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Mission 17 - Satellite Photo
Baghdad: Mahdi Army Assault

In 1963, Abd al-Karim Qasim created a neighborhood for the masses of poverty-stricken Iraqis outside Baghdad. The area was dubbed Madinat al-Thawra, literally translated as 'Revolution City.' In an effort to keep the majority Shiites in check, Saddam controlled and oppressed the area to such an extent that a new title, Saddam City, was instituted. After the liberation, the Shiites again renamed the city. They called it Sadr City in honor of the Imam Mohammed al-Sadr, an Iraqi religious leader killed by Saddam Hussein. The leader was also the father of Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric currently opposing US-led coalition forces in Iraq. Sadr City is now a Shiite shantytown and one of the poorest districts in Baghdad and a haven for criminals released from Iraqi prisons.

Unemployment is rampant in Sadr City, and the suburb slum is in a desperate state of disrepair. In the few dilapidated homes still standing, electrical service is sporadic. Business is thin, and those who have survived are plagued with the same intermittent power service. Fresh food markets are dingy roadside shacks where fruits, vegetables, and chicken intermingle with flies and cesspools and overflowing bags of rot.

Rows and rows of makeshift lean-tos compete for space with tons of refuse. 2.5 million people’s worth of garbage has not been collected since the start of the war. Many of the roadways and alleys are flooded with sewage. It’s the result of three-and-a-half times more people using the sewage system than it was designed to sustain. The streets are potholed and the medians, filled with mounds of steamy, rotting garbage, serve as roadside feeding troughs for aimless horses and goats. The city is outlined by scrap yards filled with heaps of artillery shells, looted metal, and stray scraps that provide a meager income to scavengers in a city that’s been war-torn since the Iran-Iraq conflict.