Shiite Violence Traps Baghdad’s Sunnis, Haunted by a Grim Past


The bodies arrive in twos and threes most every day in the Baghdad morgue now, a grim barometer of the city’s sectarian tensions. Most have gunshot wounds to the head, some have signs of torture, and most of them are Sunnis.

When families come looking for relatives, they are directed to a room with five 48-inch television monitors playing what could best be described as a slide show from hell — one bullet-riddled corpse after another. Those who came Wednesday morning left both disappointed and relieved, upset about not knowing their loved ones’ fate, but glad not to have confirmation; not here, at least.

For now, sectarian assassinations do not nearly approach the wholesale slaughter of the years 2005 to 2007, when as many as 100 bodies a day sometimes showed up at the morgue, some of them Shiites killed in suicide bombings but many Sunnis who had been executed by Shiite militias.

“It is fair to say that nowadays there is only fear in us,” said Muthan al-Ani, a Sunni who sells household appliances and lives in the majority Sunni neighborhood of Ameriya in western Baghdad. “The only worry I have now is if they arrest me, what will my wife and child do without me? I know that even if they take me to prison, if they don’t kill me now, they will kill me later.”

Imagine such a scene in the United States. Here it might be conflict between races. Or perhaps between religious identity and secularists. But those scenarios are far from reality, and the people of Baghdad are living this nightmare today. And there is good reason to believe that it will get worse.


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