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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

'The one who fashions the sticks'

by Lily Hamourtziadou

14 Jan 2007

President Bush has decided to send another 21,500 troops to Iraq, in an effort to crack down on militias, as part of his new ‘surge’ strategy. Iraqi Prime Minister, al-Maliki, has approved of the plan, in the face of criticism from all sides, both in Iraq and in the USA. The strongest response came from the Shia militia: ‘The American people have to prevent their sons from coming to Iraq, or they may return in coffins,’ said Sheikh Abdel Razzaq al-Nadawi, a senior official in al-Sadr’s movement. In Sadr City, the Baghdad stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr, his Mahdi Army is ordering every man aged 15-45 to register for combat. The other side is no less determined to rid Iraq of American/coalition forces: ‘We will keep going in our war that does not accept any midway solutions. Either they pull out of our country or the war will continue until we achieve victory,’ stated Ahmed al-Hassani, of the hardline Ansar al-Sunna.

In reality, it is mainly civilians who fill the coffins in Iraq, over 560 of them during the past week.

On Monday 8 January over 70 are killed, 15 of them cleaners and other airport employees, killed inside a minibus on their way to work. A family of 6, 4 of them children, are killed as they flee their home, after receiving death threats. Among the dead a UNICEF employee, shot dead in Baghdad.

On Tuesday 9 January the dead exceed 80. In Baghdad 1,000 US and Iraqi troops battle against insurgents, killing 50 of them. It is the fourth day of intense fighting between US/Iraqi troops and insurgents in Baghdad. The battle on Tuesday lasts 12 hours –there are no US or Iraqi army casualties. Another family -2 men, a woman and 2 children- is killed when their house is flattened in US air strikes. The dead on Tuesday include 5 brothers killed in Amara, a shepherd and 2 workers killed while fixing a pipe. Over 50 bodies are found bound and tortured in Baghdad and Mosul.

Around 140 die on Wednesday 10 January, 100 of them bodies found in 9 cities and towns. In Tal Afar 5 are killed, a child among them, while 12 pilgrims are shot dead on their way back from Mecca. A 13-year-old boy carrying a bomb blows himself up as well as an Iraqi soldier –it is not clear if the boy knew he was carrying a bomb.

On Thursday 11 January 65 deaths are reported. A 10-year-old is killed in Mosul, 2 people die by random US fire in Hit, and 43 bodies are found in Baghdad and Kirkuk.

On the most peaceful day of the week, Friday 12 January, around 40 die. In Karbala a man is killed in the taxi he is riding, together with his son and the taxi driver. Another man is killed as he is selling fruit in a Baghdad market, and 4 fruit traders are killed alongside the driver of their car. The dead also include a child, a woman and a child shot dead by US soldiers in Ragat Shifta, and a former governor of Al-Beaj shot dead with his wife and son. In Baghdad, Mosul, Basmaia and al-Muaalmeen 22 bodies are found, and a head is found in Baquba.

The death toll is up again on Saturday 13 January, when over 70 die. Among the dead a journalist, 4 lorry drivers, 3 brothers, 2 engineers killed while repairing a bridge, and a 16-year-old. In Baghdad, Iskandariya and Kut police find 36 bodies.

On Sunday 14 January the week ends with over 90 violent deaths. Two dozen people are shot or found dead in Mosul, gunmen shoot dead 7 carpenters in Baghdad, and 50 bodies are found in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk. In Baiji police find a head.

This is the hell that civilians face every day. Many try to flee; in 2006 alone UNHCR estimates that nearly 500,000 Iraqis fled to other areas inside the country and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. It was reported that the average number of daily attacks in October 2006 was 180.

The estimated number of insurgents and militia members in Iraq has gone from 5,000 in November 2003 to between 20,000 and 30,000 in October 2006. As for the Iraqi infant mortality, it has gone from 40,000 in 1990 to 102,000 in 2005 (McClatchy Washington Bureau, 10 January 2007).

To tackle this hell, President Bush is sending more soldiers to Iraq, still talking of victory. Still unrepentant. While acknowledging the fact that the invasion of Iraq has somewhat ‘destabilised’ the country, he believes Iraqis should be grateful. ‘We liberated that country from a tyrant,’ he declared on Sunday, ‘I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude.’ But Iraqis cannot be blamed for not feeling grateful. ‘He who is to be beaten with sticks does not like the one who fashions the sticks,’ goes the Iraqi saying. It makes sense.