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.
Iraq's leading sculptor, 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 Шаблон:Ft to m above the ground. Kamil used photographs and plaster casts of Hussein'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. 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 foundry H+H Metalform. The blades of the stainless steel swords weigh 24 tons 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 at Morris Singer Founders. The arms rest on concrete plinths, the form of which make the arms appear to burst up out of the ground. Each plinth holds 2,500 helmets 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, killed in Karbala in AD 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 Hands of Victory and Saddam's programme of producing lavish monument celebrating his reign.
The monument was not destroyed during the 1991 Gulf War, though General Norman Schwarzkopf wanted to. As of 2005 the arches remain standing in what is now the Green Zone 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.
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 Hands of Victory monument had begun to be dismantled. The demolition of the Hands of Victory began on Tuesday, February 20th, 2007. At that time, 10-foot chunks had been cut out of the bronze monument. Numerous Iraqi bystanders and coalition troops were seen taking Iranian helmets and bits of the monument away as souvenirs. The decision to remove the monument, made by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was challenged by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who blocked the demolition on February 21st.
While no official statement was released by either the Prime Minister's Office or the U.S. Embassy, it is speculated the demolition was halted due to concerns the dismantling of the monument might further deepen the rift between Iraq's Shiite majority and its Sunni minority. Also, it was suggested the news images of U.S.-led coalition troops "looting" the monument might have negative effects on the mission in Iraq.
As of February 24th the demolition has been postponed.
- Anti-Iranian sentiment