Looks at brutal difficulties facing the people of Baghdad daily
Zaid Hadi will never forget last Sunday, when 250 people were killed across the road from his home.
The 35-year-old was eating suhoor and watching his three-year-old boy play when the blast 100m away shook his apartment.
Glass and debris sprayed across the street, maiming and killing late-night shoppers. Dozens more were crushed as the Karrada shopping centre they were in collapsed on them.
“It was a place of hell that night,” Hadi told 7DAYS from Baghdad.
The attacks hit the crowded district at 1am on Sunday, as the streets thronged with families shopping after breaking their fast.
“I checked my family first and they were fine and then I went out into the street,” said Hadi, who works for an aid agency.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the fire. People were crying and yelling for help, you could hear the screams of those being burned.”
Thirteen years on from the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad is no more secure that it was in the aftermath of the American-led invasion. And many say daily life has become almost impossible.
As UNICEF said in a statement this week: “Four decades of conflict have made Iraq one of the most dangerous places in the world for children.
“As violence across Iraq intensifies, children continue to pay the heaviest price.”
Hadi has witnessed that first hand. Seven of his neighbours - all from the same family - lost their lives in the attack. “We kept searching for them but until now we haven’t found their bodies,” he said.
“They all were in the explosion site. The family has accepted they are dead.”
Among them was his son’s best friend, Ali, aged six. His son asked him where Ali was this week, and Hadi did not know what to say. “My son lost his best friend. He is too young to lose a friend,” he added.
“It’s become impossible to live in Baghdad. Along with bombs and security issues, there are electricity shortages. We get electricity for only four hours per day. It’s hard to live without electricity in this hot weather.
“We are at war against ISIS, we are terrified of car bombs. Imagine you’re walking down the street and you feel scared as you pass each car.”
Saad Yehia, 29, a computer programmer, summed up the challenge city residents face.
“There are too many ways you can meet your death in this city,” he told 7DAYS.
“Every day you need to avoid them. Just avoiding death is no way to live your life.” He said he has put off getting married and plans to leave Iraq for good. “I don’t want to have a family here, I want to save money and leave for Europe,” he said. “I don’t want my son to have to see what I have seen in my life.
“Prices of food and clothes rise every year and we have to spend money on fuel for electricity generators due to the shortages.
“I couldn’t support a family now, at the moment I’m just trying to support myself.”
The attack came a week after Iraqi forces declared Fallujah “fully liberated” from ISIS.
Over the past year, Iraqi forces have racked up gains against the extremists, retaking the city of Ramadi and the towns of Hit and Rutba.
But ISIS still controls 14 per cent of the country, including the second largest city, Mosul.
According to the UN, more than 3.3 million Iraqis have fled their homes since early 2014.
“I used to try to convince myself that things would get better since the invasion in 2003. Now I just want to take my family and leave this place. It’s a doomed country,” said Hadi.