Must. Go. Pound. Head. On. Wall.

I was alerted to this story yesterday on an email list and wanted to post on it, but didn’t have a chance right away and have now missed the boat.

As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch

NAJAF, Iraq — At what’s believed to be the world’s largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn’t good.

A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that’s cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.

This isn’t satire. As far as I can tell, it’s serious reporting. Well, as serious as reporting gets, these days.

Someone on the email list wrote this up using numbers from the story:

Dhurgham Majed al Malik, 48, whose family has arranged burial services for generations, said that this spring, private cars and taxis with caskets lashed to their roofs arrived at a rate of 6,500 a month. (<217 per day...) Now it’s 4,000 or less, he said. (<133 per day...)

Malik said that the daily tide of cars bearing coffins has been a barometer of Iraq’s violence for years. The number of burials rose and fell several times during Saddam Hussein’s persecution of Shiites, and it soared again during the eight years of the Iran – Iraq war in the 1980s.

Then in the 1990s, the daily average fell to 150 or less, Malik said. With the current war, the burials again reached 300 daily. (only twice Saddam’s lowest…) (notice that they avoided noting what the current daily average was down to…) [emphasis is emailer’s commentary)

Someone else responded

I should have caught this. Any time that a change up in states is made, it is to discourage comparisons. They went from monthly averages to daily averages to try to avoid a comparison of current, recent, and Saddam era burial rates…

Now, I’m not getting all excited about these numbers. I more than half suspect that the story is at least partly bogus. (Well, I think the entire story is totally bogus, but you know what I mean…) This is too small of a sample of anecdotal evidence to get all worked up about. That doesn’t change the fact that someone thought enough to file a story about it.

It’s bad news that deaths are down. I don’t know what to say.

So I’ll let others:

Though I’m not quite ready to pop the Champagne corks over this, I guess I would think a Shiite cemetery located between Baghdad and the Fallujah/Ramadi section of Anbar province would make a decent barometer.


  1. And I’m pretty sure Saddam didn’t bother with undertakers for the folks he gassed, burned, dropped in wood chippers, etc–.

  2. Too much! I posted this astonishing quote from an Iraqi mortician from the same article at my blog: ‘Certainly, when the number of dead increases I feel happy, like all workers in the graveyard. This happiness comes from the increase in the amount of money we have.’ Can’t make this stuff up (Unless you’re the NY Times!)