Yesterday, my husband went to our favorite 'international' grocery store for some shopping, and discovered that it was shutting down. Al-Barary is one of the few nice, large, clean grocery stores that sells alot of imported foods; Peter Pan peanut butter, Chips Ahoy cookies, frozen broccoli (the only place we've found broccoli here), Kleenex toilet paper, etc.
But unfortunately for Al-Barary, it is located in the Jami'a district; a mainly Sunni, business district that has been plagued by a lot of violence in the past few years. The main street in the Jami'a district, Rabee Street, used to be a very busy shopping street, but today, it turns into a ghost town by 5-6 pm (sunset at 8 pm). Police have closed off all side streets with large cement barriers, and numerous checkpoints stop cars along the way. It has become a deathly cycle, where the insurgency violence has brought in the police/National Guard for these checkpoints, and where the checkpoints attract more violent attacks against the police/National Guard.
Driving along Rabee Street, you find numerous shops that have closed down, and numerous buildings with their windows blown out. Barbed wires and large cement barriers keep visitors away from Jami'a district residents. And fear of car-jackers, theives and insurgency violence keep shoppers away after hours.
For Al-Barary, the last straw was a roadside bomb that went off in front of their store. The owner has hopes of reopening in a couple of months; perhaps then the security situation will get better. At best, that is doubtful.
There's an interesting blog entry by twentyfourstepstoliberty.blogspot.com on the situation of Jami'a district. My husband agrees that there seems to be an attempt to liquidate Sunni merchants/business owners in Baghdad, as is seen on a small scale with grocery store owners, and on a large scale with wealthy businessmen kidnappings and assasinations. (We personally know two very wealthy businessman who were kidnapped last year, and released on large ransoms (tens of thousands of dollars); and we know two different wealthy businessmen who have sent their families away to the safer, Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyya, after being threatened).
This is actually the second of our 'favorite' grocery stores to close down. Another small, neighborhood store closed down a few months ago when one of the young, Sunni owners was murdered.
On a different note, we've had about three different vegetable stand owners in our fairly Sunni neighborhood killed this past weekend, all of whom were Shiites. So it's either tit for tat, by some crazy, vengeful people taking their anger out on simple people, or it's a large-scale plan to up the sectarian divide in Baghdad. The only 'good' thing that comes out of this insanity and lack of respect for human life, is that no one I know, Sunni or Shi'i, condones this craziness.