Iraq has lifted a years-old nightly curfew in the capital, Baghdad, in a bid by Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi’s government to make the city feel more liveable despite persistent violence plaguing the country.
The curfew, which most recently was in effect from midnight to 5:00am, ends a longstanding policy aimed at curbing attacks in the capital by limiting movement at night.
As midnight approached on Saturday, some Iraqis gathered at Tahrir Square where city officials were throwing a party.
And at the Mansour Mall, the biggest in the city, shops were staying open instead of closing at 11pm.
“It’s a positive decision for our business and our work. The shops will stay open much later and of course we will benefit,” Tariq al-Ameri, a dress shop owner, said.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said there was an upbeat mood in the city.
“For the first time in more than 10 years people will not have to rush home at midnight,” she said.
“It isn’t just the curfew that’s been lifted. The prime minister has also ordered more roadblocks taken down. In some neighbourhoods there’s a crackdown on arms carried by militias and a limit to the number of security vehicles officials can use.”
The curfew, first imposed by the US military in 2003 and kept in place by the Iraqi government, has done little to curb the deadly bombings that plague the capital. Most are carried out during the day or early evening with the aim of causing maximum casualties.
In the latest attacks, just hours before the curfew was lifted, suicide bomb attacks killed at least 36 people and injured at least 94 on Saturday.
In the first incident, a bomber detonated explosives inside a restaurant in the predominantly Shia neighbourhood of Jididah, killing at least 23 people and wounding 49 more, police said.
In the second attack, a bomber detonated explosives in a busy commercial street in the al-Shurjah market, killing 13 and injuring another 45, according to police.
The hours the curfew has been in force have varied over the years, and it has been lifted completely before only to be reinstated again.
Abbadi ordered the move earlier this week, to return “normal life as much as possible, despite the existence of a state of war”, his office said.
The decision to lift the curfew comes as Iraqi forces battle to regain ground from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the group that spearheaded an offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June.