Foreign Policy Blogs

Signs of Reconstruction in Iraq Continue with the Rebuilding of the Golden Dome Mosque

February, 2006: Shi’a Iraqis sift through the rubble of the al-Askariyya, or Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra, Iraq in order to find remnants of their religious texts.  The city lies in rubble from the supposed al-Qaeda bombing (although no one actually claimed responsibility for the attack).  One of the most internationally important Shi’a mosques is almost unidentifiable, cloaked in an invisible, yet thick layer of fear and sadness.  The attack set off the worst sectarian violence since the US overthrew the Ba'th regime in 2003. 

June, 2008: The Shrine still sits in ruins.  The remains of the famous dome once covered in gold-plated tiles still lie on the ground.  Concrete blocks of rubble sit in piles awaiting attention.  The shops next door, once filled with bustling Iraqis buying food and gifts, still have closed doors.  But all is not lost– one shop remains open, serving the workers that have started trickling onto the construction site.  The Iraqi government, partnering with UNESCO, (the United Nations’ heritage agency) has taken on the restoration of the mosque, and plans to reconstruct it exactly as it looked prior to the bombing.  The rebuilding effort is reported by Deborah Haynes, from the Times Online blog, “Inside Iraq.” 

On the subject of recontruction progress in Iraq, I admit it: I am a cynic.  Even Ms. Haynes mentions the lack of electricity and running water in Samarra houses and the abundance of trash in the streets.   But after reading this story, I have gained some hope.  That architect Haj Zuhair al-Auzari is taking on this incredible project leads me to believe that Iraqis are slowly starting to fix their country, and in a sense, reclaim it as well.  We can only hope that the reconstruction of the Golden Dome mosque will return Samarra to the center of Shi’a pilgrimage that it once was, and in turn, begin to rebuild its economic base.  And with this, give all Iraqis the courage and determination they need at a time when their country and culture have been ripped to shreds. 

The story of this mosque holds a special place in my heart; it was my MA Thesis topic.  I thought that the bombing was one of the most incredible stories to come out of this war in terms of destruction and devastation.  But I might be wrong (and I certainly hope that I am).  The story of the al-Askariyya Mosque might, in fact, still be one of the most incredible; this time a story about hope and healing. 



Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;