Soldiers are nearly done putting up barriers in a market in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad, officials said Sunday.
Over 1,800 concrete sections have been installed at the Palestine Market, with troops working to ease merchants’ concerns, according to a news release issued by Multi-National Corps-Iraq.
Although merchants understood the need for security, pastry and fruit vendors who rely on impulse buys were worried their products couldn’t been seen from the street.
Others thought there wouldn’t be enough room to get through pushcarts or scooters or for access to driveways and delivery trucks.
“We talked with the store owners before, during, and after the emplacement. Each one had different concerns and we tried to accommodate them,” Maj. Bruce Vitor, executive officer of the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, was quoted as saying.
“It’s a very dispersed market,” said Lt. Col. James Phillips, squadron commander. “We had to accommodate each block differently. We went business by business, block by block, and that really helped.”
The barrier installation, which faced challenges including destroyed bridges and intimidated contractors, began May 1 and was virtually done a week ago, Vitor said.
“Some of the merchants have said shopping has increased and that the shoppers seem more relaxed,” Phillips said. “It’s as crowded as I’ve ever seen it.”
Some merchants are putting advertisements or paintings on the barriers. Checkpoints and patrols also help keep the area secure, officials say.
In related news, 43 vendors of the Dora Market in the Rashid district last week had their applications processed for “micro grants” designed to help reopen their shops.
The grants are for up to $2,500 and can include “in-kind” items procured for them. “For example, instead of giving them cash to buy an oven, we buy them an oven,” said Maj. Rick Banks, a civilian officer with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team who met with vendors along with local Iraqi government officials.
“Without this program, it is difficult for local nationals to acquire capital since there is not yet a robust banking system in Iraq as you would find in most Western countries,” Banks was quoted as saying in a news release issued Saturday by Multi-National Corps-Iraq.
Shop owners who were at a meeting held Wednesday about the grants had their fingers printed, retinas scanned and pictures taken as part of a census to ensure no funds would be paid to insurgent groups, officials said.
A joint security station, manned by U.S. and Iraqi forces, was opened in the spring in Dora. Military officials say the neighborhood is one of Baghdad’s most dangerous.