Iraqi Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Abdul Amir al-Hamdani delivers a speech at the reopening ceremony of al-Mansour Theater in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 8, 2019. Abdul Amir al-Hamdani reopened on Monday al-Mansour Theater in the heavily fortified Green Zone in downtown Baghdad after more than 15 years of closure. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)
BAGHDAD, April 8 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Abdul Amir al-Hamdani reopened on Monday al-Mansour Theater in the heavily fortified Green Zone in downtown Baghdad after more than 15 years of closure.
In his speech on behalf of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, al-Hamdani said "today we are opening this cultural lung in Baghdad to send messages to the world that Baghdad has returned to culture after the return of security and stability."
"Culture is the connecting bridge, which is the wide space, and the ministry is supportive to all cultural projects," al-Hamdani said in the reopening ceremony.
"It is true that the battle against the terrorist Daesh (Islamic State) organization is over, but it began intellectually and the ministry's goal is to fight this extremist ideology with art, literature, music and legitimate theater," al-Hamdani said.
The ceremony included a performance by the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra, and a performance by the Iraqi Fashion House for the fashion of ancient Mesopotamia, as well as fireworks in the Grand Celebrations Square, which it has been renamed as Akitu Square starting from now on.
The name Akitu is very ancient. It is the New Year's Day for the Acadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Chaldeans, and the feast begins in the first month of the year, which is in April.
The Grand Celebrations Square is known of its famous Victory Arch, also known as Crossed Swords, which are a pair of triumphal arches mark the two entrances of the Square and its parade ground. It was built by the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein inside what is known now as the Green Zone which houses the main government buildings and some foreign embassies.
The reopening of theater ceremony was attended by a number of ministers, parliament lawmakers and some representatives of the diplomatic missions in Bagdad, as well as a large number of Iraqi artists.
Some of the artists expressed their happiness at the reopening of the theater, stressing the importance of this step, which they described as the restoration of the role of art in spreading of values of tolerance, peace and brotherhood among the people.
The ceremony also included the opening of a gallery named Akitu House, with an exhibition of ancient photographs that symbolize the ancient Iraqi civilization.
The reopening of the theater is part of the gradual removal of thousands of concrete walls surrounding Baghdad's Green Zone and many other areas in the capital, as security situation has improved in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities after the defeat of the extremist Islamic State (IS) group in late 2017.