No one in the southern Iraqi province Basra believed that families would flock to Hurriyah (Freedom) Square to see and sit by the new monument after it was greatly ridiculed in newspapers and on social networking sites for its appearance — some described it as a large eggplant surrounded by horses.
People from out of town changed their opinions about the monument once they arrived in Basra and heard the residents’ stories about it.
The plan to build a "Freedom Monument" in Basra was announced together with plans for other statues in Iraq, which were also criticized.
Basra is the second-largest city in Iraq and the only Iraqi city with harbors overlooking the Arabian Gulf. The West Qurna oil field, which produces 360,000 barrels of oil per day, is located in the city. But Basra suffers from unemployment and lack of social services.
Life in Basra has become harder on the residents since militias have emerged in the city. Hurriyah Square, which has so far not been the scene of any fighting, has become a safe haven for young people who object to Sharia rule imposed by Islamic parties that are in control of various parts of the city.
On Sept. 11, the day of the square's inauguration, Basra Gov. Majid al-Nasrawi, said, “[This is] one of the successful projects in Basra … and [the square is] a breather for its residents.”