The Lady Speaks

The only growing business in Iraq

Three years of war and on-going sectarian violence have kept many businesses in Iraq from making money, except for one: funeral services.

From Newsweek:

One sector of the economy has been quietly expanding since the March 2003 invasion—the so-called death industry. Cemeteries are growing from Najaf to Fallujah, while projects to expand morgues are underway in Baghdad.

An entire class of low-wage workers now relies solely on the bloody violence to make their living—from men who shuttle bodies to cemeteries to caterers who provide coffee and tea for funerals.

There's more money in the business than ever before, too, as costs for funerals have multiplied. The prices for coffins, plots, tombstones and other funeral services have skyrocketed.


Perhaps the clearest evidence of this morbid business trend is at Baghdad's central morgue. According to the head of the morgue's statistics department, Dr. Qais Hassan, the number of dead passing through the morgue has been on the rise since 2002.

There were about 2,000 bodies in 2002, 8,000 in 2004 and 10,015 in 2005. The majority of those cases, he says, are related to the war—assassinations, victims of shootouts and bombings.

The morgue is so full at times, he says, they have to cool the bodies in shifts. "Taking out the bodies that are frozen, bringing the fresh ones instead, and so on," he explains.


Given the gruesome nature of the death industry, the current boom makes men like Jamal Abdul Hassan uneasy. He once had to wash "only a head for preparation," he recalled. "Unfortunately, some people now turned this into a profitable job."

Hassan says he only charges people the fees for the materials involved, and that people then add whatever "tips" they want for the work involved. But no matter what the compensation, it's hardly a job anyone feels good about. [emphasis mine]


May 6, 2006 - Posted by | Bush, Iraq, War

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