By Manar al-Zubaidi, Dywanyiah
When one stands on the suspension bridge near central Diwaniyah, one can see a monument that looks like a large flower, topped by a round clock and surrounded by green space. This is Clock Square, the central city space that has become an icon of the anti-government protests in this southern city.
For more than two months, thousands of locals have been coming here. A small tent city has evolved, complete with dining tables and sleeping places. Police cars are usually parked at the four streets leading into the square.
This is not the first time that Diwaniyah locals have gathered here.
“Historically the area where the square is today was an agricultural area, filled with gardens,” says local historian, Ghalib al-Khalal. “There were only two houses here, one belonging to the governor and the other to the manager of the train station.”
In the 1960s, a monument to the city was built here. The design was by two locals and was inspired by a flower, in keeping with Diwaniyah’s motto, “flower of the middle Euphrates region”. The construction work, which would eventually cost IQD7,350 – not even enough to buy lunch nowadays – began in 1965 and was completed a year later.
After the monument was completed, a clock was also built in its centre. This was taken care of by a local council worker, who would adjust the timing at the beginning of every month. The chimes of the clock were very loud and clear, and local people said they could hear them from miles away. Over time though, the large clock was replaced by a smaller one, which promptly stopped working. Today there are not many locals left who can remember the way the original timepiece sounded.
The square has also had many names. At first it was named after the president of the time, then it was called after the nearby suspension bridge, then Euphrates Square and finally it came to be known simply as Clock Square, a title it would still keep today, were it not for the current protests. This year, as a result of the anti-government protests, during which over 20 young demonstrators have been killed, there is now a campaign to rename the place Martyr’s Square.