Iraq’s Booming Funeral Market

May 13, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Afif Sarhan, IslamOnline.net

2010-05-11T080728Z_1227782277_GM1E65B18RJ01_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-VIOLENCE

Residents carry a coffin of a victim who was killed in Monday’s bomb attack during a funeral in Basra, 420 km (260 miles) southeast of Baghdad, May 11, 2010. Bombers and gunmen officials linked to a battered but still lethal al Qaeda killed more than 100 people on Monday during a day-long wave of attacks on markets, a textile factory, checkpoints and other sites across Iraq.

REUTERS/Atef Hassan

BAGHDAD – With deadly attacks still claiming more lives in the war-torn country, the funeral market in Iraq has turned from a simple work into a booming business.
“Before US-led invasion, I had one ceremony to take care,” mourner Ali Abdel-Kareem al-Shuwafi, 48, told IslamOnline.net on Friday, October 30.

“But in the last four years, I had to hire 12 employees and other 15 who are used when we have many ceremonies to hold in the same day.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violence plaguing Iraq since the US invaded the country in 2003 to topple the Saddam Hussein regime.

“Violence in Iraq changed my life. I know that it isn’t a nice sentence to say but it is the true,” said Shuwafi.

“The continuing killings in my country helped me become a wealthy man and able to give a very good life to my family who years ago were suffering with the need of everything.”

Before the US invasion, Shuwafi was hardly able to provide basics to his family.

But his life has totally changed after the US troops invaded the oil-rich country.

“I decided to open a shop in Baghdad two years ago which takes care of everything, the three days mourning process, the burying and other ceremonies asked by our clients,” he said.

Shuwafi had borrowed money from a friend of his to open his shop.

“After few months, I had enough to pay him back and open more two shops, one in Baghdad and one in Basra where my brother takes care,” he said.

“I know I’m successful today because of people suffering, however, I didn’t kill them and just made a way for families to be well supported in a so hard moment of their lives.

“The war changed my life for better but I sometimes I wish that things were like before and I would had been able to improve my living conditions under other ways offered by the government.”

Lucrative

Like Shuwafi, many mourning professionals have made a fortune from the deadly violence.

“There was periods where I had to refuse ceremonies because I didn’t have enough materials to organize it,” Kamal al-Jumeiri, a funeral business owner in Baghdad, told IOL.

“During 2006 and 2007 I was able to make enough money to send my family away to Jordan to protect them and I use to visit my kids and wife every three months.

“My family accuse me of taking advantage and making money from people who were victims but someone had to make it and I had enough conditions to offer my skills.”

Jumeiri recalls that he only owned two coffins to run his business before the US invasion.

“After violence in 2006, I had enough money to open two shops,” he said.

“By two trucks, I import supplies from outside with better quality, offer a proper burial with all stuff needed like chairs for the mourners, recorders, speakers, people to read Qur’anic verses, kitchen apparatus to cook food during the three days ceremony, generators, tents and other specific things that sometimes is asked by grieving families.”

According to Iraqi traditions, families rent tents for the three days of mourning and professional mourners to add emotions by crying while speaking verses of the Qur’an.

In addition, coffee, tea and cigarettes should be offered to visitors during the three days of mourning.

In the last day, food is cooked and offered to all people present, including poor people who usually get close to get free food.

“I moved from a simple mourning workers into a first-class business and most of my clients have wealthy living conditions and hire my work due to my excellent materials used,” said Jumeiri.

The booming funeral market is also sparking rivalry among mourning professionals.

“I suffered threats from other mourning professionals,” said Jumeiri.

“Many of them, not all, have organised gangs to prevent us from keeping work and leave all ceremonies to them but I insisted and have to pay a security guard to follow me.”

Prices for the funeral services have skyrocketed over the violence.

“I lost my father before invasion from heart disease and didn’t spend more than US $50 for all ceremony and coffin,” Haydar Muhammad Khalif, a government employee, told IOL.

“But two months ago, my uncle was killed and we had to pay US $300 for the same ceremony, without any changes.”

Coffins now cost about $80, from only $10 before the US invasion.

A complete ceremony would cost from $150 to $400, from only $60 before the invasion.

“Even to die in Iraq you have to have enough money or you will have to be buried without proper Iraqi Muslim traditions,” said Khalif.

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Afghanistan: Why it’s impossible to support the war

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Edward F. Haas

2009-11-12T140643Z_818541329_GM1E5BC1OXP01_RTRMADP_3_AFGHANISTAN It’s been eight years since the United States invaded Afghanistan. After all these years many Americans have lost sight of the alleged purpose of our invasion – to hunt for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

What has also been lost is any government inquiry whatsoever into the accuracy of the “smoking gun” evidence that the Bush Administration presented as the final justification for invading Afghanistan – the peculiar “Osama bin Laden confession video.”

Released on December 13, 2001, the videotape of bin Laden and associates taking pleasure in the 9/11 attack was seen around the world – over and over again. I remember the 24 hour news channels playing the same scenes practically non-stop while the talking heads told their audiences that this was absolute proof that the United States invasion of Afghanistan a few months earlier on October 7, 2001 was the right action.

The corporate media, liberal and conservative, failed to question the Department of Defense Press Release 630-01 that accompanied the video release. No so-called professional journalist found the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the video unusual. The corporate types just accepted at face value that the videotape was discovered by U.S. forces in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The names of the troops that discovered the video, the name of the unit, the circumstances as to how the video was actually discovered, and what prompted the troops to look at the video in the first place was never asked by the White House Press Corps or any other corporate media type. How U.S. troops discovered the video and what prompted the troops to explore the content of the video remains a mystery.

That is if you believe Press Release 630-01was factual.

Many Americans, as well as other people around the world, believe the video was a U.S.government fabrication. Others believe it to be the result of a sting operation taped in the last week of September 2001. This would mean that Osama bin Laden did not know he was being videotaped, and that the U.S. and foreign intelligence operatives had bin Laden in their sights prior to the U.S. invasion. A strong argument can be made that if bin Laden had been captured or killed before the U.S. invasion, support for the war would have been greatly diminished, particularly outside the United States.

A few years ago when I was writing the Muckraker Report, I used Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in an attempt to discover some facts surrounding the discovery of the video.

In a September 2006 letter from the Department of Defense, I was told that any information / documentation related to the discovery of the video would be found with United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

On February 26, 2007 CENTCOM received my FOIA request. In the request I wrote:

Please provide documents related to the discovery of the December 13, 2001 released Osama bin Laden video. Documents include action reports, logbook entries, e-mails, and transcripts, etc., which the U.S. forces that reportedly found the video would have recorded upon “discovering” the video. I am trying to identify the – who, what, when, where, and why of how this video dubbed the “confession video” by the corporate media, was actually discovered.

To my amazement, nearly three years later, I finally received a response from CENTCOM. What didn’t surprise me is that CENTCOM found “no records” related to the discovery of the video. CENTCOM wrote:

“Pursuant to procedures established in 5 U.S.C. 552, Freedom of Information Act and DOD 5400.7-R, Department of Defense FOIA Program, our search included all existing records in USCENTCOM. Despite our extensive search for documents pertaining to your request, we were unable to locate responsive documents.”

I am of the belief that there is credible evidence that the video in question was the result of a sting operation. I also believe that it was taped before the U.S. invasion. The lack of any documentation supporting the government’s claim that the video was discovered by U.S.troops in Jalalabad adds fuel to this belief. Had bin Laden been captured or killed rather than taped in September 2001, the current debate as to whether the United States should send more troops into Afghanistan could have possibly been avoided.

That is why it is impossible for me to support the war in Afghanistan at this time. Until the facts come out about the video and its discovery I will always believe the cause was fabricated – just like the war in Iraq.

Ed Haas is a freelance writer residing in Charleston, SC. He is the former editor of the Muckraker Report. Ed was the recipient of the 2008 Project Censored Award. This award recognized the Top 25 censored news stories of 2006-2007.

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‘Coalition of the Willing’ Comes to an End in Iraq

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

War now truly an American-only effort after Britain and Australia pull out

By Chelsea J. Carter, AP

2009-07-30T165015Z_01_LON708_RTRMDNP_3_BRITAIN-IRAQ

John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq Inquiry, listens during a news conference in London July 30, 2009. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be asked to testify to a panel investigating the Iraq war, the head of the inquiry said on Thursday. Former civil servant Chilcot said the inquiry, set up by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, would look at British involvement in the war, covering the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July this year.

REUTERS/Matt Dunham/Pool

The war in Iraq was truly an American-only effort Saturday after Britain and Australia, the last of its international partners, pulled out.

Little attention was paid in Iraq to what effectively ended the so-called coalition of the willing, with the U.S. — as the leader of Multi-National Force, Iraq — letting the withdrawals pass without any public demonstration.

The quiet end of the coalition was a departure from its creation, which saw then-U.S. President George W. Bush court countries for support before and after the March 2003 invasion.

“We’re grateful to those partners who contributed in the past and we look forward to working with them in the future,” military spokesman Army Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Ballesteros told The Associated Press in an e-mail.

At its height, the coalition numbered about 300,000 soldiers from 38 countries— 250,000 from the United States, about 40,000 from Britain, and the rest ranging from 2,000 Australians to 70 Albanians. But most of the United States’ traditional European allies, those who supported actions in Afghanistan and the previous Iraq war, sat it out.

It effectively ended this week with Friday’s departure of Australian troops and the expiration of the mandate for the tiny remaining British contingent after Iraq’s parliament adjourned without agreeing to allow the troops to stay to protect southern oil ports and train Iraqi troops.

The U.S. military, though, said the withdrawals did not mean it was going it alone in Iraq.

“We haven’t lost our international partners. Rather, there are representatives from around the world here in various capacities such as NATO, military advisers, law enforcement and construction workers,” said Army Colonel John R. Robinson, a military spokesman at the U.S. headquarters outside Baghdad.

Australia’s military commander in the Middle East, Major-General Mark Kelly, said Friday the last 12 Australian soldiers who had been embedded with U.S. units were flown out of Baghdad on Tuesday, three days ahead of the deadline. A security detachment of about 100 soldiers will remain to protect embassy personnel.

Britain withdrew its remaining 100 to 150 mostly Navy personnel to Kuwait, though was hopeful they might return.

“We are exploring with the Iraqi Government the possibility of resuming some or all of our planned naval activity in advance of ratification,” the British Defence Ministry said in a statement released Saturday.

The coalition had a troubled history and began to crumble within months of the U.S.-led invasion as many countries faced political and social unrest over an unpopular war.

Critics said the tiny contingents that partnered with the coalition, such as Estonia, Albania and Romania, gave the U.S. token international support for the invasion.

Mass protests were held in many countries, including Spain, which was one of the most notable withdrawals from the coalition. In 2004, a bombing attack in Madrid linked to Islamic extremists helped overturn the political establishment in Spain and the new leadership pulled out the Spanish troops.

By January 2007, the combined non-U.S. contingent had dwindled to just over 14,000. By October 2007, it stood at 20 nations and roughly 11,400 soldiers.

The US military, meanwhile, has increased its focus on redefining its relationship with Iraq under a security pact that took effect on Jan. 1.

American combat forces withdrew from Iraq’s urban areas at the end of June and all troops are to withdraw by the end of 2011, according to the agreement. President Barack Obama has ordered the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving roughly 50,000 troops to train and advise Iraqi security forces.
“Today is a normal day for our forces currently in Iraq,” Col. Robinson said, “because our business is already tied closely to our bilateral partnership with the Iraqis.”

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