Monday, April 21, 2008

progress continues in sunni areas of iraq

Increased Security Brings New Commerce to Hawijah, Iraq By Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment HAWIJAH — A young man beginning a business to support his new family is not necessarily headline news. However, for Kusai, 24, his dream would be realized in the heart of what was once considered an extremists’ stronghold only six months prior - Hawijah, Iraq. Hawijah, located approximately 60 miles south of Kirkuk City in the Kirkuk province, historically held center stage to the region’s worst violence against civilians, Iraq security forces, and coalition forces by extremists. The residents here faced anywhere from 10 to 15 attacks per day, according to military records. Soldiers report that day-time patrols were targeted with small arms fire throughout the city and routinely upon exiting the confines of Forward Operating Base McHenry where Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division are located. Since the establishment of Sahwah - meaning “reconciliation” or “awakening” to locals, overall violence in this predominantly Sunni-Arab populated region of northeastern Iraq, has experienced nearly an 80 percent drop in violent activity, according to Lt. Col. Christopher Vanek, commander, 1-87 Regiment. While isolated incidents do occur, “the crucial element to the ongoing successes here are the concerned citizens of Hawijah who are effectively identifying those responsible … expeditiously,” Vanek said. The citizens that Vanek refers to are the Sons of Iraq that number over 7,000 in Hawijah alone. “Sahwah has made it possible for me to open my shop and provide for my family. There is business. People feel safer. You see the security,” Kusai, said, pointing to the five SoIs that have stopped by to investigate and converse with the Soldiers of Bravo Company, 1-87 Regiment. “These men are very good. They are always stopping by to see if everything is okay,” he said. Kusai is not the only merchant who has benefited from the outcome of Sahwah. An ice cream parlor across the street that resembles a scaled-down version of a fountain shop in the U.S., is stocked with soft drinks, cookies, cakes, and an ice cream machine. Masmoud Wasif, 17, welcomes the Soldiers as they enter to purchase some canned drinks, handing them out to the children that have gathered there. The shop is owned by Wasif’s parents who have operated the store for around three years. “Business is much better since Sahwah,” he said. “People are not afraid to come to the market place and shop.” He credits the Sons of Iraq for the increased security. “I am very happy they are here,” he said and inquires if they could stay until midnight so that he can earn more money. In addition to providing over watch on the city’s security, SoI’s are seen clearing debris and sweeping the streets during this visit. A day later on a return trip from another mission, Vanek remarks that he has never seen the streets of Hawijah so clean. “This is incredible,” he said upon receiving the news that the SoIs were responsible. “Incredible.”

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