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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

Tony Blair's legacy

by Lily Hamourtziadou

13 May 2007

Two wars and a decade of sanctions have led to a huge rise in the mortality rate among young children in Iraq, leaving statistics that were once the envy of the Arab world now comparable with those of sub-Saharan Africa. A new report shows that in the years since 1990, Iraq has seen its child mortality rate soar by 125%, the highest increase of any country in the world (Independent 8 May). Years of UN sanctions, followed by the US and Britain-led invasion devastated Iraq’s infrastructure and health services. Figures show that in 1990 Iraq’s mortality rate for under-fives was 50 per 1,000 live births; in 2005 it was 125.

Those that survive face a life of poverty, fear, struggle and loss. Baghdad has thousands of orphans –no one knows the exact number. The orphans are too many for the 8 orphanages in Baghdad, yet other than the orphanages no one will take these children, as in Iraqi culture orphans are mostly scorned, and seldom adopted. As a result, they end up in the streets. Scared, angry, violent, trying to survive by selling incense, gum, they are barely more than beggars.

Poverty drives others to work for armed groups. 11-year-old Seif and his brothers make bombs for Sunni insurgents who are fighting US troops. ‘The bombs are used to fight American soldiers. I was really afraid in the beginning, but then my parents told me that it was for two good causes: the first is to help our family eat; and the second is to fight occupation forces,’ he says (IRIN 10 May). Thousands of poor children in Iraq are forced to work to help their families, many by helping insurgents. In Seif’s words, ‘hunger is worse than anything.’

Violence killed another 580 civilians last week, and there was another major attack (with 50 or more deaths), the 15th so far this year (in 2006 there were 12 altogether).

Around 140 die on Monday 7 May. Among the dead 13 killed by a suicide bomber in Ramadi, 61 killed or found dead in Baghdad, and 40 more bodies found in Hilla, Kharma, Tikrit, and Diyala.

Over 60 die on Tuesday 8 May. In Baghdad, police find 25 bodies, tortured and executed, a suicide bomber kills 16 in a market in Kufa, while a US helicopter reportedly kills 7 children while shelling a primary school in Al-Nedawat village. Not included in the day’s count, but worth-mentioning, are the 2 newborns in incubators that die due to power shortage, and because they could not be transferred to another hospital, as security measures prevent ambulances from entering and leaving the city, Samarra.

Nearly 90 die on Wednesday 9 May, 19 of them in Arbil, victims of a suicide bomber. Gunmen kill 11 people inside a bus, 2 of them children, and 3 journalists are shot dead with their driver near Kirkuk. Among the dead a construction worker and a university professor. 34 bodies are found in Baghdad, Falluja and Baquba, 4 of them headless.

On Thursday 10 May 50 lose their lives. In Baghdad’s Sadr City 8 civilians are reported dead during a US raid, and another civilian is shot dead in Basra by British troops. A further 29 bodies are found in Baghdad, Mosul and Mahaweel.

Another 60 civilians are killed on Friday 11 May, including 22 blown up by suicide bombings on two bridges in Baghdad. Another university professor is shot dead with his brother in Baghdad, 3 women are shot dead inside their car near Balad, a young girl is slaughtered in front of her policeman father in Samarra, and 25 bodies are found dumped in Baghdad, Hawija and Falluja.

On the most peaceful day of this week, Saturday 12 May, only 45 are killed. Among them a doctor shot dead in Mosul, an interpreter and 24 bodies found in Baghdad, Baquba, Latifiya and Mosul.

The violence is up again on Sunday 13 May, when around 140 are killed. In another major attack, the 15th this year, a suicide bomber blows up a truck and kills 50 near the KDP headquarters in Makhmour. A car bomb kills a further 17 people in Baghdad’s al-Wathba square, gunmen shoot dead 5 at a flour mill, a former university dean is shot dead in Mosul, and a US plane kills a woman and a child sleeping on the roof of their house in Sadr City. Police find 40 bodies in Baghdad, Mosul and Diyala.

Over the past four years tens of thousands have been killed, and thousands more are missing. There is no accurate number of the missing: human rights groups put the figure at 15,000 or more, while government officials estimate that 40-60 disappeared daily for much of last year, a rate equal to at least 14,600 in one year. What happened to them is a mystery that ‘compounds Iraq’s overwhelming sense of chaos and anarchy’ (McClatchy 13 May). They may be dead, kidnapped, or held prisoner by the US, which is holding 19,000 Iraqis at its two main detention centres, Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca.

Thousands dead, thousands missing, in this country of poor and starving children, orphaned and begging in the streets, dying daily, increasingly joining in terrorist activities to survive. Yet the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as he is about to step down, still defends his decision to invade and occupy this country. Still accepting none of the responsibility.

Tony Blair, who made his nation complicit in the destruction of so many lives, who sent British soldiers, young men and women, to die and kill ‘in the name’ of the British public, who made Britain a target for terrorists…he must never be forgiven by the British. No, the British must never forgive him for disgracing them, for endangering them, for involving them in the killings, the poverty, the loss of so much.

‘There is no future for any Iraqi people,’ Quammer al-Janni, coordinator of orphan programmes for the Red Crescent, observes sadly. ‘Not just for the orphan babies, for all the Iraqi people. We don’t have any future.’