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Saturday, June 17, 2006

A thousand ways to die 

Here's the latest news from the Baghdad morgue, which is receiving 1,000 bodies a month, mostly people violently murdered. With so many people dying every day, the individual stories of loss and despair will likely never be told:
Samir Mehdi Matar, a 40-year-old father of four, is a Shi’ite schoolteacher. Married to a Sunni woman . . . Shortly after leaving for work last April he received a phone call. His house had been wrecked by an explosion. His two daughters, Samaa, 16, and Zahraa, 4, were killed by a bomb that had been placed on a windowsill below the room where they slept.

Najda Abdul Razzak makes no apology for wishing to tear out the eyes of the killer of her son Hani, a 31-year-old Sunni professor of engineering at Baghdad University. Najda was in her kitchen preparing breakfast last week when her son answered a ring at the door and died in a hail of gunfire.

“Every day we have to kill a Shi’ite to show them who we are and that we mean business,” he told a Baghdad contact who cannot be named. “Nobody can stop us.” When the contact saw a body that had apparently been left to rot on the street, he asked Abu Muawiya why nobody had moved it. He was told that it was because the body was Shi’ite and anyone who touched it would be killed. A few hours later the contact saw a man shot dead for removing a piece of cardboard hiding the face of a second body and informing the victim’s family. Abu Muawiya showed no remorse. “We do not want their bodies cleared from the streets,” he said. “We leave them there for the dogs to eat, just as they dump Sunni bodies in rubbish heaps to be devoured by animals.”

Mohammed Saleh al-Duleimi, a 61-year-old Sunni businessman . . . concluded a few weeks ago that it was too dangerous for him and his family to stay in Baghdad. The day before he was due to leave for Turkey, he went to find an electrician who could help to shut down his house. He was found two days later in the morgue with a bullet hole in the back of his head and his hands tied behind his back.
And here's the saddest story -- warning, this will make you ill:
. . . As the doctor talked to his friend, a police pickup truck pulled up with a dozen or more bodies piled in the back. “I could not believe that the dead were brought in such a way,” Siddique said. “They were one on top of the other like animal carcasses.”
When the police found that no porters were available to help, they threw the bodies off the truck. It was then that Siddique noticed the corpses of two boys aged about 12 lying in the pile on the ground.
“Each had a piece of knotted green cloth tied around his neck and I could see they’d been strangled,” the doctor said. He also noticed round holes that were slightly inflamed in several parts of their body, a sign that they had been tortured with electric drills before being killed. “Even their eyes had been drilled and only hollow sockets remained,” he said.
When he pointed out the injuries to his friend, the pathologist shrugged and took another drag on his cigarette, saying this was now routine.
“We have turned into a zoo,” Siddique told me. “What level have we sunk to, to kill people in such a manner and hardly to notice any more?”
The doctor sat with me for a long time, silent and seemingly unable to move. Then he began to give voice to his thoughts.
“Did those children scream in pain? Did the torturers laugh as they drilled? If we ever had a just cause as a country occupied by foreigners, it was lost the moment the resistance started beheading and drilling human beings. No matter how noble their cause when it began, they have now reached a dead end.”
The story also notes that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi professionals are simply leaving, going to Jordan and Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

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