwhile, Daesh is still carrying out insurgent-style attacks against security forces and have been blamed for car bombs and assassinations of local notables.

Fear of Daesh re-emergence

"Iraqis are scared that the problems in parliament ... and the inability to form a full cabinet ... have helped create the (unstable) environment for Islamic State [Daesh] cells to re-emerge," Najah Jameel, 48 a civil society activist, said.

Another Baghdad resident, Dawood Salman, 55, said he would remember the soldiers and fighters who were killed battling the group.

"We congratulate the military and the Popular Mobilisation Forces," a grouping of mostly Shia paramilitaries, he said.

Iraq's military and militias backed by US-led air strikes and special forces drove Daesh militants out of areas they had controlled for three years in 2017.

Former prime minister Haider al Abadi declared Daesh defeated in Iraq on December 9, 2017. The group had ruled over a self-styled caliphate, governing large parts of northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

"This is a day that we are all proud of, when our courageous country defeat the enemies of peace," Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said in a televised address. 

More than 1.8 million Iraqis remain displaced across the country, and a staggering 8 million require some form of humanitarian aid, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. Those with suspected links to Daesh have been rejected by their communities, while thousands of children fathered by Daesh.

Nearly two-thirds of displaced people say they are unwilling or unable to return home in the next year, with more than half saying their homes were damaged or destroyed.

'Green Zone' partially re-opened to civilians

Coinciding with the anniversary of Daesh's defeat, Iraqi authorities on Monday partially re-opened the heavily-fortified 'Green Zone' in the heart of the capital Baghdad to civilians after more than 15 years.

The enclave on the west bank of the Tigris River became home to foreign embassies and key government buildings after the US-led invasion of 2003 and has since then been surrounded by blast walls and barbed wire, inaccessible to most Iraqis.

The partial reopening of parts of the high-security area is meant to portray increased confidence in the country's overall security situation and is also being billed as an act of transparency following protests against corruption and poor public services.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies