I am the principal researcher for Iraq Body Count, an NGO documenting civilian harm to Iraqis, carrying out research which is contained in a large public database detailing specific incidents and victims of deadly violence. The need and purpose of this research is to document, with transparency, the impact of war on civilians and the violations of human rights in conflict; enable more timely, reliable and comprehensive monitoring of armed violence, including its impact on specific groups; give a human face to the many nameless victims of armed violence; provide essential information for all parties to take steps to protect civilians; bring states and parties to armed violence into better compliance with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law; assess the effectiveness of strategy and support post-conflict recovery and reconciliation.
As those around him fled in panic, 18-year-old Ahmed Draiwel ran with a bomb in his arms toward a rubbish pile, where he planned to hurl it. As he prayed, the parcel bomb blew up killing him. A vendor in a Baghdad market, Ahmed sold vegetables from his stall and on March 15, 2007, he saved everyone but himself. War causes death, but also inspires heroism. With all the killings I have documented over the years, Ahmed has stayed in my mind as a hero.
ISIS banned football as a Western export, and there were severe penalties for anyone who played or watched it. During the World Cup, in an ISIS controlled area, there was a group of men watching a football match in a cafe. ISIS shot everyone dead. A group of young boys caught playing football had their feet cut off. When the Yazidi genocide started, there were reports of ISIS entering a village and dividing the civilians into men, whom they killed, older women, whom they also killed, and younger women whom they took as ‘brides’. These are all demonstrations of ISIS brutality.
Ali Hussein was two years old, when his body was picked up from the rubble of his home, on April 29, 2008. His house in Baghdad’s Sadr City was bombed by US forces during the ‘Surge’, an operation to ‘provide security’ to Baghdad. Ali was one of 12 children who lost their lives in that airstrike, which also killed a pregnant woman. No one was ever tried for killing him and other children like him.
Since 2003, Iraq has been in such a state of insecurity, such that every day is a day of terror. This is the real impact of any war. When we are so keen for a war to continue, or for a war to be won by those we support, we do not see what that means for those who are there, in the risk zones. So many victories end up being Pyrrhic victories, inflicting such death and suffering as to be more like defeats.
The book was based on the data I collected as a researcher of Iraq Body Count (IBC). IBC’s documentary evidence is drawn from crosschecked media reports of violence leading to deaths, and is supplemented by the review and integration of hospital, morgue and official records. Details about deadly incidents and individuals killed are stored with every entry in the database. The minimum details always extracted are the number killed, where, and when.