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Archive: August 2007
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Photo Gallery
Fuel Shortages, Driving Restrictions Force Iraqis to Adapt
08/30/2007 2:09 PM ET
An Iraqi boy rides his horse-drawn cart past Iraqi soldiers manning a checkpoint near Sadr City, east of Baghdad, 30 August 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi boy rides his horse-drawn cart past Iraqi soldiers manning a checkpoint near Sadr City, east of Baghdad, 30 August 2007.

Baghdad, IRAQ: Iraqis use carts to transport their merchandise in Baghdad's Al-Shorjah market, 09 June 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: Iraqis use carts to transport their merchandise in Baghdad's Al-Shorjah market, 09 June 2007.

Iraqis ride a horse-drawn cart past soldiers sitting at a checkpoint near Sadr City, east of Baghdad, 30 August 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
Iraqis ride a horse-drawn cart past soldiers sitting at a checkpoint near Sadr City, east of Baghdad, 30 August 2007.

An Iraqi youth pushes Shiite pilgrims on a cart in Najaf, 160 kms (100 miles) south of Baghdad, 28 August 2007.
Qassem Zein/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi youth pushes Shiite pilgrims on a cart in Najaf, 160 kms (100 miles) south of Baghdad, 28 August 2007.

BAQUBA, IRAQ: Iraqi soldiers search a donkey-pulled cart at a checkpoint on a bridge in the center of the restive city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, 23 June 2007.
AFP/Getty
BAQUBA, IRAQ: Iraqi soldiers search a donkey-pulled cart at a checkpoint on a bridge in the center of the restive city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, 23 June 2007.

An Iraqi soldier talks with the driver of a horse-pulled cart at a checkpoint in central Baghdad, 17 August 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi soldier talks with the driver of a horse-pulled cart at a checkpoint in central Baghdad, 17 August 2007.

An Iraqi pushes a cart carrying his wife and the poultry he bought at the al-Gezail animal market on an empty al-Jamuria avenue in central Baghdad, 24 August 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi pushes a cart carrying his wife and the poultry he bought at the al-Gezail animal market on an empty al-Jamuria avenue in central Baghdad, 24 August 2007.

Iraqis laugh as they ride a horse-drawn cart in central Baghdad a day after an indefinite curfew on two-wheelers and hand carts was imposed, 26 August 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
Iraqis laugh as they ride a horse-drawn cart in central Baghdad a day after an indefinite curfew on two-wheelers and hand carts was imposed, 26 August 2007.

Iraqi Diary
2,300 Cases Reported in Past Month, Doctors Appeal for Assistance
08/30/2007 11:52 AM ET
One of cholera's smallest victims in Basra
IRIN
One of cholera's smallest victims in Basra

SULAIMANIYAH, 30 August 2007 (IRIN) - Doctors in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah have asked for more help to cope with the rapidly increasing number of cholera cases.

“We need urgent medical support as the disease is spreading. We didn’t expect an outbreak in this area,” said Dr Dirar Iyad of Sulaimaniyah General Hospital.

“There is a shortage of medicines to control the disease and the focal point hasn’t been identified yet... Five deaths have so far been reported here and in Kirkuk, and we believe more could occur over the next couple of days as victims are already in an advanced stage of the illness,” he said.

According Dr Juan Abdallah, a senior official in Kurdistan’s health ministry, over 2,300 cases of cholera have been reported in the area, including Kirkuk over a four-week period.

“The disease spread very fast. It is the first outbreak of its kind in the past few decades,” said Abdallah.

According to a report on Al-Jazeera TV on 30 August, which quoted “official sources” at Kurdistan’s health ministry, eight people - seven in Sulaimaniyah and one in Kirkuk - had died of cholera, and a state of emergency had been declared in all hospitals in the cities of Iraqi Kurdistan. The report went on to say there were over 35 cholera cases in Sulaimaniyah and 47 in Kirkuk. A further 350 people had acute diarrhoea and were suspected of having contracted the disease.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholerae. It has a short incubation period and produces an enterotoxin that causes copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.

Causes

“The bad sanitation in Iraq, especially in the outskirts of cities where IDPs are camped, has put people at serious risk,” Abdallah said, adding: “In Sulaimaniyah and Kirkuk at least 42 percent of the population don’t have access to clean water and proper sewage systems.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said the outbreak has due to serious problems with water quality and sewage treatment. It quoted local reports which said that only 30 per cent of the population in Suleimaniyah had an adequate water supply. “Mains water is only available for two hours per day at most in the city. A water quality report on Suleimaniyah in July showed that only 50 per cent of the city’s water was chlorinated,” said UNICEF, adding that many had been reduced to digging shallow wells outside their homes.

UNICEF response

UNICEF, in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the UN response, has delivered 4,000 cannulae and needles and 15,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts (ORS).

ORS is critical to prevent death from dehydration caused by severe diarrhoea. UNICEF said 4,000 safe water kits were being delivered on 30 August to families in the Suleimaniyah area, where significant numbers of IDPs are also at risk.

“Cholera is an easily treatable disease and the prompt administration of ORS to replace lost fluids nearly always results in a cure, but without proper assistance and with so many IDPs living in deteriorated conditions in Iraq, the situation might get worse,” Iyad said.

According to a press release issued by UNICEF on 29 August, the local authorities said that over 2,000 people had been affected and about 500 hospitalised in the previous two days with severe diarrhoea. UNICEF said 47 cases had been confirmed as epidemic cholera, and this number was expected to grow.

UNICEF is appealing to families in affected areas to ensure their children are kept away from areas contaminated with raw sewage

UNICEF is appealing to families in the affected areas to ensure that children, in particular, are kept away from areas contaminated with raw sewage, that they always wash their hands with soap, and only drink water that has been purified or boiled.

“My two children, husband and mother have been affected by cholera because we weren’t able to get purified water and one of my children is very sick in hospital,” Um Abir, a 34-year-old resident of Kirkuk said.

“We have been displaced since January 2007 and we have to camp near a rubbish pit which, according to the doctor, might be the reason for all the family being affected,” she added.

Baghdad Buzz
Residents Suffer a Local Militants Impose Strict Islamic Law
08/27/2007 2:26 PM ET
Christians minorities living in the Dora District of Baghdad are fleeing after gunmen imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah law there.
Afif Sarhan/IRIN
Christians minorities living in the Dora District of Baghdad are fleeing after gunmen imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah law there.

BAGHDAD, 27 August 2007 (IRIN) - Residents of Dora District in Baghdad have been fleeing after gunmen imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah law there.

"We have reports of more than 300 families fleeing the area over the past two weeks and this number is increasing daily," Fatah Ahmed, vice-president of the Iraq Aid Association (IAA), said.

The gunmen are particularly stringent when it comes to Christian families, who are forced to convert to Islam or pay huge taxes.

"We have left the area because we were being forced to live under strict Islamic laws. Men have to wear long beards and women veils, and the latter are not allowed to leave their homes without their husbands. Girls have been told they are forbidden to go to school after the summer vacation," said Haki Salam, 54, a resident of Dora who is now living as a displaced person on the outskirts of the capital.

"I was participating in a local association to help the district but it was closed and the manager killed by the Shia militia. Those who refuse to follow the strict law risk either having one of their relatives kidnapped or being murdered inside their own home," he said.

Aid barred

According to the IAA, non-governmental organisations have been banned from delivering aid inside the district, leaving hundreds of people without assistance.

"This neighbourhood has been seriously affected by the daily clashes and now the situation will get much worse as the area is under militia control. Sometimes they want us to pay bribes to enter the district and this is unacceptable," Fatah Ahmed said.

"Many families, scared by the situation, have been abiding by the laws imposed by the gunmen to save their lives and prevent their children becoming displaced," Ahmed said. "We have been informed that in many parts of the district families are being forced to pay special taxes when leaving or entering the neighbourhood.

One of the gunmen told IRIN that the move was designed to prevent a degradation of Islam and to stop Sunni insurgents from taking over the area again.

"We just want our country to follow the correct laws of Islam again and people to be prevented from becoming depraved. If Christians aren't happy with the situation they can leave any time," Abu Hussein, one of the gunmen responsible for local security, said.

Kidnap for ransom

A Christian who refused to be named for security reasons said his son had been kidnapped by gunmen who had demanded a ransom of US$20,000 for his release.

"I'm now selling my house to pay the ransom and they told me that after paying, I would have to leave the area with my family, as Christians were not welcome. Only those who swear on the holy book that they have converted to Islam can stay in Dora," he said.

"Last week they killed everyone in the house next door because the inhabitants had refused to pay the taxes demanded and didn't want to convert to Islam. Among them were a child and two women," the resident said.

No action

Dora police station said it had contacted the Ministry of Interior about the situation in the district but no action had yet been forthcoming, and with few policemen available they were unable to take control of security.

"We are awaiting the Ministry’s word on this problem. We are aware of the serious attacks on local families, Christians and Muslims, who are being forced to live under Sharia and this is unacceptable," said Col Ahmed Shabander from Dora police station.

Shabander said the gunmen in Dora were from Shia militia bases. "Some of them were criminals and looters who had infiltrated the traditional militias to get money through kidnappings."

The Ministry of Interior said it was looking into the problem but refused to give details.

As no action has been taken against the gunmen, people are fleeing, selling their homes and cars and trying to find safer places in other parts of Baghdad or outside the capital city.

"Some residents have reported shortages of food supplies as most shops are closed, and they are scared to leave their houses. If no action is taken we will see people starving inside their own homes," the IAA’s Ahmed said.

Daily Photo
08/27/2007 1:56 PM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 27: A boy sells gasoline to morning customers on a street corner August 27, 2007 in the Hurriya neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq.
Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 27: A boy sells gasoline to morning customers on a street corner August 27, 2007 in the Hurriya neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq.

U.S. Military
US Opens New Center for Hundreds of Children Detained During Surge
08/27/2007 1:44 PM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 16: Troops from U.S. Army Delta Company 212 Cavalry detain a boy suspected of planting an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in the Ghazaliya neighborhood, which has been used as a base by Sunni insurgents, August 16, 2007 in Baghdad.
Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 16: Troops from U.S. Army Delta Company 212 Cavalry detain a boy suspected of planting an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in the Ghazaliya neighborhood, which has been used as a base by Sunni insurgents, August 16, 2007 in Baghdad.

Inside classrooms surrounded by concertina wire, hundreds of Iraqi child fighters study reading, writing, math, and science, while the Americans detaining them hope they're also learning to like, or at least respect, their captors.

The number of underage detainees held by the US has increased from 100 to 800 since March, according to a new report in the LA Times, and the US has just opened a new re-education facility for the young charges at Camp Cropper.

"We have quickly realized," said Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, the commander of detainee operations, "that most of these young men are victims not only of Al Qaeda , but also of their own illiteracy. Because they couldn't read or write, they also couldn't work, and unemployed young men are also angry young men, susceptible to the cunning arguments of extremists."

Stone offers a number of reasons to explain the dramatic upswing in the number of young detainees since March, claiming that al Qaeda in Iraq may have turned to recruiting more children because the US has stemmed the flow of foreign fighters into the country, making adults volunteers harder to recruit. He also says US troops may simply be coming into contact with more children because of the troop build-up, or that parents are pushing their kids to take work for the insurgency because of the increasing poverty and desperation.

According to the LA Times:

Stone said some children have told interrogators that their parents encouraged them to do the militants' dirty work because the extremists have deep pockets.

Insurgents typically pay the boys $200 to $300 to plant a bomb, enough to support a family for two or three months, say their Iraqi instructors at a U.S. rehabilitation center.

About 85% of the child detainees are Sunni and the majority live in Sunni Arab-dominated regions in the country's west and north. In these deeply impoverished, violence-torn communities, the men with money and influence are the ones with the most powerful arsenals. These are the children's role models.

Stone said that at the newly-opened "House of Wisdom," the detainees will be instructed in reading, writing, science, mathematics, civics, history, given psychological counseling, and access to a library that will even have Arabic translations of Harry Potter. He did not, however, indicate when the detainees might be given access to a courtroom.

IRAQ IN CRISIS
Karama Camp in Desperate Need for Hungry, Diseased Residents
08/24/2007 08:58 AM ET

DIWANIYAH, 23 August 2007 (IRIN) - People are leaving Karama camp in the southern province of al-Qadisiyyah because of the terrible conditions there, and urgent supplies are needed to rectify the situation.

The camp, 15km to the west of Diwaniyah, the provincial capital, currently has 129 residents. It was previously a children's camp until its formal conversion into a centre to accommodate internally displaced persons (IDPs).

"In May 2007, Karama was reportedly home to 250 persons; of these, 21 families, or 129 individuals, remain. Those still at the site are extremely poor, and lack sufficient resources to relocate," a UN Refugee Agency press release said.

The items needed include, water, electricity, sanitation equipment, food and non-food items.

Basic health services are also needed. Jaffer Abbas, a spokesperson for the locally based Iraqi Peace Organisation (IPO), said at least 90 percent of the camp's residents were suffering from one kind of disease or another.

"Children are suffering from malnutrition, women have serious gynaecological problems caused by poor hygiene, and elderly people with life-threatening diseases don't have access to medicines," Abbas said, adding: "The nearest medical centre is very far from the camp and the residents have no money."

Al-Qadisiyyah Province is now closed to IDPs arriving from other parts of Iraq. In July, fighting and the bombing of major urban areas, led to families fleeing to safer areas in the province.

“Displacement in Diwaniyah continues as a result of insurgency, counter-insurgency, crime and a struggling economy,” Anita Raman, associate reporting officer for UNHCR’s Iraq Operation, said. “While Diwaniyah's IDP population is less than most Iraqi governorates - 3,972 families - conditions for these IDPs are exacerbated by scarce basic services availability.”

According to UNHCR, the location is under-served and under-resourced, leading to extremely poor living conditions and the resulting departure of many families from the camp.

"UNHCR's field and partner staff have delivered life-essential items, and basic facility upgrades are on track for completion in the coming weeks. Much more is needed to support a safe and habitable environment in Karama," the agency said.

Abbas said that local NGOs and international agencies, such as UNHCR, are struggling to help Karama camp residents. “Water and food have to be delivered urgently to prevent a catastrophe in the area," he said.

"Karama camp, if helped, could be home again to dozens of other Iraqis urgently requiring assistance and a safer place to stay," Abbas added. "We hope international donors can help in assisting the most vulnerable camp in Diwaniyah."

Iraqi Diary
When Sunni-Shia Marriages Become Marked for Destruction
08/23/2007 10:31 AM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: An Iraqi bride prepares to go to her wedding party in Baghdad 04 January 2007.
Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: An Iraqi bride prepares to go to her wedding party in Baghdad 04 January 2007.

The forced re-ordering of Baghdad along sectarian lines has disrupted community social networks, tearing apart neighborhoods, and breaking many friendships. Even on the most personal level, the sectarian divide infects the marital bond.

The Sunni and Shia marriages that used to be commonplace and publicly celebrated in Iraq are no more. Committed couples determined to endure despite the danger and hardship go to extraordinary lengths to hide their relationship, and others find the pressure so great they choose divorce.

McClatchy's Leila Fadel and Sahar Issa have a heartbreaking profile today of two women faced with the tragedy of trying to love across Iraq's sectarian divide. One, a Sunni woman, has been compelled to divorce and abandon her children by her Shi'ite husband. The other, a Shi'ite woman, lives in virtual hiding with her Sunni husband in a Sunni enclave.

From the tragic tale of Najlaa, the Sunni woman:

Najlaa knew the end was coming the day her 13-year-old son, Ayad, came home last year and asked her why the Sunnis were killing innocent Shiites.

The neighborhood children, Shiites, had been bullying him about his mother, calling her and other Sunnis dogs. When he threw a punch to defend her, they pummeled him. He came home and burst into tears.

There'd been other warning signs. Shiites were divorcing their Sunni wives, Sunni families were leaving without their Shiite daughters-in-law, and children were caught in the middle.

Her husband suggested they leave, but they both knew there was no neighborhood left that welcomed both sects. The pressure grew. The Shiites wanted the Sunnis out. Her husband's cousin divorced his Sunni wife. Soon her husband followed suit.

He burst into the house and yelled, "Go! You are divorced. You are my wife no longer," she recalled. His eyes never lifted from the floor....

Najlaa sobbed when her Shiite husband left. He didn't come home that night, and in the morning, a messenger came and told her to leave the house. She gathered her clothes and her children's in knotted sheets and prepared to leave with her children. Outside, her husband and three men stopped her.

"No!" she recalled him yelling. "You go alone." Again, his eyes never met hers.

"Leave quietly. If you don't, we will slaughter all of your family," one of the men said.

"Hussein, Zahraa, Rusuk, Mustafa, come inside the house," she said to her children. Ayad, her eldest, was at his uncle's home. They sobbed goodbyes. "This is my fate," she said and left the house.

Najlaa has since received a note from her husband apologizing for kicking her out and asking for her to join the family to run away to Syria so they can all be together. Najlaa hopes he is being sincere, and is waiting for him to make plans so they can leave.

Backgrounder
Ali Hassan al-Majid Enjoyed Long Career as Saddam Enforcer
08/22/2007 12:55 PM ET
Ali Hassan al-Majid known as 'Chemical Ali' stands in court as he listens to the verdict being pronounced by Chief Judge Mohammed al-Oreibi al-Khalifah (not pictured) during his trial in Baghdad, 24 June 2007.
Pool/AFP/Getty
Ali Hassan al-Majid known as 'Chemical Ali' stands in court as he listens to the verdict being pronounced by Chief Judge Mohammed al-Oreibi al-Khalifah (not pictured) during his trial in Baghdad, 24 June 2007.

Baghdad, Aug 22, (VOI) – Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and a key convict in the Anfal case, has recently grabbed media attention after appearing, along with 14 other former officials and Baath leaders, before Iraq's Higher Criminal Court on Tuesday on charges of crimes against humanity for the crushing of a Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

The al-Intifada al-Shaabaniya, or the 1991 uprisings, were a series of rebellions that broke out in 14 southern and northern Iraqi provinces in the aftermath of the 2nd Gulf War in March 1991 against the former regime, which managed to suppress them by mid-April 1991.

Yesterday's trial coincided with the fourth anniversary of Abdul al-Majid's arrest by U.S. forces in Samarra on August 21, 2003. The session was chaired by Chief Judge Muhammad Oraibi al-Khalifa, who sentenced al-Majid to death on June 24 after he was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Operation Anfal, in which 182,000 Kurdish civilians were allegedly killed in 1987 and 1988, according to Kurdish figures.

Abdul Al-Majid, dubbed Chemical Ali by Iraqi Kurds for his alleged use of chemical weapons in attacks against them, was born in 1941 in Tikrit, the home town of the former Iraqi leader. He worked as a sergeant in Kirkuk police and became an aide to Iraqi Defense Minister Hammadi Shihab in the early 1970s after joining the Baath Party. He then became head of the government's Security Office, serving as an enforcer for the increasingly powerful Saddam. In 1979, al-Majid called on Saddam, who seized power earlier that year, to get rid of Baath leader Abdul Khaliq al-Samarraie while trying his political opponents for allegedly "conspiring to overthrow the government."

Before the end of the Iraqi-Iranian war (1980-1988), he was given the post of Secretary General of the Northern Bureau of the Baath Party. After the invasion of Iraq in August 1990, he became the military governor of the occupied emirate, otherwise called then by Iraqi authorities "The 19th Iraqi province" but was removed from his position in November 1990.

Following the Iraqi defeat in the war, Abd al-Majid was given the task of quelling uprisings in the Shiite south of Iraq, where many thousands were reportedly killed.

He was appointed as interior minister in 1991 and was then given the post of defense minister. In 1995, he was sacked from his ministerial posts and served as a member of the Revolution Command Council and a Baath official. Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, he was recalled by Saddam and appointed commander of the southern region of Iraq.

He was arrested by U.S. forces in 2003 and had been listed as the fifth most-wanted man in Iraq.

Iraqi Diary
Reliance on Generators, Fuel Price Increases, Consume Household Budgets
08/21/2007 11:38 AM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: An Iraqi man bettles with a web of wires to try and reconnnect the electricity to his home in the Bayaa neighbourhood in southwest Baghdad, 07 June 2007.
ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: An Iraqi man bettles with a web of wires to try and reconnnect the electricity to his home in the Bayaa neighbourhood in southwest Baghdad, 07 June 2007.

BAGHDAD, 21 August 2007 (IRIN) - In the backyard of the house of Jassim Abdel-Rahman, a 34-year-old resident of Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad, there are always six or so jerry cans which he refills daily with petrol for his small generator.

With less than four hours electricity a day and with a newborn baby at home, Abdel-Rahman refuses to leave his family sweltering in the hot weather so he spends at least half his US$380 monthly salary repairing and refuelling his generator.

“Most of the time we do not have electricity in my home,” Abdel-Rahman said. “Sometimes, when the generator is broken and it takes hours to fix, my children cry because of the hot weather, and we always throw away a huge amount of food because it goes off.”

“Fuel is not available at petrol stations and I have to buy from the black market at a high price, money that I would rather use to feed my family,” he said.

The power supply situation has been getting worse and in the past three months millions of people have been getting less than three hours of mains power a day, according to the Iraq Aid Association.

The Ministry of Electricity has acknowledged its inability to meet the needs of the population, blaming the chronic power cuts on lack of fuel and violence.

Emad Rafid, a senior official in the Ministry of Electricity, said the available supply of electricity was sufficient to meet half the demand. “Violence is preventing our workers from doing repair work in many dangerous areas and those districts are the ones with severe power shortages,” he said, adding that the situation today was worse than at any time since the UN sanctions in the 1990s.

“The problem is worse in the capital, especially in the outskirts, but a solution is far from being found because of the violence,” he said.

Fuel shortages

The Ministry of Oil said there was a severe fuel shortage because the country’s refineries were operating below capacity and also because of terrorist attacks on refineries. To compound the problem, a number of employees were abandoning their jobs because they feared being attacked.

Long queues in the severe heat can be seen at petrol stations, which operate for a few hours a day only. They sell to drivers only. You are not allowed to buy petrol in jerry cans.

“I don’t have a car to fill up. If I did I could siphon off the petrol into jerry cans at home. Black marketeers are selling petrol at 10 to 15 times more than at the pumps,” Abdel-Rahman said.

The police said they have seen many cases of people getting injured through keeping petrol in their backyards and sometimes even in their homes. Over the past two weeks, at least one child and three men died as a result of this, according to the police.

Health impact

Power cuts have been one factor aggravating people’s health. Many come to hospital suffering dehydration owing to the intense heat, which in the past would have been mitigated by air-conditioning, Youssera Abdallah, a senior official in the Ministry of Health, said.

“Hospitals are seriously affected by power cuts. We have installed an additional small generator in case the big ones stop working, as most generators don’t work properly,” Dr Ahmed Samaraie, a doctor at Yarmouk Hospital in Baghdad, said.

The problem also affects maternity units and clinics, which have reduced their workload as the power cuts have increased.

UNDER FIRE
Fearing Violence, Many Parents Pull Kids From School, Keep Confined to Home
08/16/2007 3:38 PM ET
BAGHDAD, 15 August 2007 (IRIN) - Muhammad Abdallah, 12, lost his only brother in a shooting incident, and since then his parents are not taking any chances and do not let him out of the house.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
BAGHDAD, 15 August 2007 (IRIN) - Muhammad Abdallah, 12, lost his only brother in a shooting incident, and since then his parents are not taking any chances and do not let him out of the house.

BAGHDAD, 15 August 2007 (IRIN) - Muhammad Abdallah, 12, lost his only brother in a shooting incident, and since then his parents are not taking any chances and do not let him out of the house.

“In the past two years I’ve been more or less confined to my room. My parents don’t allow me to go out, most of my friends have gone abroad, and I was forced to leave school for security reasons,” he said.

“My mum told me that maybe some neighbours might force us out of our home and she is very scared, but I’m not. At least I would be out of this house,” he added.

A Sunni from Baghdad’s Yarmouk District, he is just another victim of the violence, displacement, school closures and poor diet that are taking their toll on children’s physical and mental health - something that could affect the country’s future.

“Children have become prisoners of their own families,” Dr Fua’ad Azize, a psychologist in Baghdad, said, but he warned that keeping them locked up inside could seriously affect their development. “Children need to move, read, learn and play but today in Iraq such normal things might lead to death or injury,” he said.

Abdallah’s mother is sure that keeping her child at home is the best way to save his life but she knows he is not happy: “I will protect my child with all my strength. I know he isn’t happy being kept in all the time but I know it is for his protection,” Um Faisal said.

“I try to do my best to make him feel comfortable at home. I buy him chocolates, biscuits and ice-cream, and even if he gets mental problems, that’s better than a bullet in the head.”

Other impacts of violence

Dr Azize said many children were being raised in a climate of fear and violence. “Some children and youths... are being manipulated and brainwashed into helping militias and insurgents - sometimes with the blessing of their families,” he said.

A senior official in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said the threat of violence was also preventing the organisation of sports or entertainment activities:

“We have very good ideas for entertaining children and sometimes even the money is available but the violence is preventing us from doing anything in practice,” Ahlam Abdul-Rahman, the ministry official, said.

Mohammed Abdul-Aziz, a statistician at the Ministry of Education, told IRIN that at least 125 children had been killed and 107 injured since 2005 in attacks on schools. These numbers do not include children killed or injured on their way to or from school.

“A child’s place is at school, but not in Iraq where violence has definitely entered the classroom,” Abdul-Aziz said. “My three children no longer go to school because I want to keep them out of harm’s way. I know that as a government employee I should set an example but when you are a father saving the life of your child is more important than any social duty.”

Abdallah, however, remains hopeful that things will improve:

“My mum told me that my brother is going to tell God that we need peace and he will hear him - I’m sure he will. And when that happens I will be outside again, playing football with my friends, who will come back from abroad.”

Photo Gallery
Country Will Harvest Majority of World's Date Supply
08/15/2007 2:10 PM ET
An Iraqi man climbs a date tree at a garden in central Baghdad, 14 August 2007.
Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi man climbs a date tree at a garden in central Baghdad, 14 August 2007.

The world famous Iraqi dates are picked during the months of August and September from orchards made up of some 150 trees. Each tree produces an average of 5 bunches of dates, with each bunch weighing an average of 8 kilos. The 'Halawee' date is the most popular in Iraq, and sells at some 0.50 US cent a kilo.

Considered as the native ground for the world's oldest food producing plant, Iraq grows up to 80% of the world's dates and produces eight distinct varieties that have long been a staple of the local diet.

Iraqi men pick up ripe dates from a tree at a garden in central Baghdad, 14 August 2007.
Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty
Iraqi men pick up ripe dates from a tree at a garden in central Baghdad, 14 August 2007.
An Iraqi girl shows a box of dates at a shop in Baghdad, 15 August 2007. The world famous Iraqi dates are picked during the months of August and September from orchards made up of some 150 trees. Each tree produces an average of 5 bunches of dates, with e
Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi girl shows a box of dates at a shop in Baghdad, 15 August 2007. The world famous Iraqi dates are picked during the months of August and September from orchards made up of some 150 trees. Each tree produces an average of 5 bunches of dates, with e
NAJAF, IRAQ: A Soviet-era helicopter sprays pesticides over the date palm trees near the holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad.
Namir Noor Eldeen/AFP/Getty
NAJAF, IRAQ: A Soviet-era helicopter sprays pesticides over the date palm trees near the holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad.

Basra, IRAQ: Iraqi children collect the date harvest in the southern city of Basra, 02 August 2006.
Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty
Basra, IRAQ: Iraqi children collect the date harvest in the southern city of Basra, 02 August 2006.

An Iraqi salesman displays a box of dates at a shop in Baghdad, 15 August 2007.
Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi salesman displays a box of dates at a shop in Baghdad, 15 August 2007.

Iraqi Diary
Lack of Proper Care Puts Labor Complications, Mortality Rate on Sharp Rise
08/14/2007 10:40 AM ET
Pregnant women wait for a doctor in an obstetrics clinic in Baghdad.
Afif Sarhan/IRIN
Pregnant women wait for a doctor in an obstetrics clinic in Baghdad.

BAGHDAD, 14 August 2007 (IRIN) - Leila Abdel-Karim, 27, longed for a child and, after two years of trying, she got pregnant, but could not foresee that the baby’s delivery - and future health - would be severely affected by the ongoing violence in Baghdad.

A resident of Dora District, one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods of Baghdad, Leila’s labour began during the night as clashes flared up near her house, preventing her from getting to hospital.

“We tried to leave our home but the clashes were getting worse and we had to stay, knowing that my baby could die, as the doctor had told me that I would probably need a Caesarean,” she said.

When she finally got to the hospital in the morning and gave birth, her son had suffered brain damage which was affecting his movements - something he might have to contend with for the rest of his life, according to the doctors.

“The violence destroyed the life of my son while he was still in my uterus,” Leila said.

According to doctors, dozens of women in Iraq each day face delivery difficulties caused by violence and the curfew that is preventing access to health care during the night.

“For at least two women in every 12 who seek emergency delivery assistance here, either the mother or her child dies,” Dr Ibrahim Khalil, a gynaecologist at Al-Karada maternity hospital, said.

“Mothers are usually anaemic and children are born underweight as a result of a poor nutrition and lack of pre-natal care,” Khalil said, adding: “There aren’t any official figures but we can see that the number has doubled since Saddam Hussein’s time.”

Fewer district nurses

According to Claire Hajaj, communications officer at the UN Children's Fund’s (UNICEF) Iraq Support Centre, women give birth in difficult environments: “In some cases travelling to hospitals is the last resort because of insecurity, curfews, road blocks and fear of violence," she said.

Fewer non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are working in the maternity area, and there are fewer district nurses willing to travel in the current circumstances.

“Before we had a group of 10 nurses offering home delivery to women in Baghdad but today we have just one - and she is thinking of giving up for security reasons,” said Hanan Lattif, media officer for a local group called the Women’s Rights Organisation. “Women have to rely on their families and hope that their delivery happens during the day.”

Statistics

UNICEF has said Iraq's maternal mortality rates have increased dramatically in the last 15 years. In 1989, 117 mothers out of 100,000 died during pregnancy or childbirth. That figure has now gone up by 65 per cent.

Figures compiled earlier this year by Save the Children show that in 1990 the mortality rate for under-fives was 50 per 1,000 live births. In 2005 it was 125. While other countries have higher rates, the rate of increase in Iraq is higher than elsewhere.

According to UNICEF, over one million babies were born in Iraq in the last 12 months, at least 40,000 of them to displaced families - many living in unsanitary conditions in camps.

Fleeing Iraq
When Ignoring Plight of the Displaced Becomes Good Business
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 08/13/2007 12:30 PM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: Crowds of Iraqis gather in front of Iraq's Passports Department to have their travel documents issued in Baghdad, 21 July 2007.
AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: Crowds of Iraqis gather in front of Iraq's Passports Department to have their travel documents issued in Baghdad, 21 July 2007.

After enduring the daily brutality and pervasive fear of living in the war zone, Iraqis who run for the Jordanian border are discovering their suffering engenders little sympathy from their Arab brethren to the south.

Jordan has already absorbed an estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees, so some tension resulting from the influx is to be expected, and attempts by Amman to limit the number of new arrivals would not be unreasonable. But recent accounts of Iraqis' attempts to enter Jordan do not speak of an overwhelmed bureaucracy as much as they do the deliberate and unnecessary humiliation of an already desperate and injured people.

IraqSlogger's Zeyad Kasim recently posted a video of the "jail" at Amman's airport, and the accounts of a number of Iraqi bloggers who were held there while waiting for the Jordanian authorities to put them on a plane back to Iraq.

And it's not just the displaced seeking shelter who are turned away by Jordan. George Packer prints the frustrated and dismayed e-mail of a former translator for the US, who is seeking admittance to the US, but needs the medical exam required as part of the visa-application process. The embassy in Baghdad does not perform the exams, so the State Department scheduled an appointment at the embassy in Amman.

Even though the man had an official letter proving that he had the appointment at the US embassy, the Jordanian border authorities interrogated and eventually rejected him, even suspiciously probing his reasons for wanting to leave Iraq.

Why do you want to emigrate from Iraq to US?
I think you know how the situation in Iraq is and I want to build my own life.

You want to immigrate to US to join US Army and come back to fight in Iraq?
No, it’s not mandatory for the Immigrants to join US army.

No, they will not grant you a US citizenship unless you join the military?
This is wrong, they will grant me a Green Card as resident until I get US citizenship after five years.

The translator was not given a reason for being barred from entry, though one scene convinced him that the Jordanians are punishing the Iraqis for not preventing the US invasion.

An Iraqi old man asked a Jordanian policeman after they didn’t let him in with his family “Why you are doing this to Iraqis while we are all brothers, we are all Arabs?" The Jordanian policeman answered, “If you kept your president Saddam Hussein, you would be respected and dignified now." Then the Iraqi shouted to him “So this is the real reason for prevent...” The Jordanian policeman interrupted him saying: “Keep silent or I put you in the jail."

Most of the Iraqis who attempt this journey have so little to begin with; everything they lose just adds to the tragedy of their circumstances. It's apparently not uncommon for Iraqis who fly to Amman to have their luggage "lost" on the return trip, and that just adds another burden to the US$500-1,000 wasted on the plane ticket.

The accounts of Iraqis being turned away from entry to Jordan has become so regularized that it is beginning to resemble a racket perpetrated against the most vulnerable of victims. Maura Stephens recently reported for Alternet that Iraqi Airways pilots have said they regularly fly in whole plane loads that the Jordanians then turn around and ship back to Iraq.

So while business booms on the Baghdad-Amman route, Iraqi civilians are funding it with their own wasted hopes and dwindling resources.

Photo Gallery
08/10/2007 4:30 PM ET
Iraqis soldiers try to push back Iraqi woman as they rush to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty
Iraqis soldiers try to push back Iraqi woman as they rush to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.

An Iraqi woman cools off with water after rushing to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi woman cools off with water after rushing to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
An Iraqi boy waits as Iraqis rush to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi boy waits as Iraqis rush to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
Iraqis rush to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Mufrek, western Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty
Iraqis rush to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Mufrek, western Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.

An US soldier gestures with his M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) as Iraqis rush to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Mufrek, western Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty
An US soldier gestures with his M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) as Iraqis rush to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Mufrek, western Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.

An Iraqi woman rests after rushing through a crowd to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi woman rests after rushing through a crowd to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.

A US soldier stands guard as Iraqis wait to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty
A US soldier stands guard as Iraqis wait to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.

Iraqi women raise their hands to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty
Iraqi women raise their hands to receive humanitarian aid from the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in Baquba, 60 kms (35 miles) north of Baghdad, 05 August 2007.

BODY COUNT
Continuing Violence Boosts Demand For Death and Mourning Services
08/10/2007 1:00 PM ET
Muhammad Abdel Kader makes around 20 coffins a day.
Photo by Afif Sarhan/IRIN
Muhammad Abdel Kader makes around 20 coffins a day.

BAGHDAD, (IRIN) - The continuing violence in Baghdad is fueling a boom in the funeral industry.

Back in Saddam Hussein's time, coffin maker Abdul-Wahab Khalil Mohammed used to sell one or two coffins a day at US$5-US$10 each. Now he produces an average of 15 to 20 coffins a day and charges $50-$75 for each one.

"Our business is booming,” said Mohammed pointing to at least seven caskets in front of his tiny shop in Baghdad's central Allawi area.

Professional mourners like 51-year-old Um Ali, who attends funerals to add emotion to the ceremony, are also cashing in. "I feel like I'm a death toll meter. Since the end of 2005, I’ve been doing a daily average of three to five funerals," said Um Ali.

Um Ali, who charges $50-$100 per appearance, is now training one of her daughters and a nephew.

"I can't do more than three to five funerals a day because the security situation means I can't move around Baghdad easily," said Um Ali who limits herself to Baghdad's Shia-dominated neighborhood of Mashtal, unless clients agree to drive her to and from the services.

The violence has also been good for Saif Tawfiq al-Ani's funeral supplies’ business, which has expanded from one tiny shop in 1989 to four shops and two pick-up trucks today. He hires out everything a grieving family needs for a proper burial - chairs for the mourners, tape recorders, speakers to broadcast Koranic verses, plates for traditional food and a generator - all for about $200 a day.

According to Muslim and Iraqi tradition, bodies should be buried quickly, if possible on the day of death itself. But tradition also calls for three days of mourning. Families rent a tent near the deceased's home and receive visitors. On the final day of mourning, the deceased's family throws a big feast, in which mourners and the neighbourhood’s poor can partake. That is where al-Ani and other funeral suppliers come in.

"The demand for our services has gone up since the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra since when much of the country has been gripped by a wave of reprisal killings," said al-Ani.

Since mid-2005 textile merchant Abdul-Sahib Mukhtar Ni'ma has stopped importing brightly colored items and instead has specialized in selling black cloth in Baghdad's markets.

"Most people these days are asking for black cloth to wear or use for banners to announce deaths," Ni'ma said.

Photo Gallery
Iraqi Shi'ites Commemorate 8th-Century Death of Revered Imam
08/09/2007 2:43 PM ET
Iraqi Shiite Muslims flagellate themselves during a major religious festival in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 08 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Shiite Muslims flagellate themselves during a major religious festival in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 08 August 2007.

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims marched through war-torn Baghdad today to commemorate the death of a revered Imam as Iraq imposed blanket security measures to guard against attack.
Iraqi Shiite women push their children in trollies as they walk with others worshippers towards the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad to pay homage to the revered Imam Musa Kadhim at his shrine, 09 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Shiite women push their children in trollies as they walk with others worshippers towards the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad to pay homage to the revered Imam Musa Kadhim at his shrine, 09 August 2007.

Two Iraqi Shiite boys prostrate themselves to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 09 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Two Iraqi Shiite boys prostrate themselves to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 09 August 2007.

An Iraqi soldier keeps watch as pilgrims walk on their way to Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim, 09 August 2007.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi soldier keeps watch as pilgrims walk on their way to Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim, 09 August 2007.

Iraqi Shiite worshippers fill the street on their way to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 09 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Shiite worshippers fill the street on their way to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 09 August 2007.

Iraqi Shiites dressed in costumes parade with a wooden cage representing the prison in which the revered Imam Musa Kadhim was poisoned in the year 799, during a major religious festival, 08 August 2007 at the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Shiites dressed in costumes parade with a wooden cage representing the prison in which the revered Imam Musa Kadhim was poisoned in the year 799, during a major religious festival, 08 August 2007 at the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad.

Iraqi Shiite worshippers rest whilst others pray as they pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 09 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Shiite worshippers rest whilst others pray as they pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 09 August 2007.

Iraqi Shiite worshippers women chant as they walk towards the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad to pay homage to the revered Imam Musa Kadhim at his shrine, 09 August 2007.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty
Iraqi Shiite worshippers women chant as they walk towards the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad to pay homage to the revered Imam Musa Kadhim at his shrine, 09 August 2007.

An Iraqi Shiite Muslim flagellates himself during a major religious festival in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 08 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
An Iraqi Shiite Muslim flagellates himself during a major religious festival in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 08 August 2007.

Iraqi soldiers search Shiite worshippers on their way to the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim, 09 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi soldiers search Shiite worshippers on their way to the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim, 09 August 2007.

Iraqi Diary
Commemorating the Death of Eighth Century Imam Moussa al-Kadhim
08/09/2007 10:01 AM ET
Iraqi Shiite worshippers gather to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 09 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Shiite worshippers gather to pay homage at the shrine of the revered Imam Musa Kadhim in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 09 August 2007.

Babel, Aug 9, (VOI) – Pilgrims from all over Iraq have converged on Baghdad's town of Kadhimiya on Thursday to visit the Shiite shrine of Imam al-Kadhim on his death anniversary amid tight security measures.

Thousands of people have descended on the city to commemorate the death anniversary of Imam al-Kadhim, eyewitnesses told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "All roads leading to the city have been secured by Iraqi forces," according to one eyewitness.

"The security plan drawn up by the joint operations room to protect pilgrims is working well and no breaches have been reported so far," a spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, Tahseen al-Shekhli, told VOI by phone.

"Traffic is under control: no vehicle is allowed to enter the town except for police and army vehicles," al-Shekhli indicated.

The Iraqi government imposed a curfew on vehicles and motorcycles as of Wednesday dawn until Saturday morning in preparation for the occasion.

An Iraqi Shiite Muslim boy flagellates himself as part of a major religious festival in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 08 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
An Iraqi Shiite Muslim boy flagellates himself as part of a major religious festival in the Kadhimiyah district of Baghdad, 08 August 2007.
Today is the anniversary of the death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, one of the 12 most holy figures for Iraq's Shiite Muslims. The occasion was expected to draw massive crowds to the western Baghdad town of Kadhimiya. Imam al-Kadhim (128-183 AH) was born in Medina during the power struggles between the Umayyad and the Abbasid.

A stampede on Jisr al-Aiema (Bridge of Imams), leading to the tomb of Imam Kadhim in the town in 2005 killed more than 1,000 people and wounded 300 others, also causing part of the bridge to collapse. The bridge has been closed by Iraqi security forces since then.

A huge fire broke out this morning in the railway warehouses in al-Shalgiya region, on one of the main roads leading to the shrine, and a fuel station in al-Atifiya in northern Baghdad, and was attributed to a U.S. flame, chief of the operations room in the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf told VOI earlier.

Ruling out acts of sabotage, Khalad said, "A U.S. aircraft fired a flame at the railway warehouses in al-Shalgiya region by mistake, causing the fire to break out, which extended to the nearby fuel station in al-Atifiya region."

Photo Gallery
08/08/2007 3:32 PM ET
An Iraqi family mourns over the coffin of a relative killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi family mourns over the coffin of a relative killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.

Sadr City residents on Wednesday buried the dead of last night's US raid on the neighborhood. The US reported killing 30 "terrorists" and detaining 12 "suspected terrorists" during operations overnight, though local officials are reporting that civilians are among the dead. Whether civilian or otherwise, the only thing that is certain is that many residents of Sadr City are enraged and grief-stricken over the action. Such discontent does not bode well for Baghdad's stability.
Iraqi mourners attend the funeral of a relative killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
Iraqi mourners attend the funeral of a relative killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.

Iraqis chant slogans as they carry coffins of their relatives killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
Iraqis chant slogans as they carry coffins of their relatives killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.

An Iraqi boy cries as he follows a car carrying the coffin of a relative killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi boy cries as he follows a car carrying the coffin of a relative killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.
Iraqis chant slogans as they carry coffins of their relatives killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
Iraqis chant slogans as they carry coffins of their relatives killed during a US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.
Iraqis women mourn as men carry the coffin of their relatives killed during an US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
Iraqis women mourn as men carry the coffin of their relatives killed during an US military air strike in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, 08 August 2007.

Photo Gallery
Performance Commemorates 3-Year Anniversary of Sadr City Fighting
08/07/2007 2:06 PM ET
Iraqi amateur actors perform a play called Rise up to the sky 06 August 2007 in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City to mark the 3rd anniversary of the Sadr City fighting between US and Iraqi troops against Shiite Muslim militiamen.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi amateur actors perform a play called "Rise up to the sky" 06 August 2007 in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City to mark the 3rd anniversary of the Sadr City fighting between US and Iraqi troops against Shiite Muslim militiamen.

Iraqi women cry as amateur actors perform a play called Rise up to the sky, produced to commemorate the death of Shiite fighters in the August 2004 battle against US and Iraqi forces.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi women cry as amateur actors perform a play called "Rise up to the sky," produced to commemorate the death of Shiite fighters in the August 2004 battle against US and Iraqi forces.

Iraqis amateurs actors perform a play called Rise up to the sky to mark the 3rd anniversary of the fights in Sadr City between US troops and Iraqi security forces.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqis amateurs actors perform a play called "Rise up to the sky" to mark the 3rd anniversary of the fights in Sadr City between US troops and Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi chief of Sadr City social committee Faraid al-Mussawi poses in front of pictures showing Martyrs killed during the fights between US and Iraqi security forces against Shiite Muslim militiamen in 2004.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi chief of Sadr City social committee Faraid al-Mussawi poses in front of pictures showing "Martyrs" killed during the fights between US and Iraqi security forces against Shiite Muslim militiamen in 2004.

The human toll
Preciousness of Clean H2O Has Armed Groups Ransoming at IDP Camps
08/07/2007 10:25 AM ET
Iraq children fill jugs from a water truck.
IRIN
Iraq children fill jugs from a water truck.
BAGHDAD, 7 August 2007 (IRIN) - Many internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps in Iraq are facing shortages of water, especially clean drinking water, and the situation is being exploited by unscrupulous militants, local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) say.

Some displaced families have said militants have been delivering clean water to their camps by truck and demanding money, goods or “favours” in return.

“They sometimes ask for money knowing we don’t have any, and then start to search our tents to see if there is something useful, while armed men stay near the truck with their guns aimed at us,” said Omar Lattif, 45, an IDP at Rahman camp on the outskirts of Missan in southern Iraq.

“Sometimes they even ask for fun with ‘nice girls’,” he said, adding that two men in the community had been killed for confronting militants demanding sex for water.

Fatah Ahmed, a spokesman for the Iraq Aid Association (IAA), said they had informed the local authorities of such cases but had not received a response.

Warning

A joint report released on 30 July by UK-based charity Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq said around eight million Iraqis were in urgent need of water and sanitation. The report said 70 percent of Iraqis do not have adequate water supplies - up from 50 percent in 2003.

Earlier this month, a report by the world's principal intergovernmental body on migration, the International Organization for Migration, warned that the scale of Iraqi displacement was "fast becoming a regional and ultimately international crisis".

Lack of water

“Most IDP camps are very far from cities and towns, making it harder for families to search for other sources of water,” Ahmed said. “They are sometimes driven to walking long distances in dangerous areas, and many have been reported killed.”

“The situation is critical and in some areas aid workers have been unable to offer assistance for over two months,” Fatah Ahmed said.

“We have been informed that in some displacement camps near Baqouba, Najaf and Missan, families have been taking water from nearby open sewage drains, using cloths to filter it, and then drinking it without boiling it,” he said.

Claire Hajaj, communications officer with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Iraq, told IRIN: "There's no doubt that many displaced and settled families are living without safe water - partly because of insecurity and partly because of lack of electricity or infrastructure to support water supply... Many families are resorting to illegally tapping pipes, digging wells or drinking river water."

Diseases

According to the IAA, at least 450,000 IDPs lack water and proper sewage systems, increasing the possibility of water-borne diseases and dehydration.

South Peace Organisation (SPO), an NGO based in southern Iraq, said water-borne diseases and dehydration were becoming common among displaced children.

“At least 58 percent of displaced children in Iraq have one kind of ailment or another, mostly water-borne illnesses like diarrhoea,” said Mayada Obeid, a spokesperson for SPO. “Doctors have found the main reason has been the hot weather and dirty water delivered to them.”

"Displaced children are extremely vulnerable to unsafe water, particularly when they move to areas that have no existing supply. Diarrhoea rates are more likely to rise in areas where water supplies are stretched and many people are living without safe supplies," Hajaj of UNICEF said.

"Although local authorities and NGOs are making a significant effort to provide safe water to displaced families, the scale of the crisis is outstripping the response," she added.

Case study

Displaced on the outskirts of Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad, with an unemployed husband and no aid assistance, Um Barak, mother of four, said: “We have just a few litres of water a day for drinking, washing our dishes and clothes, and when we can, taking a bath.” She said the water was dirty but they had no choice but to drink it.

Water is ferried in by local NGOs, including the IAA, but both displaced families and aid workers concede that it is not enough to meet all the needs of the displaced.

“The lack of security near our camp has prevented NGOs from reaching our tents and the water, which is provided once a week, hardly lasts for three days, especially with the new families arriving on a daily basis. I cannot let my children die of dehydration,” Um Barak said as she cooked rice and beans in dirty water.

Daily Photo
Iraqis Push Cars in Stop-and-Go Line at Gas Station
08/06/2007 2:35 PM ET
Iraqis push their cars as they wait in line to buy petrol in front of a gas station in al-Saadun street in central Baghdad, 05 August 2007.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqis push their cars as they wait in line to buy petrol in front of a gas station in al-Saadun street in central Baghdad, 05 August 2007.

Iraqi Diary
Then Abandoned by Husband Because of Stain on Honor
08/02/2007 09:20 AM ET
Um Muhammad al-Daraj, 35, says she was forced to have sex with a militant to secure the release of her kidnapped husband.
Afif Sarhan/IRIN
Um Muhammad al-Daraj, 35, says she was forced to have sex with a militant to secure the release of her kidnapped husband.
BAGHDAD (IRIN) - Mother of three Um Muhammad al-Daraj, 35, recently went through a traumatic ordeal to try to save her husband’s life.

She told IRIN her husband was kidnapped by militants who had accused him of supporting the insurgents. After two days without news of her husband, Ahmed, two people came to her home and ordered her to follow them to meet her husband, who was reportedly being interrogated.

“I didn’t think twice and left my children with my neighbour. I was desperate for any news of Ahmed and they drove me to a distant neighbourhood where my husband was supposedly being held.

“After half an hour’s drive we reached Sadr City and my legs were trembling because I know how dangerous the area is and the guys with me didn’t speak a word.

“They asked me to enter a disgusting-looking house and told me to wait. A rude man came into the room and bluntly told me that I had two choices: have sex with him and get my husband released or return to my home and never see Ahmed again.

“I was shocked and started to cry. I fell to the ground trying to kiss his feet and begged him to release my husband and not to treat me badly.

“The man told me that he would be back in 15 minutes and by that time would want to know my decision. In those minutes I hated my beauty and myself. I know that if I had been an ugly woman this wouldn’t have happened to me, but the life of my husband was in my hands.

“After 15 minutes - I was crying the whole time - the man came back and repeated the question and I didn’t have any option than to accept, in order to save Ahmed’s life, even knowing that after that they might kill us both.

“I had to forget my honour to save my husband’s life. It was the most terrible 20 minutes of my life. I just felt pain and wanted to vomit all the time. In the beginning I tried to refuse but was hit in the face and had to cry in silence, while asking God’s forgiveness.

“After that he told me to put my clothes on and the same two men drove me home, with tears streaming down my cheeks. I couldn’t look at my children because I felt dirty. I didn’t even know if my husband was going to return.

“Later that evening Ahmed appeared on the doorstep with signs of having been hit in the face, and when I went to kiss him he told me that I was dirty and that he was going to divorce me as he had been forced to watch the whole scene and preferred to be killed than see his wife sleeping with another man, even if it was to save his life.

“Two days later he left home and went to his parents’ house and said that soon I would get the divorce papers. Even now I cannot believe that losing my honour to save his life was taken by him as a betrayal.

“Now I’m alone, without a job or husband, with three children to look after. Sometimes death is the best way to end suffering.”
Iraqi Diary
Local Officials Say Crowding Would Worsen Plight for All Displaced in Camp
08/01/2007 11:57 AM ET
A woman and child living temporarily at the Imam Zaid Shrine between Hilla and Najaf. Many Najaf residents fled to the shrine and others nearby to escape fighting in their city.
IRIN
A woman and child living temporarily at the Imam Zaid Shrine between Hilla and Najaf. Many Najaf residents fled to the shrine and others nearby to escape fighting in their city.
NAJAF, 1 August 2007 (IRIN) - An internally displaced persons (IDP) camp just outside the southern Iraqi city of Najaf has closed to new arrivals, forcing hundreds of Iraqis fleeing violence in Baghdad and neighbouring governorates to look elsewhere for refuge.

Families trying to access Najaf’s al-Manathera camp told IRIN they were desperately searching for a place to stay as their children were getting sick in the hot weather and they had no food or shelter.

“We have been trying to get access to a camp in Najaf for the past five days... but so far no one has offered us help and my two smallest children are getting sick,” said Um Abir, mother of four, recently displaced due to sectarian violence in Baghdad.

“It is hard for us to see people getting full assistance inside the camps while we are outside hungry, tired and dirty,” Um Abir said, adding: “Someone should look after us before we get shot, or die in this terrible hot weather, because we don’t have anywhere to shelter and have to cover our heads with newspaper.”

However, Muthana Ali Zeid, media officer in the Najaf Governorate Council, said they could not afford to provide any more assistance to new arrivals.

“Many camps are completely full and, if we allow families to come in, existing IDPs will lose the assistance they are getting,” Zeid said.

Al-Manathera camp
The al-Manathera camp is in an old wood factory near the Abu Skhear Silo, Al-Manathera District, about 18km south of Najaf city. The camp is one kilometre down a dirt track off the main road linking Al-Manathera with Najaf city.

The Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) set up the camp in January 2007 in cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) to house families who had been squatting in settlements that had been demolished, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in its June/July update report on IDPs in camps in Iraq.

The camp is currently managed by the Najaf branch of the MoDM and hosts 230 families - about 1,150 people.

Zeid said a new security fence around the camp made it almost impossible for new arrivals to get in. “We understand that people need to save their lives but we also need to realise that too many families in a camp is even worse,” he said.

“We cannot let more children die in the camp. If more people come in, the possibility of diseases spreading will be higher,” Zeid said.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), up to mid-July three infants aged 1-3 had died owing to the extreme heat, and the risk of dehydration was high.

Anita Raman, associate reporting officer for the UNHCR Iraq Operation, said the camp suffered from lack of cooling systems and medical care and IDPs were in a very difficult economic situation as there were few jobs.

Shortage of land
The MoDM said ministry officials were looking into establishing new camps near al-Manathera but noted that most nearby land was owned by individuals unwilling to let others use it.

“We are trying to get nearby landowners to agree to allow the construction of new camps but unfortunately some are strongly opposed to the idea, saying it might affect agriculture and their living conditions,” Dina Youssef, a senior MoMD official, said.

Based on monitoring by MoDM, the UNHCR and the IOM, there are some 2.2 million IDPs in Iraq, 1,011,870 of whom were displaced in the past 16 months. Najaf governorate alone is home to 53,970 IDPs, with families continuing to move within the governorate to safer non-urban areas.
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