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Viewpoint: Living with Iraq's violence

Iraq funeral - March 2007
Tragedy has become part of life of most Iraqis; few families have been spared

An Iraqi member of staff at the BBC Baghdad bureau reflects on the daily toll the violence is taking on the people of his country. For security reasons, the author's name is not being published.

EVERYDAY FAMILY TRAGEDY

Violent death in Iraq is an everyday event. In Baghdad people put up signs on the street to announce deaths. I am always surprised to read one which says that someone died of natural causes.

Because it is so common, you get used to the number of violent deaths. The problem is you just bury it deep inside you. It becomes like a time bomb, you never know when it is going to explode.

All these feelings of fear, sadness and frustration burst out of me one morning last week when I lost Marwan, a relative of mine.

Marwan's day began as usual. He got into his car and started the engine. But rather than driving off, his car blew up when the engine warmed up. He died instantly.

Marwan was a police officer. I suppose that it is why he was targeted.

Mourning events have replaced birthdays and wedding parties. You are always surrounded by death. The unwanted guest will visit you at any moment

The tragedy didn't end there. A few minutes later, his wife Wafa shot herself when she realised her husband was dead. The couple left behind a baby boy Ahmad who is only 11 months old.

This wasn't the only tragedy in Wafa's life. Two years ago, a Shia militia, the Mehdi Army, assassinated her brother-in-law Waheed.

Four years ago, a rocket which was fired by Sunni insurgents from devastated her family when it hit Wafa's aunt's house.

Wafa's 12-year-old cousin Mustafa was killed. Her mother, who was visiting the house, was paralysed and Wafa's six-year-old brother Saad lost one eye.

Tragedies like the one Wafa experienced have become part of the life of most Iraqis. It is very unusual not to have a tragedy in the family.

Mourning events have replaced birthdays and wedding parties. You are always surrounded by death. The unwanted guest will visit you at any moment.

You will see it on TV, you will hear it on the radio, and you'll read about it in the newspapers. Even when you think that it is hundreds of miles away from you, it will touch you in some way.

WHY ARE YOU CALLING?

As a journalist I have to gather information about bombings across Iraq. Last week there was a large bomb near Mosul, one of Iraq's main cities.

I have a book full of telephone numbers, which I was given by a former colleague who left the office. Other numbers I collected myself.

There was this number for a doctor in Mosul that I tried to call. I wanted to get information about the latest casualties. A young woman answered the phone. She was very curious as to why I was calling.

I think it is time to seriously consider going to that remote island I have always dreamed of

"Why are you calling," she asked. "Where did you get this number from? How do you know this doctor?"

Her reaction was very unusual. It took me a while to realise that this woman was the doctor's daughter.

She started crying and said: "My father was assassinated two years ago in his clinic".

I could hear in her voice the unspoken question: Why he had been assassinated? I could feel that she'd been asking the same question for two years. I apologised and expressed my sympathy.

After I hung up I realised what I could have said to the doctor's daughter.

"My poor young woman, your father died in vain just like Marwan, Mustafa, Wafa and thousands and thousands of Iraqis," I could have said.

"We have become the firewood in a war which has no logic and victims of warriors who lack honour and nobility. Warriors we read about in history books at least had honour."

I think it is time to seriously consider going to that remote island I have always dreamed of.

MY IRAQ

Just before I finished writing these comments a police source called me to say that a man had got a court order to evict a bad tenant from an apartment he owns.

The tenant did not want to give the apartment back to the owner in a good condition, so instead he blew it up injuring two civilians.

This is my Iraq.




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