Hands of Victory
The Arc of Triumph; also called the Swords of Qādisīyah، and Hands of Victory in some Western sources, are a pair of triumphal arch
Triumphal arch
A triumphal arch is a monumental structure in the shape of an archway with one or more arched passageways, often designed to span a road. In its simplest form a triumphal arch consists of two massive piers connected by an arch, crowned with a flat entablature or attic on which a statue might be...

es in central Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. Each arch consists of a pair of hands holding crossed swords. The two arches mark the entrances to a parade-ground constructed to commemorate then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

's declaration of victory over Iran in the Iran-Iraq war
Iran-Iraq War
The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran, lasting from September 1980 to August 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the twentieth century...

 (though the war was considered by many to have ended in stalemate). The arches were opened to the public on August 8, 1989. It is one of Baghdad's sights and monuments.


In 1986 (two years before the war's end) the government of Iraq began the construction of a festival and parade ground in Zawra Park, near the extensive presidential complex in the center of Baghdad. Known as Grand Festivities Square, it comprised a large parade ground, an extensive review pavilion, and the two arches. The official name of the arches, the Swords of Qādisiyyah, is an allusion to the historical Battle of al-Qādisiyyah
Battle of al-Qadisiyyah
The Battle of al-Qādisiyyah was fought in 636; it was the decisive engagement between the Arab muslim army and the Sassanid Persian army during the first period of Muslim expansion. It resulted in the Islamic conquest of Persia, and was key to the conquest of Iraq...


Iraq's leading sculptor
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, Adil Kamil, won the commission to design and execute the construction of the arches, which were based on a concept sketch made by president Saddam Hussein. The design consists of a pair of massive hands emerging from the ground, each holding a 140 foot (43 m) long sword. A small flagpole rises from the point where the swords meet, at a point about 130 feet (39.6 m) above the ground. Kamil used photographs and plaster casts of Saddam's forearms to model for the design of the hands. When Kamil died in 1987, with the monument incomplete, his position was assumed by fellow artist Mohammed Ghani Hikmat
Mohammed Ghani Hikmat
Mohammad Ghani Hikmat, was an Iraqi sculptor and artist credited with creating some of Baghdad's highest profile sculptures and monuments. His best known works include the Victory Arch and two statues of Queen Scheherazade and King Shahryar, located on Aby Nuwas Street...

. Ghani personally took an impression of one of Saddam's thumbs, and the resulting fingerprint was added to the mold for one of the arches' thumbs.

The arches were made by an international consortium led by the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 foundry H+H Metalform. The blades of the stainless steel swords weigh 24 tons
Short ton
The short ton is a unit of mass equal to . In the United States it is often called simply ton without distinguishing it from the metric ton or the long ton ; rather, the other two are specifically noted. There are, however, some U.S...

 each. Cast in Iraq, they are partly composed of metal from guns and tanks of Iraqi soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq war. The hands and arms of the monument are cast in bronze, cast in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 at the Morris Singer
Morris Singer
Morris Singer is a British art foundry, established in 1848, famous for its sculptures, including Eros, the lions at Trafalgar Square and the doors to the Bank of England, plus also the figures of Henry Moore....

A foundry is a factory that produces metal castings. Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal in a mold, and removing the mold material or casting after the metal has solidified as it cools. The most common metals processed are aluminum and cast iron...

. The arms rest on concrete plinth
In architecture, a plinth is the base or platform upon which a column, pedestal, statue, monument or structure rests. Gottfried Semper's The Four Elements of Architecture posited that the plinth, the hearth, the roof, and the wall make up all of architectural theory. The plinth usually rests...

s, the form of which make the arms appear to burst up out of the ground. Each plinth holds 2,500 helmet
A helmet is a form of protective gear worn on the head to protect it from injuries.Ceremonial or symbolic helmets without protective function are sometimes used. The oldest known use of helmets was by Assyrian soldiers in 900BC, who wore thick leather or bronze helmets to protect the head from...

s of, what Saddam claimed, Iranian soldiers killed during the war, and are held in nets which spill the helmets on to the ground beneath.

On the day the monument was dedicated in 1990, Saddam rode under the arch astride a white horse. It has been suggested this was an allusion to the slain Shiite martyr Hussein
Husayn ibn Ali
Hussein ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib ‎ was the son of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and Fātimah Zahrā...

, killed in Karbala
Karbala is a city in Iraq, located about southwest of Baghdad. Karbala is the capital of Karbala Governorate, and has an estimated population of 572,300 people ....

 in AD
Anno Domini
and Before Christ are designations used to label or number years used with the Julian and Gregorian calendars....

 680. The martyr Hussein's death caused the rift between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

The site was also home to the Museum of Gifts to the President and a performing arts center. The museum was located on the ground floor of the grand reviewing pavilion where Saddam was known to review the Republican Guard while firing a weapon in the air. The museum contained ordinary items donated by Iraqis during his rule. Items included cheap plastic ornaments and drawings donated by Iraqi children.

The Grand Festivities Square also contained a large reflecting pool. The surrounding grassy areas hosted Iraqis during military parades. Adding to the festive appeal of the grounds were three refreshments booths that sold ice cream, cold beverages, and candy.

Samir al-Kalil's book Monument: Art, Vulgarity, and Responsibility in Iraq describes the Arc of Triumph and Saddam's programme of producing lavish monument celebrating his reign.

The monument was not destroyed during the 1991 Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, though General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Norman Schwarzkopf wanted to. The arches remain standing in what is now the International Zone
International zone
An international zone is a type of extraterritoriality governed by international law, or similar treaty between two or more nations. They can be found within international airports and can contain duty free shopping. In areas of conflict there may be international zones called green zones that form...

 of Baghdad. The hands are hollow and many troops and other coalition visitors have climbed up into them in order to protrude from the point at which the swords meet the hands, generally to have souvenir pictures taken.

Planned Demolition

In February 2007, it was reported that the new Iraqi government had organized the Committee for Removing Symbols of the Saddam Era and that the Arc of triumph monument had begun to be dismantled, which drew protests from Iraqi and preservationist groups.

The demolition began on Tuesday, February 20, 2007. At that time, 10 feet (3 m) chunks had been cut out of the bronze monument. Numerous Iraqi bystanders and coalition troops were seen taking helmets and bits of the monument away as souvenirs. The decision to remove the monument, made by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
Nouri al-Maliki
Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Maliki , also known as Jawad al-Maliki or Abu Esraa, is the Prime Minister of Iraq and the secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party. Al-Maliki and his government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government. He is currently in his second term as Prime Minister...

, was challenged by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad
Zalmay Khalilzad
Zalmay Mamozy Khalilzad is a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and president of Khalilzad Associates, an international business consulting firm based in Washington, DC. He was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush...

, who blocked the demolition on February 21.

The government of Iraq reversed its earlier plans to demolition the monument.


In February 2011, Iraqi authorities began the restoration of the monument as a sign of reconciliation.

External links

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