Over the weekend, people from across Iraq celebrated Armed Forces day. The celebrations commemorate the founding of the Iraqi army, which was established nearly 100 years ago in 1921. The event also remembers the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in the fight against ISIS.
The celebrations were even recorded in the city of Fallujah in Iraq’s western Anbar Province, which has historically had a strained relationship with the armed forces and the central government.
At the end of 2012 and into 2013, protests took place across Anbar Province, including in Fallujah, with large numbers of people gathering to demonstrate against the government of the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Furthermore, Fallujah was the first city in Iraq to fall to the so-called Islamic State at the beginning of 2014.
But following the liberation of Fallujah by the Iraqi Security Forces, people are now embracing the army. On the Armed Forces day, citizens took to the streets, adorning their cars with Iraqi flags and beeping their horns in appreciation of the sacrifices made by Iraq’s soldiers.
Murals were made and vigils were held to remember those who sacrificed themselves in the fight against ISIS.
“There is an element of pain and sadness here,” began Tariq al-Hatimi, a civil activist from Fallujah. “We remember the sacrifices made by the heroes of the Army. They gave their blood, their lives and all that they had in order to return our lands and cities from ISIS rule”.
Following the defeat of ISIS in Iraq, life is being rebuilt in many liberated towns and cities. While displacement and the threat of the extremist group remains high, the post-ISIS landscape in Iraq is highlighting a growing sense of unity in the face of a fractured history.