Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed / Inter Press News & BBC News – 2006-04-16 08:58:08
Baghdad Morgue Overflowing Daily
Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed / Inter Press Service News Agency
BAGHDAD (April 15, 2006 ) — As sectarian killings continue to rise in Iraq, the central morgue in Baghdad is unable to keep up with the daily influx of bodies. The morgue is receiving a minimum of 60 bodies a day and sometimes more than 100, a morgue employee told IPS on condition of anonymity.
“The average is probably over 85,” said the employee on the morning of April 12, as scores of family members waited outside the building to see if their loved ones were among the dead.
The family of a man named Ashraf who had been taken away by the Iraqi police Feb. 16 anxiously searched through digital photographs inside the morgue. He then found what he was looking for. “His two sons were killed when Ashraf was taken,” said his uncle, 50-year-old Aziz. “Ashraf was a bricklayer who was simply trying to do his job, and now we see what has become of him in our new democracy.”
Aziz found that the body of Ashraf was brought to the morgue Feb. 18 by the Iraqi police two days after he was abducted. The photographs of the body showed gunshot wounds in the head and bludgeon marks across the face. Both arms were apparently broken, and so many holes had been drilled into his chest that it appeared shredded..
A report Oct. 29, 2004 in the British medical journal The Lancet had said that “by conservative assumptions, we think about 100,000 excess deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”
In an update, Les Roberts, lead author of the report said Feb. 8 this year that there may have been 300,000 Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion. Such findings seem in line with information IPS obtained at the Baghdad morgue.
Morgue official said bodies unclaimed after 15 days are transferred to the cemetery administration to be catalogued, and then taken for burial at a cemetery in Najaf. As he spoke, three Iraqi police pick-up trucks loaded with about 10 bodies each arrived at the morgue.
At the cemetery administration, an official told IPS: “From February 1 to March 31, we’ve logged and buried 2,576 bodies from Baghdad.” Requests by IPS to meet with administration officials at the Baghdad morgue were turned down for “security reasons.”
Several surveys have pointed to large numbers of civilian deaths as a result of the US-led occupation. Iraqiyun, a humanitarian group affiliated with the political party of interim president Ghazi al-Yawir reported Jul. 12 last year that there had been 128,000 violent deaths since the invasion. The group said it had only counted deaths confirmed by relatives, and that it had omitted the large numbers of people who simply disappeared without trace..
Another group, the People’s Kifah, involved hundreds of academics and volunteers in a survey conducted in coordination with “grave-diggers across Iraq.” The group said it also “obtained information from hospitals and spoke to thousands of witnesses who saw incidents in which Iraqi civilians were killed by US fire.”
The project was abandoned after one of the researchers was captured by Kurdish militiamen and handed over to U.S. forces. He was never seen again. But in less than two months’ work, the group documented about 37,000 violent civilian deaths up to October 2003.
The Baghdad central morgue alone accounts for roughly 30,000 bodies annually. That is besides the large number of bodies taken to morgues in cities such as Basra, Mosul, Ramadi, Kirkuk, Irbil, Najaf and Karbala.
Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service. All rights reserved.
Iraq Unrest Forces 65,000 to Flee
Andrew North / BBC News
BAGHDAD — At least 65,000 Iraqis have fled their homes as a result of sectarian violence and intimidation, according to new figures from the Iraqi government. And the rate at which Iraqis are being displaced is increasing.
Figures given to the BBC by the Ministry for Displacement and Migration show a doubling in the last two weeks of the number of Iraqis forced to move. There has been a sharp rise in sectarian violence since the bombing of an important Shia shrine in February. This triggered the current tensions between the country’s majority Shia Muslims and minority Sunni Muslims, and hundreds of people have since been killed.
Reports of people leaving their homes because of violence or intimidation, or simply because they no longer feel safe, are becoming more and more common.
• 12 April: 25 killed in bombing of Shia mosque
• 7 April: More than 85 killed in triple suicide attack on Shia mosque
• 2 April: US military says 1,313 Iraqi civilians died in sectarian violence in March
• Discovery of victims of execution-style killings almost daily
Some of the intimidation is being carried out by mobile phone.
People have been receiving threatening text messages and gruesome videos filmed on mobile phone cameras. In one, a Sunni Iraqi man who entered a mainly Shia neighbourhood of Baghdad is seen being beaten and killed by men in black clothes. The video was then sent out with the warning that this is what would happen to any other Sunni who came to the area.
The Iraqi Ministry for Displacement and Migration told the BBC almost 11,000 families had left their homes – equivalent to about 65,000, based on the average Iraqi family size.
Much of this displacement is taking place in and around Baghdad where the violence has been worst, with many people moving in with relatives or friends. The Red Crescent is providing food, water, blankets, and kerosene to 5,000 families.
NUMBER OF FAMILIES RECEIVING RED CRESCENT AID BY PROVINCE
• Baghdad 2000 families
• Najaf 600
• Wasit 360
• Dhiqar 110
• Diwaniya 500
• Karbala 170
• Basra 110
• Anbar 400
• Salahuddin 450
“Every day the number is going up,” Dr Maazen Saloom, a senior official with the Iraqi Red Crescent, told the BBC. “We are trying to get more funds to help these people.”
Some displaced people are living in makeshift camps, others are living with relatives or friends, or have moved into ruined buildings or other structures.
Some displaced Iraqis, the Red Crescent says, are hesitant to move to camps, concerned that the camps will become the target of attacks.
Hundreds of Sunnis from the overwhelmingly Shia south, have been heading north – many going to Sunni areas in and around Falluja, west of Baghdad.
The United Nations still has only a limited presence inside Iraq but officials in neighbouring Jordan say they are trying to secure emergency funds because of expectations this internal refugee problem will grow.
The UN-affiliated International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has also been watching the situation closely.
Its latest figures are lower that the Iraqi government’s, with reports that about 6,500 families or about 40,000 individuals have fled their homes since the attack on the Samarra shrine.
But the IOM does not dispute the Iraqi government figures. It says the IOM reports do not include estimates for the numbers sheltering with family or friends.
© BBC MMVI
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