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thedrifter
04-09-06, 07:15 PM
New Baghdad Sculpture Holds Little Meaning
By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer

The turquoise color is faded, and nests of sparrows fill its holes.

The sculpture that replaced the statue of Saddam Hussein toppled three years ago is supposed to represent freedom. But many Iraqis say it has little meaning when fear, violence and uncertainty dominate their lives.

"It has no meaning because there is no freedom," said Mohammed Ahmed, who operates a currency exchange shop nearby.

The modernist structure, with branches reaching up toward the sky and a crescent moon shape balancing a ball, sits on top of a concrete cylinder that once held a larger-than-life replica of Saddam wearing a suit, his right arm stretched out.

The statue in Firdous Square became famous when viewers across the world watched as U.S. Marines hauled it down on April 9, 2003. Iraqis cheered and started jumping on top of it to celebrate the end of Saddam's regime.

"Freedom Day," celebrated Sunday, was created to mark the anniversary of the event.

"It does not stand for anything," Umm Wadhah, a 51-year-old housewife in black robes who lives nearby, said of the statue. "It does not symbolize the country, or unity, or anything. We want something that stands for us ... all of us."

The statue was created by a group of Iraqi artists that produced the gypsum monument to represent family, hope and elements of Iraq's past — the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Islamic civilization and the ancient Sumerians.

Ahmed, 41, said every day he sees people appear baffled as they look up at the statue, wondering what it is supposed to depict.

When compared with America's most important symbol of freedom — the Statue of Liberty — he said the Iraqi version hardly sizes up. He finds its presence annoying, he said.

"I was talking about it today to some friends telling them that I wish a mortar round would hit and free us from it," he joked.

Seriously, he said, he thought it should be removed, and not be replaced.

"Because whose statue would they put instead — one of Bush?" he said, referring to the U.S. president.

One onlooker noted the positive changes that have taken place since Saddam was pushed out but said a more attractive, symbolic statue was needed to convey the improvements.

"Another statue, a more creative one that can express the suffering of the Iraqi people during the 35 years under the former regime, should be put in its place," said the 60-year-old Wahid Zughair. "We have freedom of speech and media and things are better than before. Another statue must be put to express all these changes."

Some Iraqis paid no attention to the statue at all.

"I am too preoccupied with my work, and numerous problems and worries to notice it," said Abu Mohammed, 36.

"For me, all statues represent tyranny," he added.

Ellie