Baghdad Morgue Overflowing Daily

As sectarian killings continue to rise in Iraq, the central morgue in Baghdad is unable to keep up with the minimum daily influx of 60, and sometimes more than 100, bodies—one cemetery official says “From February 1 to March 31, we’ve logged and buried 2,576 bodies from 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 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

Such findings seem in line with information IPS obtained at the Baghdad

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.

Author: Dahr Jamail & Arkan Hamed

News Service: Inter Press Service


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