Looks at bru­tal dif­fi­cul­ties fac­ing the peo­ple of Bagh­dad daily

7 Days in Dubai - - BUSINESS - Ali.shouk@7days.ae

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.

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