Baghdad's Market Spaces and the Politics of Urban "Renewal"

Conflict Research Small Grants Programme

Principal Investigator: Omar Sirri
Duration: January 2019 – June 2020
Supported by: UK Department for International Development (DfID)

Baghdad Mayoralty and Baghdad Operations Command prepare to re-open a street in Souq Ghazi, Mansour District, Baghdad. 10 July 2019. Photo: Omar Sirri

This project investigates the political economy of space in Baghdad’s marketplaces. Over the last year, a great deal of public attention has been focused on renewed stability in Iraq’s capital city. Such narratives are framed around Baghdad’s new and popular consumer spaces, like glitzy shopping malls and restaurants, and an improved security situation evidenced by the removal of blast walls and checkpoints that for years stunted urban mobility and scarred streetscapes. By zooming in on the relationship between security and socio-economic renewal, this project asks: what are the mechanisms and drivers of Baghdad’s urban transformations since 2003? Who has been primarily responsible for these changes and how have these actors benefited? What can Baghdad’s newly-privatised spaces tell us about past and present social and political conflicts?

Karada and Mansour are two of Baghdad’s most prominent consumer hubs. Both districts are economic centres that have experienced significant spatial changes in the last decade and a half. But these spaces also vary significantly, for example by the ways in which class, political, and religious power intersect and help engender the political-economic foundations of Baghdad’s transformations. By way of ethnographic research, including participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and political-geographic mapping, this project aims to highlight the deeply political nature of Baghdad’s “renewal.” It is ultimately the underlying politics of this urban condition that will have the most impact on the everyday lives and futures of ordinary Baghdadis.

This project forms part of the Conflict Research Programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development to provide research and policy advice on how the risk and impact of violent conflict might be more effectively reduced through development and governance interventions.

Project Outputs

Research Team


Omar Sirri | Principal Investigator 

Omar Sirri is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Toronto. His doctoral dissertation is an ethnography of law and security practices in contemporary Baghdad, and their relationship to political–economic transformations across the city.



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