Established after an edict from Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, it is dwarfed by the nearby Wadi al-Salam cemetery, the largest in the world, but is expanding.
More than 200 people have died since the outbreak began in Iraq in February and the volunteers say they receive two to four corpses each day. The country’s confirmed coronavirus infections have doubled from around 3,000 to more than 6,000 in the space of just over two weeks, according to health ministry figures.
Ibrahim and his comrades joined the brigade part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) paramilitary umbrella grouping, to fight Islamic State several years ago.
While this enemy is very different, the work is both physically and emotionally draining.
Bodies often arrive at night. The volunteers, in full protective suits, wash and wrap the corpses in black burial shrouds before putting them back in the coffins. They carry the coffins to the graves under the headlights of their vehicles.
Iraq’s Health Ministry on Wednesday said that the total number of COVID-19 cases jumped to 8,168 after setting a new record of daily increase with 781 infections.
The new cases included 437 in the capital Baghdad, 52 in Duhok, 46 in Sulaimaniyah, 41 in Basra, 35 in each Maysan and Kirkuk, 33 in Babil, 28 in Dhi Qar, 19 in Najaf, 18 in Muthanna, 11 in Karbala, eight in Diyala, seven in Diwaniyah, six in Erbil and five in Anbar, the ministry said in a statement.
It also said that 21 people died from the coronavirus during the day, in the highest single-day rise, bringing the death toll in the country to 256, while 4,095 patients have recovered.
Iraq’s health care is on the verge of collapse, officials warned on Thursday, as the number of new coronavirus cases increased this week.
“We have concerns about the increase of daily cases. We anticipate the number will double which might result in the collapse of the system as it cannot manage the influx of cases,” director of the public health department, Riyad Abdel Amir, said in a statement.
The country recorded 672 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 8,840, with the majority of infections in Baghdad.
Authorities said 15 people died from the virus, eight of them in the capital, taking the total death toll in the country to 271.
Wednesday was the highest single-day jump in cases as health authorities recorded 781 cases and 21 fatalities.
Kurdish parties were granted their top pick Fuad Hussein, Iraq’s former finance minister, for the coveted foreign minister position, said Hamadamin Faris, Kurdish MP in Iraqi parliament.
“The KDP candidate for the foreign minister seat is Fuad Hussein,” Faris told Rudaw English. “While, the PUK’s candidate for the justice minister is Judge Salar,” referring to Salar Abdul Satar, a former judge in Kirkuk and Baghdad.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is the second largest political party in the Kurdistan Region and has 18 seats in Iraqi parliament.
A parliamentary session to approve or reject the nominated ministerial candidates is scheduled to be held on Saturday, June 6.
It really does feel as though Iraq is on the verge of another crisis – yet again.
“History is repeating itself,” says Samer al-Jibouri, a police officer in Tikrit, the capital of the province of Salahaddin. “What’s happening now feels so similar to what happened in 2014 [when the security crisis sparked by the extremist Islamic State group began]. We only lack an insane caliph to declare an Islamic state!,” he jokes. “Although we won’t let that happen,” he said staunchly.
The last month has been tough though, al-Jibouri told Al Menasa. “We have been subjected to numerous attacks and ambushes by the terrorists,” he explained. “They’re happening almost daily now. The extremists come at night from remote villages in the desert, places we can’t go after dark. Then they disappear from there in the mornings when our forces enter the villages looking for them.”
From the beginning of April until May 4, security sources estimate that there have been around 50 attacks by armed extremists.
This has coincided with the arrival of the new leader of the Islamic State, or IS, group to Iraq. The man, known as Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi – whose real name is thought to be Amir Mohammed Sa’id Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi – apparently came back to Iraq from Syria because of the deterioration in security in Iraq. Al-Qurashi apparently comes from the town of Tal Afar and is one of the extremist IS group’s founding members.
The map of recent attacks and ambushes runs through the cities previously occupied by the IS group, starting from the west of the province of Diyala, passing through northern Salahaddin, over to the top of Ninewa and Kirkuk, and then through to the bottom of Anbar province. Dozens of Iraqi security forces, including members of the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, have been killed or injured in these attacks.
The Iraqi National Accord (INA) bloc accused the Ministry of Defence of circumventing a previous government decision to ban the installation of US Patriot systems, and put forward several principles for any negotiation with Washington.
The parliamentary bloc led by Iyad Allawi announced in a statement published on Thursday, that the Iraqi National Security Council (INSC) decided during the era of former Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to reject the installation and purchase of Patriot missile systems with the accompanying rockets from the US.
The statement added that the decision was taken: “By majority, not by consensus, and some of the current leaders voted to abstain,” wondering: “How can we respond today to the statements of the current defence minister that the missiles were installed in two bases in Iraq?”
The statement clarified the INA’s position regarding what is being discussed in the strategic dialogue with the US, stressing that the INA’s bloc: “Is not ready to participate in the strategic dialogue with the US or even be part of the negotiation committee now.”
According to Backholm, the two were sitting with other law students on a hotel patio by the water chatting late at night during one of these conferences. Eventually everyone went to bed except Backholm and Reade, who continued discussing Reade’s plans to become a domestic violence advocate.
“She said, ‘When I was in Washington, D.C. I was sexually assaulted by someone you would know,’ and that’s how she phrased it, ‘someone you would know’ and she didn’t give a name,” Backholm said. “I didn’t ask for a name.”