The worst thing about the checkpoint is what happens when one finally arrives at what appears to be a bottleneck: the section where a sonar device and sniffer dogs check the car for possible explosives. Everyone in the queue for the first time thinks something special is happening at this section of the checkpoint. But it turns out to be just routine, al-Ani says.
“The security men are stationed there to check identity cards and we find out they’re only doing what all other checkpoints do,” al-Ani notes angrily. “It seems clear this is a deliberate thing, to exert pressure on the people of Anbar.”
Visiting the checkpoint is a little intimidating: The site is run by a force made up of men from the Baghdad operations command, which looks after the city’s security, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of the Interior and some members of the Shiite Muslim militias.
All of the security staff here have military uniforms and often they wear face masks too. None of them are friendly and using a gruff tone of voice, they do not distinguish between men, women, the children or elderly. Everyone is treated with equal rudeness. Those who cross often say whether you get through or not may also come down to the mood of the guards, no matter what documentation you have or the purpose of your trip.