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Iraq After 3 Years of U.S. 'Democracy'
Iraqis are dying by the hundreds every week

Haider S. Kadhum

April 10, 2006

Despite promises of democracy and safety, Iraq remains gripped by civil strife, death and terror three years after the American-led invasion of the country. A nation that was once united is now disintegrating. Security in Iraq under the occupation no longer exists. Going out to buy a newspaper could cost you your life. People are being killed as they are filling up their cars at petrol stations or as they simply shop for necessities.

"I buy a lot of food for my family so that I would not need to go so many times to the market, because you might be killed by a car bomb," said Hussam Kamel, 41, an engineer from Baghdad. "The last explosion in Sadr City blew shoppers and vendors to pieces," he added. Hussam also complained that the monthly food rations have not been distributed by the government for three months. During this period food prices have increased dramatically.

Like Hussam, many Iraqis have taken to locking themselves inside their houses, venturing out only for essentials. Even at home, however, many people do not feel safe, especially after the latest sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'a militia. Mixed areas of Baghdad such as Al-Saydia have become a battlefield. It is not unusual under such circumstances to have one member of the family keep vigil throughout the night to guard the house from possible attacks.

"I have two Kalashnikovs in my house, one for me and one for my father," said Mahmoud Al-Rawi, 31, a storekeeper. "I guard the house for the first half of the night then my father takes over until morning. We need to defend ourselves."

Part of the problem may be that the very measures put in place for security are regarded by ordinary Iraqis as sources of danger. Inhabitants avoid the checkpoints that the Ministry of the Interior has set up all over Baghdad for fear that those manning the stations may be members of militias or militant groups wearing police uniforms in disguise.

Amnesty International's last report on Iraq reveals that the daily death rate grew from 20 people a day in 2004 to 30 people in 2005. It now stands at 36 Iraqis per day on average, a number that can swell dramatically at any given moment. Last month the Baghdad morgue received 87 dead on its busiest day.

The director of the morgue said that because they were unable to cope with the large number of corpses, many were sent to the refrigeration rooms of the local hospital. There many of the bodies began to decompose because the electricity supply for the refrigeration rooms was sporadic due to power cuts.

But electricity isn't the only thing in short supply at the hospitals. They also have a desperate lack of experienced doctors. Many Iraqi specialists have fled the country after a wave of assassinations.

"My doctor left the country," said Abdulrahman Al-Rekabi, 62, a retired army sergeant. "He told me that I needed an operation. None of the doctors here are able to do it. Now I depend on painkillers".

People who work for foreign companies or the army or for any official directorates are favorite targets for kidnapping and killing. Ali Hussein, a senior media worker for a foreign media company, said: "I used to change my route from my house to my company office in Baghdad every day, on my way home I kept checking the mirrors of my car to make sure that no one was following me."

Many people keep their work secret from friends and family. They are afraid that loose talk may cost them their lives. Their jobs, however, are not the only thing that may cost Iraqis their lives. There is a long list of reasons, such as one's political views, religious or tribal affiliation and sometimes even one's name if it reveals these affiliations. Day after day the list only gets longer while the morgue gets busier.



:: Article nr. 22455 sent on 11-apr-2006 14:18 ECT

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