Iraq Body Count urgently needs your support to keep track of casualties - help us with a donation now


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

Images of Iraq

by Lily Hamourtziadou

9 March 2008

‘When you close your eyes and think of Iraq, what do you see in your mind’s eye?’ asks Jerry Schwartz, writing for the Associated Press (March 8 2008).

‘Is it a picture of charred bodies hanging from a bridge over the Euphrates River in Fallujah? Is it a picture of a Marine climbing a massive statue of Saddam Hussein to place an American flag on its face, hours after the fall of Baghdad? Or is it a picture of an Iraqi prisoner standing on a box, arms outstretched with wires attached, a fabric bag covering his head?’

This is what I see.

Image 1: the coffins. They are carried daily, those cheap-looking boxes with the Arabic writing adorning their sides, incomprehensible to me and to most westerners like me, on the shoulders of men, young and old, pain and anger visible on their faces.

Image 2: the bodies. Bullet-riddled, decomposed, unidentified, dumped or buried in mass graves… the bodies of Iraqi citizens feature in daily reports, now lifeless, as though they had always been inanimate. ‘3 bodies were found today in Baghdad,’ read the reports, or ‘5 unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad on Monday’… on Tuesday, on Wednesday… ‘60 unidentified and unclaimed bodies were buried today in Karbala,’ reads another report. How many bodies will there be today, I ask myself every morning. Because there are always bodies –the question is just how many. Bodies without names, without identities. As if they had never been someone’s sons, daughters, parents. Someone’s beloved.

Image 3: the women. Invariably dressed in black robes, almost as devoid of identity as the bodies found every day. Since the invasion of their country Iraqi women no longer dare to venture outside without their black cover. The international women’s group Women for Women International has called it a ‘national crisis’: women now face increasing violence, there is less respect for their rights than before, while 76.2% of the 1,513 women asked nationwide said girls in their families were forbidden from attending school.

Image 4: the young assassins. The new generation of Iraq, those that should have been enjoying the joys of youth, the challenges and dreams of the future. The hope of every society. Teenage boys and girls who are learning how to make bombs, how to kill themselves and others –every week now I am reminded of them, every week now there is at least one that wastes his/her own life, that takes the lives of others, that adds more cheap-looking coffins to the pile, to be carried in ever-increasing anger and despair.

Image 5: grief. The screaming mother outside the morgue, the sobbing child next to a pool of blood, the father carrying his child’s body, shrouded and ready for its early grave. How, I wonder, can people bear so much grief? What is it that we humans are made of that we can endure so much, lose so much, when we can love so much?

This week 384 civilians were killed or found dead. At least 8 of them were children. More coffins, more mass graves, more loss. And there will be more to come. More death for all to see, more pain for those unfortunates trapped in a world of violence. More for us to ignore and more for them to endure.