Monday, October 27, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 27 Oct 2008

From MNF-I, Rainy Day Doesn’t Stop Sadr City Business, Employment Fair.

BAGHDAD — Heavy rains flooded the streets in front of the Sadr City District council building, but that didn’t stop a deluge of more than 150 Iraqi business owners and hundreds more Iraqi residents from the first business and employment fair in the popular Baghdad district, Oct. 25.

A colorful tent longer than a football field was erected on the street in front of the Sadr City District Advisory Council for the Sadr City Road Show where business owners from the region compared services and highlighted their wares to an anxious crowd of citizens and non-government organizations (NGO).

Organizers said the overall purpose of the event was to establish a business directory, highlight services available to business and to the people, and to demonstrate economic development in the region.

“The idea is to spotlight local business owners and NGO, to gather everyone in one place, get national and local government involved, and let the people voice their concerns,” said Raad Omar, CEO of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Omar, members of the district council and regional market councils organized the event to demonstrate to the rest of Iraq and the world that after months of destructive fighting and subsequent reconstruction, Sadr City is open for business.

“A key objective is to make people see how safe the area is now,” said Sheik Mohammed Haraj Azeez, chairman of the Jamilla Market council.

The Jamilla Market is the largest market in north Baghdad and during the months of March through May absorbed much of the fighting between Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers and their partners in the Iraqi Army against Special Groups criminals who extorted money from business owners to fund their attacks and intimidation of civilians.

Azeez said business in the Jamilla Market is growing rapidly again thanks in part to reconstruction efforts and economic development programs like micro-grants from MND-B and the government of Iraq.

“A few months ago, many businesses were destroyed,” Azeez said. “Today we answer the question on how we are doing now.”

Omar said Sadr City now joins five other districts of Baghdad where the road show has promoted growth and development, creating jobs and new opportunities for entrepreneurs ready to put violence behind them.

“We want to show the people that Sadr City is ready to move on,” Omar said.

The Sadr City Road Show culminated Oct. 26 adding to an expanding Baghdad business directory.

Omar said the success of this road show, even under driving rain, inspires hope that Sadr City will again host such an economically important event in the near future.