BAGHDAD - With the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq in its fifth year, one leading
study estimates that more than 655,000 Iraqis have been killed – with no end
to the violence yet in sight. Left behind are loved ones who continue to mourn
their loss, as well as what might have been.
Iraq was once a country known in the Middle East for its epic love stories,
such as in the poetic work Arabian
Nights. Deeply moving love poetry has abounded from Iraqi poets, and
Iraqis have been known, when in love, to sacrifice their lives, if necessary,
for their beloved.
According to a mortality survey published in the British medical journal The
Lancet last October, as many as 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of
the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. The study was carried out last July, so
the number is likely to be far higher today, after one of the bloodiest years
of the occupation.
The occupation has impacted Iraqis' personal relationships the same way it
has negatively affected all other aspects of life here.
"We were engaged to be married after the end of the war," Hussam
Abdulla, a 28-year-old engineer from Baghdad, told IPS. "We thought the
war would not last more than a month and so we planned our marriage to be in
May 2003, but things went wrong as I was detained for two years and my fiancée's
family had to flee for Egypt because her father was a senior army officer whose
life was threatened first by occupation forces and later by death squads."
Like countless other Iraqis, Abdulla's engagement never culminated in the marriage
he'd hoped for.
Army officers, doctors, journalists, artists and others have been targeted
by death squads since nearly the very beginning of the U.S. invasion and occupation
of Iraq. The lucky ones who survived fled the country early while others faced
death and detention later on.
"I thought the man I loved had simply dumped me," a 25-year-old woman
who asked to be called Arwa told IPS. "He told me he would send for me
as soon as he found a job in Jordan, but he disappeared and his family told
me they did not know his whereabouts."
She sadly told IPS that she and her family later found out her boyfriend, whom
she had hoped to marry one day, had been detained by U.S. forces near the Jordanian
When she asked where he was being held, "The U.S. authorities said his
name did not exist in their files," Arwa said. "I will wait for him
to appear even if it takes me a lifetime."
Tens of thousands of reportedly detained Iraqis are not listed in U.S. military
records, leaving their families wondering whether they are dead or alive.
"I told my fiancée to find herself another husband," 32-year-old
Khalik Obeidy, who was visiting Baghdad from Fallujah, told IPS. "I lost
my job as an army officer and my family's house was blasted during the U.S.
siege of Fallujah in April 2003, so our marriage seems next to impossible."
"Getting married under such circumstances means more agony, and bringing
up children is more than difficult," Obeidy added. "My crazy fiancée
still has hope for improvement and she says she will wait."
Similar stories of broken-off engagements, postponed marriages and bitter separations
are everywhere in Baghdad.
"In 2006, I sent my wife and two daughters to Jordan for work and I was
supposed to follow them after selling the car and the furniture," 40-year-old
teacher Tariq Khalaf from Baghdad told IPS. "Things went wrong when my
father died and I had to stay here to look after the rest of the family, and
now I'm confused whether to bring them back to the Iraqi hell or just stay separated."
Jassim Alwan recently made the dangerous trip from Samarra, 90 kms north of
the capital city, to Baghdad.
"We have the 23-year-old Abdullah with his scruffy beard who keeps wandering
the streets of Samarra City," Alwan told IPS. "Abdullah is more famous
than the mayor of the city. He was a wonderful guy before his bride was shot
by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint. The poor guy couldn't stand the
"The country of the Arabian Nights and the wonderful poetry is
no longer good for love," Maki al-Nazzal, a political analyst and poet,
told IPS. "All Iraqi poetry under occupation is now about death and separation.
Love stories are full of agonies and despair marking the darkest period of violence
To date, there are no accurate figures available for how many men and women
have lost wives and husbands in Iraq.
"Baghdad became the city of smoke, blood, and death, instead of being
the shrine of love and beauty," added al-Nazzal.
(Inter Press Service)