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Monumental Error:
Baghdad’s Best Known Statue In Danger Of Collapse

Adnan Abu Zaid
Despite its importance and historical significance, Baghdad’s famous Modernist Monument to Freedom is in danger of collapse, local authorities say.
20.04.2017  |  Baghdad
Baghdad's Freedom Monument being washed with firehoses.
Baghdad's Freedom Monument being washed with firehoses.

It is one of the best-known monuments in the country. But now Baghdad authorities say they fear that the Monument to Freedom in the central city may be close to collapse. The Modernist-style sculpture designed by Iraqi sculptor Jawad Saleem was finished in the early 1960s and has been the backdrop for everything from the US tanks that entered the country in 2003 to more recent anti-corruption demonstrations. During the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, it held pictures of the Iraqi leader and his party’s political slogans.

When the monument is washed, the authorities use firehoses, which only leads to more damage and accelerates the destruction.

In February though, local authorities announced that the monument, which straddles a square, could be in danger of collapse.

Perhaps this is hardly surprising though, no comprehensive or professional maintenance work has ever been done on the monument. “Maintenance is urgently needed,” says a local architect, Mohammed al-Musa, who goes on to explain some of the problems afflicting the famous landmark.

He says that in 2003 bombs and fighting around the landmark impacted the monument as its foundations were shaken. Vehicle emissions tarnish the artwork and dust accumulates on it.

When the monument is washed, al-Musa says the authorities use firehoses, “which only leads to more damage and accelerates the destruction.”

Baghdad MP, Shorouq al-Abeji, a member of the coalition of civil society-minded Civil Democratic Alliance, complained that, although there had been warnings about the monument, nobody was doing anything about it.

“The Ministry of Culture is responsible for the safety of monuments in Baghdad and will accelerate plans to maintain and reconstruct the monument,” al-Abeji told NIQASH. “Some people are also exaggerating the dangers because they want to prevent people from gathering in the square and demonstrating,” she cautioned.

The monument will get the maintenance it needs, says Adel al-Saedi, a member of the Baghdad provincial council. “There is a restoration program for all the monuments and statues in the city and the council will organize this,” he says.

Al-Saedi adds that a civil society organization did try to restore anther monument in the capital but the council denied their requests to work on it, because only licensed professionals could be trusted with the job.

Hakim Abdul Zahra, director of media relations at Baghdad’s provincial council, told NIQASH that the municipality had already created a committee of experts and engineers, who would decide how best to take care of the Freedom Monument and other sites in the city.

Presently they were trying to find the funding to go ahead with various plans, Abdul Zahra confirmed. No matter what side of the political spectrum they are coming from or which department they work for, all those involved understand the importance of the Freedom Monument.

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