Reporting on Iraq, Where Death is the Only Constant

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An Iraqi woman displaced by fighting, between government supporters and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), heats water in a water tank using firewood near shelters built for pilgrims but now housing internally displaced people (IDP) on January 5, 2015, in the holy city of Najaf, about 160 kilometers south of Baghdad. AFP/Haidar Hamdani

By: Fatima Hanan Elreda

Published Monday, January 12, 2015

A woman hanging laundry looks out the window, makes eye contact with her neighbor in a silent conversation that moves faster than the speed of sound, then returns to her sacred chore. The view is not unusual: Puddles of blood and scattered shrapnel lie just across the street.

In another Baghdad neighborhood, the owner of a café cleans up the debris from an explosion. A suicide bomber just entered his shop and detonated his explosives-laden vest among the customers. The place still reeks of coffee and blood.

A group of children play football just around the corner. An explosion rocks a nearby market. They rush home with panic in their eyes.

The minaret of a mosque calls for prayer. “God is Great” echoes through the streets until its muffled by a loud blast. Bodies remain in the act of prostration, lifeless.

Elsewhere in the Iraqi capital, chants of “There is no god but God” can be heard. If you follow the sound, it will lead you to a tiny alley. In that alley, there is a funeral procession. If you walk among the mourners, you will find yourself in a cemetery. In that cemetery, there is an empty grave. The headstone reads: Rest in peace, Iraq.

These are scenes of everyday Iraq. Play, rewind, fast forward, write, rewrite, cut, paste and tada the report is done. Updates: The death toll rises from five to 12 to at least 45. Numbers, that’s what they are most of the time.

Although I criticize the media — myself included — for reducing casualties to mere numbers, I’ve tried my best to look the dead straight in the eyes, those eyes that, in moments of weakness, seem to be staring back at me. I weave the human thread into my stories, more often than not. But, at some point, I came to realize that numbers have a function, even for a ‘word’ person like myself. Numbers hold a meaning of their own.

In a country struggling to cope with so many political variables, death has become the only constant. This equation is an irrefutable law of nature in modern day Iraq.

Statistically speaking, counting the number of Iraqis killed by political or sectarian violence — with a safe margin of error — is within the realm of possibility.

Iraq Body Count (IBC), a project that has recorded killings due to violence since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, estimates the civilian death toll ranges between 134,087 and 151,315, and counting. Over 17,000 civilians were killed as a result of violence in 2014. And in just the first 10 days of 2015, the killings of 519 civilians have been documented on IBC’s website.

There are many ways to die in Iraq: bombings, gunfire, suicide attacks, air strikes, mortars; and, the latest trend, beheadings, under the so-called Islamic State’s so-called banner of Islam. Although the killing methods may differ, the result is the same.

I’ve seen countless images of post-bombing destruction; corpses; nameless faces and faceless names, oozing blood and despair. But I’ve also seen the monotony of Iraqis returning to their daily lives. They pick up the pieces of their war-stricken nation and move on, many waiting for their turn.

Fatima Hanan Elreda is a news editor at al-Etejah TV. She has a BA in journalism from the Lebanese International University and is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature at the Lebanese University.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar English's editorial policy. If you would like to submit a thoughtful response to one of our opinion pieces, send your contribution to our submissions editor.

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Amazing relate!

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