Anbar is a Sunni-majority province and during the security crisis, major swathes of the province were taken over by the extremist group known as the Islamic State, which bases its radical ideology on a form of Sunni Islam. There were fears that, even after the Islamic State, or IS, group were pushed out of Anbar they would continue to mount attacks on Baghdad by basing themselves in the neighbouring province.
But many locals believe that the Al Soqour checkpoint takes things too far. The checkpoint, located in the Abu Ghraib area, opens at 7 in the morning and closes at 7 at night. Queues of vehicles waiting to pass stretch several kilometres on either side. And many locals from Anbar, who must cross here regularly, believe the measures taken constitute collective punishment.
The trip now takes so long that some enterprising locals are doing great business selling food and water to those who must wait so long. Taxi and truck drivers who cross here have had to increase their prices because of the potential delay; they say they often have to stay overnight on one side or other of the checkpoint because it is impossible to cross it twice in one day.
Omar al-Ani works at a government-run bank in Baghdad but lives in Fallujah. To get to work on time he has had to leave his own car at home and he walks around six kilometres daily in order to cross the checkpoint and get to his desk punctually.
“We didn’t realise that returning home to our city [Fallujah] would cause so many problems,” al-Ani told NIQASH. “The amounts of money I am spending on cabs is about the same amount of money I was spending to pay rent while we were displaced. It’s ridiculous. All this walking in the high temperatures is also so bad for me.”