Remarks by Mark Rutgers, UNAMI Chief of Staff, at the 9th commemoration of the 2009 attack on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad, Iraq

Excellency the Foreign Minister,
Distinguished Guests,
All protocols observed,

Today we are gathered in commemoration of one of the darkest pages in Iraq’s recent history. Nine years ago, on 19 August 2009, Baghdad was rocked to the core by three car bombs and several mortar strikes, targeting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, as well as other parts of the capital.

Because of these attacks, more than 101 people lost their lives, and at least 565 were injured.

The terrorists who had planned and perpetrated these attacks meant to destabilize the Government, which had just taken over full responsibility for the security in the country.

By no coincidence, these heinous attacks took place exactly six years after the UN headquarters in Baghdad were torn apart by a massive bomb blast, killing twenty-two UN staff members, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Sérgio Vieira de Mello. More than a hundred people were injured.

The message behind both attacks was clear: all those who aim to bring peace and prosperity to Iraq will have to fear for their lives.

Just as survivors of the attack on the UN in 2003 are still working with the United Nations, I am sure that as we speak, there are people among us who witnessed the attack on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs firsthand. Despite the horrors of that day and the many catastrophes that have befallen Iraq since, they remain committed to playing their role in building a peaceful, long-term future for their country. I wholeheartedly commend them for their tenacity and courage. Not only those colleagues who witnessed the attacks firsthand deserve praise, but also the new generation of civil servants that have since joined the ranks of the Government, striving to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens; ensuring that their rights are respected, and their needs are met.

These are not easy tasks. If there’s one thing that history has taught us, it is that the path of progress is not always linear.

Another important conclusion is that progress does not only depend on grand ideas, but also on the dedication of civil servants – civilians who go about their every-day lives and business in keeping with the laws, traditions and practices that govern civilized and regulated existence.

As United Nations, we are grateful for the tireless support that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has continued to render to us, which has allowed us to jointly accompany the people of Iraq on this journey.

As a result of the joint efforts of the Government and citizens of Iraq, we can state that, nine years on from that murderous attack and the subsequent waves of terrorism, Iraq has become a safer place that is clearly resuming its rightful place in the community of nations.

Whilst appreciating this progress, we remember the sacrifices of those civil servants and citizens who fell during the attack in August 2009 and pay tribute to them.

Let the future of this illustrious country be their legacy.

Baghdad, Iraq
2 August 2018


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