Scenes from Iraq: ‘Death would be better than this life.’


The clean-up begins at the site of one of the car bombs that struck in the Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada. (Loveday Morris/Washington Post)

The coffin of a 19-year-old was lifted high on the shoulders of his loved ones and carried down his street, where a hanging banner urged young men to answer the call to wage jihad against Sunni insurgents.

Like many of his Shiite comrades, the young tea seller signed up to fight, but he did not get to see the battlefield. Instead the militants brought the war to his doorstep.

Ahmed Ibrahim was one of more than a dozen to die in a double car bombing on a busy commercial street of the central Baghdad district of Karrada on Thursday night. Flowers were carried on a white tray at the head of the parade, a somber nod to the wedding he will never have. The wails of a stream of women cloaked in black were his funeral march.

His death is nothing notable in the Iraqi capital, where explosions frequently punctuate life, or snuff it out. The stomach churning reverberation of a bombing, the crushed glass, the twisted metal and spilled blood are all too familiar to this city's residents.


The coffin of Ahmed Ibrahim, 19, is carried away for burial on Friday. (Loveday Morris/Washington Post)

In recent days, militants have ramped up bombings as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan draws to an end. Residents fear that the insurgents from Islamic State, buoyed by advances and their declaration of a caliphate, will use the month's last auspicious days to launch high profile attacks.

They are thankful for small mercies. Thursday’s bombing took place just after sunset, when families had sat down to break their fast. The streets were emptier than usual.

Forty-five-year-old Hayat Mohsen's family of four were gathered for their evening meal when their living room imploded around them, the doors and windows blown in. It's the third time her apartment has been damaged in a blast. She says she can't afford to move. Last Ramadan a bombing killed her neighbor's three sons.

Outside, Ashraf Hussein, 27, had left the juice cart where he works to get food, no doubt saving his life. The bomb went off as he was returning, leaving his cart a scorched shell covered in chunks of flesh.

He levels blame not only at the militants, but the government and Shiite militias for fueling the cycle of sectarianism.

“Why don’t they just drop a nuclear bomb on us and be done with it?” he shouts, as he watches workers sweep up the broken glass. “Death would be better than this life.”

Loveday Morris is a Beirut-based correspondent for The Post. She has previously covered the Middle East for The National, based in Abu Dhabi, and for the Independent, based in London and Beirut.
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