Photo Essay: Stories behind the numbers – Bloody Sunday, by Kürşat Bayhan

IPA Photography, PROJECTS 10 Comments


October 25th of 2009, there were bomb explosions in Bagdad – one at the Justice Department and the other at the city’s county council. 147 lives were lost and hundreds others were wounded. These were the most bloodiest attacks in Iraq since 2007. Newspapers referred to the explosions as “The Bloody Sunday”.

Stories behind the numbers: daily reality for the victims of the Iraq War

I met Abu Nasr on a narrow street in the Griad Seria district of central Baghdad. A year before, he had lost his fingers and left eye in a suicide attack targeting the Ministry of Justice and the Baghdad Provincial Council on a day now known as Iraq’s Bloody Sunday.

Abu Nasr was delivering mail on the third floor of the ministry building when two car bombs exploded nearby. He was lucky to have not been one of the 147 civilians who died in the attack, but he must now find a way to feed his three sons and he has not yet been able to find employment.

Having met so many people like Abu Nasr and family members of those killed in the civil war following the invasion of Iraq, I decided to look closer at the daily lives of the Iraqi people directly affected by this conflict. Every year thousands of civilians are killed, leaving behind countless devastated families. Baghdad, one of the great cities of world history, a city of which the Turks used to say, “There is no love like a mother’s love and there is no city like Baghdad,” is but a shadow of its glorious past.

Media coverage of the effects of the ongoing violence in Iraq rarely ever goes beyond reporting the numbers of dead and wounded. But so much more is going on in Iraq behind these numbers. My objective with this project is to document the stories behind the numbers that we have become so desensitized to.

I spent many days in Baghdad seeking out the families of people who died in attacks such as the one on Bloody Sunday. I found people like Saad Sadik Muhammed, who had lost his son Raad – a security guard in the Ministry of Justice – in an attack. Saad Sadik found his son’s corpse two days after the attack in the garden of a hospital, wrapped in a blanket. “Since I did not have money, I had to borrow from my friends for the funeral. When my son died, my daughter-in-law went back to her father’s house, leaving my grandsons Eyman and Muheyman to me. Now I don’t know how to look after them. They are too young to work,” he says.

Gusin Sabah Abbas’ husband, Hassan Fellah, was killed in a battle between American soldiers and militia forces. “My husband left home to see my uncle. Americans shot him in his car. He died immediately,” she says. She was one month pregnant when she lost her husband and named her son Hassan in his father’s memory. Now she has to live with her family because she has no way of making a living and does not receive any compensation from the American government. “But,” she adds, “I am trying to be hopeful for my son.”

According to the Iraq Body Count project, some 150,000 people have been killed since the 2003 invasion – 122,000 of them civilians. In 2010 the number of casualties dropped to 4,008 from 4,680 the year before. In the wake of such “progress,” at least 4,008 families lie shattered.

Debates in Europe and America about the future of Iraq all but ignore the human aspect of this catastrophe. My goal with this project is to show that the results of these deaths and injuries are not just numbers.

Photographer: Kürşat Bayhan
Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark II N + 16-35mm lens

All photographs/art are the property of the credited photographer and creator with all rights reserved.

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