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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Iraqi Widows Marry to Feed Kids

November 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Afif Sarhan, Uruknet

iraq-widow BAGHDAD – Haifa Ahmed Mua’alim, 32, is going to tie the knot in a couple of weeks.

She is marrying a man recommended by her sister-in-law to help feed her two orphan children of a previous marriage.

The young woman lost her husband, the love of her life, two years ago to the violence that has been plaguing her country since the 2003 US invasion.

“When he died I decided never to marry again. We had a stable and lovely relation,” she recalled tearfully.

For the past two years Haifa has been struggling to feed her kids, spending every penny they once had.

But without work or help from any one, she is accepting to remarry at the advice of her deceased husband’s sister.

“I’m being forced to change my mind in exchange for a better life for my sons.”

Haifa only saw the future husband once and never spoke with him, insisting it’s a marriage of convenience for both of them.

“My sister-in-law told me that he also lost his wife and he is a good man who carries four children in his baggage,” she said.

“Maybe it is too precipitated and latter on, I might regret, however, it is better to take care of six children than see your two sons hungry and unable to go to school,” Haifa reasoned.

“I’m glad to find someone willing to take care of them but being happy is another issue that I prefer to keep for my own.”

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs estimates there are nearly two million widows and five times kids living without fathers in the country.

“Widows are a serious case in Iraq. Our ministry is trying to help but the lack of proper budget is seriously affecting our work,” said a senior officer, requesting anonymity for not being allowed to speak to the press.

“More widows will be added to this group and to help them the parliament should focus on their problem, create enough conditions for them to work and feed their children.”

Debate

Haifa represents a new trend in Iraq which is encouraged by religious leaders who have been advising single and widower men to marry widows as a way to help them.

“Those women are victims of the violence in our country,” Sheikh Abdul-Kareem Rafel, a religious leader at Sadr City, told IOL.

“The government isn’t offering them enough help to raise their kids alone and advising Iraqis to marry them is a nice way to prevent millions of kids from being raised without a father and prevent women from becoming prostitutes to support them.”

Rana Lattif, a local woman activist, opposes such second marriage arrangements.

“Instead of encouraging women to remarry, we have to force the government to help them, offer stable living conditions and open job places as the majority became widows because of the unfair war in the country,” she told IOL.

“Of course there are women who prefer to be in such unacceptable situation but they are few and the majority is marrying again because it was the only choice found,” she contends.

“If the government takes responsibility towards them, I’m sure this number would decrease impressively.”

Sara al-Azza, a member of a charity that has nearly 1,200 widows registered with more than half willing to remarry, disagrees.

“We cannot keep waiting for the government to take an action,” she told IOL.

“The women come to us after deciding to remarry and what we do is just look for men who have a good background, true good intentions and are able to support her family,” she explains.

“No one is forced to marry but we have made many arrangements with the both sides happy to start a new life together.

“Since we started working on this issue, we never had a complaint from any of the parties. It is a serious matter and we are happy to help.”

Rhim Abdel-Rassoul Rabia’a, a 41-yrea-old mother of three who lost her husband three years in a Baghdad bomb attack, is waiting for a second husband.

“After years of looking for a job, I got desperate and that’s why I started looking for a second marriage even though that was the last thing I would like to do,” she told IOL.

“I was told that women over 40 take more time to find a husband but this is my only hope. I just want a man to look after me and my kids, even if I marry without love.”

Rhim says when she was a young girl she dreamed of a life of happiness, studying and working to become someone important in life.

“I know that none of my dreams can come true but at least I can help my kids become able to support themselves without the need to remarry for that.”

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