with Arkan Hamed
BAGHDAD - 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
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 U.S.-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 U.S. 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.
(Inter Press Service)