Relatives honor 28 slain children

After suicide bombing, crater on Baghdad street is turned into a shrine

July 21, 2005|By Liz Sly | Liz Sly,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The little Baghdad street that lost 28 of its children to a suicide bomber a week ago did not need to observe the three-minute silence in memory of the victims called for by the government at noon yesterday.

This is a street condemned to a lifetime of memories, a seeming eternity of silence, by the man who drove his explosives-packed sport utility vehicle into a crowd of local children gathered around an American Humvee.

No children play on the street now because their parents won't allow them out. The emptiness, on a side street that would typically be full of children kicking balls or riding bicycles, is chilling. Every house lost at least one child; some lost three, residents say.

But Mohammed Hashim, 11, who survived by an accident of timing and luck, says he does not mind being kept indoors. "All my playmates are dead," he explained.

Mohammed's twin brother, Hassan, also was killed in the blast just beyond the walls of his home, but Mohammed seems unable to mention his name.

The whole family, grouped in mourning at their little home just yards from the site of the blast, finds it hard to speak about the unspeakable horror of that day.

It was by no means the bloodiest, or even the deadliest, in terms of child casualties in the annals of Baghdad's unremitting violence. But it nonetheless stirred an unusual degree of condemnation.

The 6-foot crater left by the explosion has since been turned into a small shrine, strewn with flowers and pictures of the Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is revered in this overwhelmingly Shiite neighborhood.

As noon approached, about a dozen bereaved mothers draped in black and fathers clutching photos of their dead children gathered at the edge of the crater, expecting something to happen - perhaps a visit from a government official or a pause in the buzz rising from the city.

But no one came, and there was no pause; in a city inured to the daily toll of bombings and assassinations, few could find the time to stop.

In some neighborhoods, traffic stopped and residents stood still in observance of the moment, according to reports on Al-Iraqiya state television, but observance of the call appeared to be sporadic, and in many parts of the city the call for silence was ignored.

For the bereaved families, the failure of any politicians to come to offer their respects was a major disappointment.

Mohammed's father, Sattar Hashim, said he was not surprised. "Since the bombing, not one official from the government has come to offer their condolences or to inspect the damage," he said. "I think it's normal now for a lot of people to die, so nobody cares."

Baghdad is full of communities like these: isolated in their grief and unconsoled by any hope that the conflict soon will be resolved.

Anger also is rising, at the government's seeming indifference and its inability to curb the violence - even against its own officials. Twelve Sunni Arab members of the committee writing Iraq's new constitution moved to suspend participation in the committee to protest poor security after Tuesday's assassination of two fellow Sunnis helping to draft the constitution. The chairman of the committee, Shiite cleric Humam Hammoudi, said he was confident the committee would finish its work on time by mid-August, the Associated Press reported.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.