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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
My day in Iraq: Gravedigger
On Friday, 7 April, the BBC News website is asking people across Iraq how they live their lives.

Here, Yousif Abdulla, 42, a gravedigger at Sheikh Muhyadin, the biggest and oldest graveyard in Kirkuk, describes the heartache of burying friends.

I first started this job as a gravedigger when a cousin of mine was killed in 1980 and we built the grave for him.

Coffin in Kirkuk
Bereaved families are often lucky to be able to get a plot

Most of the dead who arrive in this cemetery are from the police.

I now have three graves to build this week.

I can't read and write, but I know that two of them died a natural death and the third is a young man who killed by gunmen.

Many explosions happen in Kirkuk.

In the past three years I have made 600 to 700 graves.

Some of them have been for my own neighbours or friends.

One of them was my own friend. When I was covering the grave with dirt, his mother was standing there, watching me and crying.

She was saying: "Please don't do that."

So all of this sorrow has put me off this job.

If I get another job with even half the income I will leave this one.

It is difficult to make this many graves in three years. It is hurting me. That's why I don't like my job any more.

If it is a good job, sometimes the family of the dead gives me a $15 tip and it is an easy job.

But I have had enough.

Many times we refuse customers. Sometimes they come at midnight and ask for gravestones.

But we tell them where the stones are and they can go and take stones themselves.

You cannot easily go out with anybody who comes to your house at that time of the night. The situation is not safe and there is little trust left.

Lost bodies

I did not go to school when I was a child because my father died and I had to make money for my family.

I hope the situation in Iraq improves and I don't care if I lose my job.

When I make some of the graves I feel a twitch of pain and sorrow in my heart

I don't like this job any more since big numbers of people are killed everyday and I see them with my eyes.

My neighbour Mullah Abdulla had only one son and 9 daughters.

His son was killed and I buried him myself. I was so sad that I did not know how to put the stone on his grave.

He was killed near Ikhwan Square when a car bomb was blown up in front of his shop. He was working for another man selling tires and his daily income was only $3.

His father was standing where I was building his son's grave and he was crying all the time. This happened about five months ago.

I am really sad when I think of all of the people that have been killed.

When I make some of the graves I feel twitch of pain and sorrow in my heart.

Sometimes families find only the clothes of their loved ones, the body is lost.

One man brought the clothes of his son and buried them here. He said that because he couldn't find his body it brought him relief.

I do not feel sad when I build graves for people who die naturally.


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