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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


by Lily Hamourtziadou

25 May 2008

Abu Shahd, a wage earner from Baghdad's al-Doura area who found himself partially paralyzed after a stray bullet struck him in the back and severed his spinal cord, is one of tens of thousands of disabled Iraqis who are the victims of consequent wars and 5 years of violence.

Speaking to Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI), Umma Shahd, his wife, said, "He used to be quiet and he did love his job, but after the accident, he became high-strung and turned our life into a living hell."

Faris al-Ubeidi, a social researcher, pointed out that the disabled are ‘the most marginalized sector in Iraqi society’ (Voices of Iraq 24 May).

As many as 200,000 civilians may have been injured in Iraq since March 2003, based on Iraqi Ministry of Health figures and approximate IBC calculations. Many of them suffering horrific injuries, especially bomb victims. Injuries resulting from bomb explosions include limbs being blown off, bodies riddled with shrapnel, blindness and loss of hearing. Iraqis have been bombed from the air, by car bombs, roadside bombs and suicide bombers.

Writing for the Washington Post, Ernesto Londono and Amit R. Paley report:

From an Apache helicopter, Capt. Ben Katzenberger's battlefield resembles a vast mosaic of tiny brown boxes.

"The city looks like a bucket of Legos dumped out on the ground," the 26-year-old pilot said. "It's brown Legos, no color. It's really dense and hard to pick things out because everything looks the same."

He uses a powerful lens to zoom in on tiny silhouettes, trying to identify people with "hostile intent" among hundreds of ordinary citizens in Baghdad.

In recent weeks, Katzenberger and other pilots have dramatically increased their use of helicopter-fired missiles against enemy fighters, often in densely populated areas. Since late March, the military has fired more than 200 Hellfire missiles in the capital, compared with just six missiles fired in the previous three months.

The military says the tactic has saved the lives of ground troops and prevented attacks, but the strikes have also killed and wounded civilians. (WP 23 May)

Those civilians include people like Zahara Fadhil, a 10-year-old girl, wounded by a missile on April 20 at approximately 8 p.m. in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City. The U.S. military said it fired a Hellfire missile in Zahara's neighborhood at that time, targeting men who were seen loading rockets into a sedan.

Just before the missile hit, Zahara was returning home from delivering food to neighbors. She was near the door when her grandmother yelled: "Get inside the house!"

As she began to move, the missile crashed into the house, throwing her behind a set of stairs. One of Zahara's uncles, Dhia Rahi Shaie al-Koreishi, 34, a taxi driver, and her grandmother, Um Fadhil al-Koreishi, were killed by the blast.

"The heart of this family has been ripped out," said Alaa Rahi Shaie, 29, another uncle, who was stoic in describing the death of his brother. "This is his blood," he said, indicating red splotches in front of his home. "And the remains of his head are over there." (WP 23 May)

The heart of many families has been ripped out in Iraq, the ‘most violent country in the world,’ according to a report by Global Peace Index released on Tuesday. The index ranked 140 countries, including Iraq, using 24 qualitative and quantitative indicators that combined internal and external factors ranging from a nation’s level of military expenditure to its relations with neighbouring countries and the level of respect for human rights (PUKMedia 22 May).

In the world’s most violent country, 167 civilians were killed last week -3 of them children- 18 by US forces. On May 21st alone US forces killed 16 Iraqi civilians in two incidents; 2 of the victims were children.

Over 5,500 civilians have been reported killed in the first 5 months of 2008 and twice as many injured. More will be added to both lists –the dead and the wounded- tomorrow and the day after and every day: each death and each injury adding a little more to the suffering of a nation, a little more hurt to those already hurting.

This is the last in the current run of ‘The Week in Iraq’ columns.