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Niqash - politics - The full story of Qadisiyah\'s governorate building


The full story of Qadisiyah's governorate building

The new luxurious building of the Diwaniyah Governorate has finally been completed. The building has been inaugurated by a ceremony gathering the governors of central and southern Iraq - Najaf, Karbala, Babil, Samawa, Nasiriyah, al-'Amara, Basra - as well as the governor of Diwaniyah itself. The meeting also included officials from the governorates' administration under the heading "Central and Southern Governors' Forum". Organizers attempt to take advantage of the meeting in order to give local governments and governors extensive powers, with the support of the participants from the (Shi'ite) Coalition List parliamentarians, which was a visible trace marking the discussion that took place during the forum. The forum stressed the importance of rapid reconstruction of the infrastructures of the central and southern governorates. Additionally, it called for creating a federal Center and Southern Region characterized by a Shi'ite majority. I am only referring to this meeting as a prelude to the new governorate building which has a story that needs to be told.

The new building is located near to the city's suspended bridge. Its plans were drawn up under the directives of Saddam Hussein and the implementation was entrusted to one of the public sector construction companies in the mid-1980s, during the long years of war with Iran. The structure of the building was completed after approximately two years. The highest casement of the building was designed as a platform for Saddam Hussein's resonant speeches during his visits to the city.

The building, lacking the final touches, remained a place for people's mockery and irony. Some have said that it is inhibited by souls, and some said it is a source of misfortune. Before the completion of the building eight governors took the responsibility for the finalization of the building (four of them were appointed after 2003). However, the eight governors were not able to do the job despite of the effort exerted by each of them to have it finalized and inaugurated. One of them was overtaken by the events at the end of the war and was transferred to another place. Another governor, Dr. Kathem Batin Thaher, who took his place survived the March 1991 Uprising and escaped with his life to Baghdad. Construction became slow after the Second Gulf war in 1991 and continued to be so during the 1990s with the conditions of the ill-reputed economic siege era over Iraq. During this period many governors were appointed in Diwaniyah.

When the American troops entered the city they took the building as premises for one of their many army units. Afterwards, they handed over the building to two of the city's contractors, former state employees, after announcing a public tender. A rumor has spread in the city that lots of corruption and corrupt acts took place with the contractors before and during the implementation. However, like most of the reconstruction projects in the country, no auditing has been made to confirm or negate such a rumor.

After 2003, the first governor, Shaykh Hazem al-Sha'lan appointed by the Americans, was not able to accomplish anything of importance to expedite the completion of the building, especially with the many demonstrations in the city against him. Al-Sha'lan was then appointed as a Minister of Defense in Dr. Iyad Allawi's provisional government.

Jamal al-Zamili, the governor who followed al-Sha'lan, was not given the opportunity to accomplish the building being surrounded by accusations targeting his administration of huge corruption and by the results of the city's council elections. Khalil Jalil Hamzah, the third governor, was assassinated two months before the date scheduled for finalizing the construction of the building.

The current governor of the city is the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council's Badr Brigade. He was the chairperson of the governorate council and was able to achieve things other predecessors of clergymen failed to achieve because he has decided to give up his turban (amamah) in order to hold an executive position (1). The first step of his achievements was his determination to face armed groups who were behind the chaos in the city and who dominated a large part of it. The inauguration of the new governorate building was the second, but not the last, of his accomplishments.

Other changes related to the details of the building were introduced. Among these is the removal of the sign written in cuneiform transcriptions indicating the name of the governorate, "Al-Qadisiyah Governorate" (2), the official name given by Saddam to the city, a name still officially adopted until today. The new governor removed the cuneiform sign and instead of it he placed a sign indicating the name of the governorate to be "Diwaniyah Governorate" despite the fact that no official decision has been taken to change the name of the governorate!

As for the old building, built by Britain in the 1930s, located in the commercial center of the city, the road leading to which remained closed during the last four years, there have been rumors that it would be transformed into an investment center, destroyed or otherwise exploited for its distinguished location. These rumors urged the intellectuals of the city and its architects (3) to call for a public seminar to discuss its blurred destiny.

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Endnotes:

1- A Fatwa has been issued by Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, the Shi'ite clergy to whom the Supreme Islamic Council publicly looks up with loyalty, banning religious figures from holding executive positions in the government (governors, ministers or prime ministers) unless they give up their turbans and religious garb.

2 - Designed and supervised by one of the archeologists specialized in cuneiform transcriptions (Prof. Dr. Na'el Hannoun) during the days of the former regime.

3 - Tawasul Center for Development and Civil Dialogue, a research center managed by Engineer Abdul Hussein Haneen, has organized a seminar on this issue. The seminar came up with recommendations that were submitted to the Reconstruction Committee of the Governorate Council.

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