“I took them to the market”: the grief of a father in Baghdad
When Emad Jawad dropped off his wife and son in a bustling Baghdad market on the eve of the Eid al-Adha festival, he couldn’t have known that he would never see them alive again.
In less than half an hour, an Islamic State suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest there, killing at least 36 people in one of the deadliest attacks in Iraq in years.
Monday night’s bloody carnage claimed the lives of most women and children, including a four-month-old baby, maimed dozens more and left the nation war-torn and stunned.
The next day, as Muslims marked the feast of sacrifice, the devastated father mourned the violent loss of his loved ones.
“They were so pure, only God knows,” said an inconsolable Jawad, clad in a black tunic, of his wife Hoda, 25, and their son Kayan, eight.
“They will never be replaced, neither him nor his mother.”
Another 60 people were injured at the Al-Woheilat market in the sprawling and poor district of the predominantly Shiite capital of Sadr City.
Receiving mourners in a burial tent, distraught 41-year-old policeman Jawad recounted the day that changed his life forever.
“I dropped them off around 5:30 p.m., and the explosion happened around 6 p.m.,” he told AFP.
“I rushed to the market looking for them. Then I walked over to the hospital and yelled at the morgue workers if Kayan was there, but they didn’t know his name. ?
“But because he was strikingly beautiful, I asked if there was a blond boy inside. Unfortunately, they said yes.”
Sitting silently nearby at the funeral was a boy wearing a black baseball cap, Kayan’s brother Ali holding back tears.
He glanced at his father as the grieving man recounted washing Kayan’s body, disfigured by shrapnel, and his wife’s bloody remains, for burial.
Kayan’s grandfather showed photos of his beloved grandson on his cell phone.
“We bought him Eid clothes so that he could be buried there,” the old man said.
– ‘In a terrible state’ –
Deadly attacks were common in Baghdad during the sectarian bloodshed that followed the 2003 US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Violence erupted again years later when extremist Sunni group IS swept across much of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Iraq declared ISIS defeated in its territory in late 2017 after a fierce three-year campaign, and attacks have become relatively rare in the capital.
But the jihadists still have sleeper cells, and relative calm was shattered in January, when a double suicide bombing claimed by ISIS killed 32 people in another crowded Baghdad market.
Then came Monday’s even deadlier attack.
At the dilapidated general hospital in Sadr, where most of the victims were taken, Ali Faisal, a young doctor, said many were “dead on arrival”, others suffered from burns and fractures.
“I myself declared the time of the death of two children, one six years old and one eight years old,” he told AFP.
“A four month old baby was also killed.”
Nowraz, a 25-year-old woman wearing a coronavirus face mask and a flowing black abaya, waited in the hallway.
She said she was waiting to see her cousin Saberin who survived the blast but was injured.
Saberin had gone to the market with her 16-year-old daughter Aya and her 1.5-year-old son.
“We didn’t know they were at the market,” Nowraz said. “She went with Aya and her son to buy some clothes for Eid.”
The little boy survived with severe burns, but the teenager died.
“She’s in terrible shape,” Nowraz said of her cousin. “We are afraid to tell him that his daughter is dead.”
© 2021 AFP