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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Historic Abu Nuwas Street Revitalization Center Opens

By Maj. Sean Ryan
2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs Officer, PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq — The rebuilding of the famous market in eastern Baghdad is making progress with the opening of the Abu Nuwas Revitalization Center June 9.

The market is well known for serving up mazgouf fish, meaning river fish, a Baghdad delicacy cooked over wood fires while you wait and served with fresh vegetables. The wait won’t be too much longer as the information center is one of the first steps in the historic street’s revival.

The information center was opened in conjunction with local leaders from the Rusafa District along with the District Advisory Council chairman from Abu Nuwas.

This part of the city, which once provided a variety of shops, restaurants, and hotels, was world-renowned and will soon open again. Approximately 45 business owners attended the opening to discuss economic and security issues.

According to Maj. Dave Carlson, a native of Allensburg, Wash., and the leader of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division’s civil support team and the Rusafa district, the meeting allowed business owners from the area to discuss issues and “become unified in their economic goals.”

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to make the street a more central location,” said Qays Foraj, the Abu Nuwas chairman. Foraj explained to the business owners his vision of the future for the market and the possibilities of offering financial assistance.

The center will be open to answer questions or discuss upcoming projects to citizens and business owners, alike. Questions to be answered include when the market will be open for customers.

“I would be very happy once the area brings back even a portion of the customers that used to come,” said a store owner who owns a retail store. “A lot of money is being put into fixing the street and the people appreciate the time and effort from everyone.”

Under Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon, also known as the Baghdad Security Plan, the Abu Nuwas Market is one of the areas targeted to stimulate economic growth.

Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, Multi-National Division-Baghdad‘s deputy commanding general for support, paid a recent visit to the market and discussed issues with local owners.

“The Iraqi people need to remain resilient and things will get better,” he said. Brooks recognized that security needs to improve and reassured the store owners that they will not be left without protection.

“Coalition Forces are working side-by-side with the Iraqi Security Forces and we are here to help, not leave,” he said. Iraqi Police and Army under the Iraqi Rusafa Area Command provide security for the area, with help from the soldiers from 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, currently operating as part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

The area has been shut down due a series of car bombs that left the area paralyzed several months ago. With no customers coming in, a lot of shop owners and restaurateurs had to close their doors and the ones that stayed in the area, slowly watched their livelihoods disappear.

“We still need essential services like electricity and water,” an owner of one of the fish markets told Brooks during the general’s visit, “but we are ready to start telling all customers we will be open soon.”

Photo - U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, paid a visit to the market and discussed issues with local owners, June 9, 2007. Approximately 45 business owners attended the opening of the Abu Nuwas Revitalization Center in the Rusafa District of eastern Baghdad to discuss economic and security issues of the area. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Sean Ryan.

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