The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is meant to be a time of reflection and celebration, yet once again Iraq is in shock and mourning as terrorist bombings target families as they break their fast in restaurants and shopping centres. The Baghdad suburb of Karrada was the target of this week’s atrocity. More than 20 people were killed and dozens more injured in a car bomb attack targeting an ice cream shop.
Among many tragic stories is the tale of an Australian girl who was in Baghdad to visit her sick grandfather. Zynab Al Harbiya, whose parents left Iraq for Australia to escape repression, was killed in the attack.
It is less than a year since the multiple bombing in Karrada during Ramadan 2016 that killed over 300 people, injured hundreds more, and left a deep scar on a city that has already suffered so much. Locals soon transformed the site of the bombing into a shrine for those lost, covering the wreckage with banners, photos, flowers, and candles. There were protests to demand accountability for security.
My memory of Karrada, where I stayed when visiting Iraq in early 2016, is of a clean, friendly neighbourhood of cafes and shops. From the rooftop restaurant of my hotel I had a view over Baghdad that was especially stunning at sunset. My morning walk took in a mosque, a church, friendly chaps at security checkpoints, and busy tea stalls.
It was hard to believe that a war was raging on, that the shop down the street could become an inferno the next day, the next week. That a car or truck in the street might be a danger to the lives of dozens of people.
I find it impossible to imagine the fear, powerlessness, and anger that Iraqis in Baghdad and other cities must have to deal with, all day, every day, as they get on with their lives amidst seemingly endless, brutal terrorism. My heart aches for Karrada.