Lily Hamourtziadou is IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor. For an extended period she also wrote brief weekly commentaries with a wider view of the war, without ever losing focus on its victims.
In this special piece to mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion, Lily looks back at some of the many tragedies that have touched her and her readers in these ten years.
10 years in Iraq
Contains Flashing Images
by Lily Hamourtziadou
You needn’t crucify yourself on the banks of the bloody torrents
that gush from your body,
as the Euphrates bares the secrets of its soul
at the dawn of a new defeat.
Salah Al-Hamdani, from ‘Baghdad My Beloved,’ March 25, 2003
There was no reason why Saddam Hussein should not be defeated swiftly and easily; Iraq was a country deeply divided by religion and ethnicity, broken by war and impoverished by years of economic sanctions. It was a vulnerable state. A weak state, one easily threatened militarily, politically and economically, one that could be controlled with little effort and few casualties. And so operation “Shock and Awe” began on March 19 2003. And the bombing of Baghdad commenced.
Millions of us sat transfixed before our TV screens, watching in shock and awe as bombs and missiles exploded. The reports came with the warning they contained flashing images, and true enough the sky over Baghdad flashed orange and golden, the sounds of war filling our ears. On the ground, it must have been deafening. Terrifying. The narrative of terror that began on March 19 2003 was to last for years: terror from the sky, terror on the ground, terror from the foreign soldier, terror from one’s neighbour… It would become, in turns, a narrative of justifications, of explanations, of accusations. 10 years later, it continues.
It is a violence we have been powerless to stop –those of us who opposed the invasion, who opposed the 9-year occupation of Iraq, who oppose terrorism. As civilians started to get killed daily in their hundreds, we watched, we documented. Over 122,000 civilians recorded killed so far, 4,180 of them children, 14,900 known to have been killed by our coalition forces. Civilians such as those 17 members of one family, killed in an air strike on April 4 2003 (IBC incident page x093); the 2 children machine-gunned at a checkpoint on May 28 2003 (x083); 7-year-old Afrah Moneem, shot dead at a Baghdad market on September 10 2003 (IBC individual page d4224-sa1478); the 2 killed in a helicopter strike on June 25 2007 (d3702); the 2 elderly people killed in a raid as they slept on a rooftop in Sadr City on May 30 2007 (k6583); the 17 killed in another raid in Sadr City on October 21 2007 (k7815), 2-year-old Ali Hamed among them (k7815-su932). Civilians like little Ali Hussein, the boy in the orange shorts, who died in a Sadr City air strike on April 29 2008 (k10366), where 30 people lost their lives; or 8-year-old Sa’adiya Saddam, shot dead in Diwaniya on February 7 2009 (k12175)… Collateral damage.
The killings were committed by many different perpetrators and by a variety of methods; coalition forces, insurgents, terrorists, American soldiers, British soldiers, Sunnis, Shia have brought about the death of innocents through air strikes, suicide bombings, car bombs, shootings, IEDs… The victims, people from all walks of life: shepherds, street cleaners, construction workers, policemen, doctors, clerics, teachers, journalists, politicians, school children… Killed as they walked, shopped, worked, drove, slept, changed a tyre…
Dr Haidar al-Baaj was shot dead in Basra on October 15 2003 (x194-hs132), one of 145 doctors and medics to be killed since the invasion. Other victims include:
- Hana Abdul Qader, politician, shot in Mosul on March 6 2005
- Widad al-Shaml, teacher, shot in Baquba on May 11 2006
- Mohammed Shihab al-Dulaimi, politician, shot in Baghdad on September 16 2006
- Asmaeel Taher, teacher, shot in Mosul on May 2 2007
- Abdul-Amir Ezz Al-Din, labourer, shot in Kirkuk on August 10 2007
- Maron Awanis, taxi driver, shot in Baghdad on October 9 2007
- Salih Saif Aldin, journalist, shot in Baghdad on October 14 2007
- Paulos Faraj Rahho, priest, abducted and killed in Mosul on March 13 2008
- Ahmed Salim, cameraman, shot in Mosul on September 13 2008
- Mohammed Akeel, schoolboy, blown up in Baghdad on July 9 2009
- Nazhan Isam Aziz, labourer, shot in Dubiz on April 21 2012
Images of the last 10 years include the wooden coffins, the bodies in white shrouds, the names -foreign to our ears- the faces –some smiling in old photographs- the blood, the blown-out cars… The suspects –blindfolded and handcuffed… the heroes, like 18-year-old vendor Ahmed Draiwel, who picked up a bomb and ran with it, away from the busy market, in Sadr City, in March of 2007 (k5752-xc826), the only one who died when it exploded.
Thousands of civilians have been killed each year, since the night of the flashing images. At its peak, the terror claimed 29,027 in 2006; at its calmest, 4,073 in 2010.
Meanwhile Iraq was ‘liberated’ and ‘democratised,’ with elections taking place during the years of occupation. As the killing continued. Every day as I turned the page in my notepad and wrote the new date on top, I feared the daily count, the names and ages of the newly dead... Baghdad: 5 by car bomb… Mahmudiya: 4 children by IED… Karbala: 45 by suicide bomber… Mahmoud Modher… Junaid Mohammed Khairallah… Nora Sabah Gadan… family of Saler Hamzeh Ali Moussawi…
The narrative of terror is the narrative of justifications, the narrative of explanations, the narrative of accusations. It is the narrative of the names and faces of the innocent. It is the narrative of the helpless and the poor, the millions of refugees, the bodies found and picked up from the streets of Baghdad, buried in mass graves, unidentified, unclaimed. We are the lucky ones, who witness the horror from afar, our TV screens, our newspapers, our computer monitors. We can watch in shock and awe, as it all unfolds, less and less frequently now, safe from the missiles, safe from the car bombs, the only danger those flashing images hurting our eyes. That’s why those reports come with a warning.