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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

Blankets covered the dead

by Lily Hamourtziadou

20 Apr 2008

The cheerful floral patterns masked the gruesome content. Freshly killed from a suicide bombing the corpses lay on the desert-like terrain, wrapped in flowery blankets of red and pink, blue and white, their bloody, burnt bodies hidden from the view of those who, numb with grief, sat by their side or stood by as if unsure of what to do (photo in McClatchy, 18 April). As many as 60 people were reported killed in this suicide attack on a funeral procession on April 17, in a small village in Diyala.

They were only some of the hundreds killed last week. Over 500 by my last count: 505 civilians killed or found dead in the space of a week, the highest civilian weekly death toll this year. US forces killed 19 of them as they assisted al-Maliki in his (armed and deadly, of course, this is Iraq) efforts to rid Iraq of ‘criminals’ and his own government of any opposition. Among last week’s dead were 23 children. Iraqis suffered two large bombings and witnessed the discovery of 6 mass graves. Bodies unknown.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid a quick, unannounced (as always) visit to Iraq last week, during which she criticised cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for threatening violence while living abroad. Al-Sadr warned of an ‘open war until liberation’ should the Iraqi government and its US allies continued their assault against his followers in southern Iraq and Sadr City. ‘He is still living in Iran,’ Rice commented, ‘I guess it’s all out war for anybody but him... His followers can go to their death and he will still be in Iran.’ (Reuters, 20 April)

Strong words from someone whose country invaded another on the other side of the world. Whose leaders sent others to kill and die in those far-away lands. Whose civilian population does not suffer the tragedy of the mass graves, their children’s mutilated bodies wrapped in blankets and the daily air strikes. She does not live in this terror either, Ms Rice, and neither do any of those who declared this war.

All week fighter aircraft bombed Sadr City, Basra, Nassiriya, targeting ‘gunmen’ but often killing civilians. It has been nearly a month now since the ‘Charge of the Knights’ –a nobly named operation- was launched, killing hundreds of people.

‘What is happening in Basra and Al-Sadr City is a huge humanitarian disaster,’ says Dr Maha al-Duri, Iraqi MP representing the al-Sadr Trend. ‘There is a huge media blackout. There are hundreds of martyrs and thousands of injured. Hospital morgues are stacked with martyrs and hospitals cannot accept wounded people anymore. Any convoy that carries humanitarian aid is being turned back or fired upon by the occupation forces. The entire city is being annihilated’ and members of the trend are being ‘liquidated for the sole reason that we choose to resist.’

She adds: ‘We have not raised our weapons in the face of the government; our weapons and resistance are directed against the occupation only; we want to drive the occupation out of our land’ (interviewed on Al-Jazeera, 19 April).

Meanwhile it was revealed last week that the Iraqi Ministry of Defence has allocated $2.6 billion for the purchase of weapons for the Iraqi armed forces (Azzaman, 19 April). This is what the Iraqi government needs, more weapons, more ammunition to use against its own people. It is what some call ‘democracy.’

‘I would like just to see what we can do to promote that kind of centre that I think is clearly coming together,’ Condoleeza Rice told reporters travelling with her aboard a U.S. military plane to Baghdad. Clearly coming together, is it? She must have thought she was on her way to another place. One where streets are not littered with corpses. Where neighbourhoods are not bombed. One not reigned by grief.