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Sectarian Strife Tears Apart Baghdad's Neighborhoods

10, 01 05
Sunni-led attacks on Shiites deepen the chasm between the groups. As people flee, the fabric of the city has changed.

By Louise Roug,

BAGHDAD - The merchants were silent, their shops closed. A hush had fallen on the Jamiyat Shurta market. Earlier that morning, three bakers had been slain, shot silently as they prepared khubz, the popular pancake-like bread.

A few hours later, two gunmen crept up on a fishmonger at another market nearby, felling him with bullets before disappearing into the crowd.

Around the corner, assailants had gunned down a bicycle dealer and a university teacher in separate attacks earlier this week.

All the victims were Shiites living or working in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood.

On the streets of the capital, posters proclaim: "The constitution: Unity is from it, and hope is in it."

But, as Iraqis prepare to vote on a new constitution Oct. 15, hope and unity are in short supply, with gunmen redrawing the map of this age-old city in blood.

An apparent campaign of sectarian killings is deepening the chasm between the country's Shiite majority and Sunni Arab minority.

A wave of bombings in the last two days has killed at least 111 people in predominantly Shiite areas. On Friday, a car bomb exploded near a vegetable market in Hillah, south of Baghdad, killing at least eight people and wounding 41, police said.

In Balad, where three coordinated bombings struck merchants and shoppers Thursday evening, doctors worked nonstop to save the wounded, who numbered in the hundreds; by Friday, the death toll from that attack had reached 103. The town was targeted because it was predominantly Shiite, many residents say.

But Sunni Arabs, too, are complaining of abuses, including torture and assassinations, alleging that rogue Iraqi security forces or impostors routinely abduct and execute Sunni men. In the last couple of months, bodies have turned up in the Tigris River, a garbage dump and, this week, near a rail yard.

On Friday, in the capital's Umm Qura Mosque, Sheik Ahmed Abdel Ghafour called on Sunnis to defend themselves against suspicious Iraqi troops. "It's better for the Iraqi to be killed in his house than tortured, killed and thrown in the streets," he said.

In Baghdad, as in the rest of Iraq, sectarian lines are hardening and residents are being forced out of their neighborhoods.

On Monday, insurgents dragged five Shiite teachers and their driver into a classroom in the village of Muelha, 30 miles south of Baghdad, and shot them to death.

Tuesday night, men in police uniforms came for seven Sunnis in the Hurriya neighborhood. Police discovered their bodies the next day, dumped near a railway line in Shula, a northwestern Baghdad district. The men had been blindfolded, handcuffed and shot execution-style.

In Dora, which stretches over 30 square miles on the southern rim of the capital, a systematic campaign of intimidation has changed the fabric of this once-diverse neighborhood, authorities say.

Jasim Hasan, a 63-year-old blacksmith, said three Shiite shopkeepers in his corner of Dora recently packed up and left. "We hear of two to three assassinations every week," said Hasan, who has noticed the constant rumble of trucks moving furniture out of the neighborhood.

The twin stacks of the oil refinery cast a shadow over the middle-class neighborhood, where a large community of Assyrian Christians came to work when the plant was built by the British in the 1940s. On these streets, family trees intertwined, and Christians, Sunnis and Shiites lived, and prayed, side by side.

But last year, things started to change.

First the Christians fled, their churches destroyed by insurgents.

Now Shiites are fleeing, leaving homes and businesses empty. At least 150 families have left; storefronts are boarded up, the shutters drawn on once-lively markets. Moving trucks rumble past paper signs proclaiming the exodus in hastily scrawled letters: "For Rent."



Who are the Christians of Iraq?


Sectarian Strife tears apart Baghdad's Neighborhoods 10, 01, 05


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Interview with the Writer and the Historian Rosie Malek-Younan 9, 28, 05

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Swedish Radio's Decision to End Turkish Language Broadcasts 9, 27, 05

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Iraq's draft constitution and the ChaldoAssyrians 8, 30, 05

Kurdish Reprisal Attacks Against Assyrian Christians in Iraq  8, 27, 05

For Basra's Christians, Hussein era the good old days 8, 28, 05

Assyrian Restuarant in Chicago Reminds Iraqis of Home 8, 28. 05

Assyrians in Northern Iraq terrorized by the Kurdish Mlitia 8, 27, 05

Iraq's Proposed constitution could lead to fragmented state. 8, 27, 05

Conflicts between Kurds and the Shabak 8, 26, 05

New Iraq constitution may throw women's rights into Stone Age  8, 26, 05

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Assyrian Demonstrators Voice their Concern about the New Iraqi Constitution 8, 24, 05

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New Iraq constitution must protect Christians 8, 22, 05 

The text of the latest Proposed Iraq Constitution  8, 22, 05

Outside View: Who lost Iraq?  8, 22, 05

Iraq's Religious Minorities Concerned About Islamic Constitution 8, 22, 05  

Iraq TV's 'Cops' breaks new ground  8, 21, 05  

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A Memoradum from the Christians of Iraq to the Drafters of the Constitution. 8, 20, 05

Shafting Nineveh: The Fate of Iraqi Christians 8, 20, 05

Plea for Assyrian Christians and Iraqi minorities 8, 18, 05

Undemocratic aspects of the new Iraqi constitution draft 8, 17, 05

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Kurdish Gunmen Open Fire on Demonstrators in North Iraq 8, 16, 05

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IRAQ: Focus on constitutional concerns 8, 14, 05

Photos form homeland  8, 14, 05

Despite Turmoil, Christians Place Faith in New Iraq 8, 13, 05 

Iraqi-American Translators: The Untold Story 8, 12, 05

Life in Ankawa 8, 12, 05

Why Torah's Hebrew script was Changed to the square Assyrian script 8, 11, 05

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Speech at the Commonwealth Club of California By Fred Aprim 8, 10, 05


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Unresolved Iraqi Constitutional Points  8, 09, 05

Information wanted for Upcoming Documentary about Iraqi women 8, 09, 05

Assyrian Objection to the Nationality Law 8, 06, 05

Iraqi Christians Remember Church Bombings One Year Later 8, 05 05

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Book Release: Rosie Malek-Yonan's "The Crimson Field" 8, 05, 05 

Iraq Must Avoid a Rollback of Rights 8, 04, 05 

Nina Shea: Rule of law, rule of Islam  8, 4, 05

Iraqis in U.S. Won't Vote on Constitution 8, 03, 05

Bush's Global War on Christians 8, 01, 05

An Open Letter to Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I  8, 01, 05 

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Assyrian Granny Shimmes's Contribution to Rendezvous of Civilizations 7, 29, 05

House amends funding bill to help Iraqi Christians 7, 29, 05

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Religious Minorities in Iraq Worried Constitution Won't Protect Them 7, 23, 05

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Appeal of the Iraqi Women Movement  July 17, 05

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Conference on Assyriology to draw 300 scholars  July 15, 05

Iraq faith minorities fear being left out under law July 14, 05

Report to the U.K Parliament about the Chaldo-Assyrians in Iraq July 13, 05

Debate in the U.K. Parliament about the State of Christians in Iraq July 12, 05  

Upcoming Press Conference in Washington D.C.: Iraq's Imperiled Minorities July 11, 05

Teaching and Broadcasting in Syriac Language  July 4, 05

Assyrian Tennis Player Wins in Wimbledon July 4. 05

Christians in Iraq face threats from all sides  July 2, 05

Philadelphia's IVC Joins 'Partners for Peace' Project with Iraq  July 2, 05

Iraqi Dam Will Obliterate Ancient Assyrian Capital July 1, 05


















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