Baghdad Blast Turns Wedding Joy into Funeral Grief

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Raghda Yaqub was just days away from marriage, but a bombing in east Baghdad meant the 24-year-old Iraqi was buried wearing her wedding dress instead.

“Last Thursday was her engagement, and this Thursday we buried her,” the young woman’s weeping mother Sana says at her home, where she and other family members are receiving condolences.

“Which religion accepts these crimes?”

Raghda went with her fiance Alaa, his mother and five-year-old nephew on September 10 to buy sweets, says her father Adel, also in tears.

“Don’t be late,” Adel instructed her fiance before they left, a warning familiar to parents across the world.

It was the last time he would see his daughter alive.

Three bombs exploded in the Ghadeer area that night, setting fuel tanks for generators and three small nearby shopping malls ablaze.

Alaa was parking the car, but Raghda and the others were inside one of the malls, which was soon engulfed in smoke and fire.

“Had there been a back door to the mall, my daughter would have survived; had there been a fire extinguishing system inside the mall, there would have been a chance of survival,” Adel says.

But there was neither, and she died of suffocation. Alaa was seriously wounded; his mother and nephew were also killed.

Raghda and her family are Christian, members of a small, dwindling community in Iraq, but she was not targeted because of her religion.

The Iraqi capital is plagued by blasts ranging from small magnetic “sticky bombs” that destroy individual cars to explosives-rigged vehicles that cause devastation for dozens of metres (yards) around.

Dozens of people are killed in such attacks each month and many more are wounded — each one a family member lost, or a person who must live with sometimes-permanent disability.

Crowds of people are what militants most frequently target, seeking to damage or destroy as many lives as they can.

Bombs rip through markets, mosques, cafes, football fields, crowded streets and intersections. Some of the attacks are claimed by Sunni extremists, but in many cases, the perpetrators remain anonymous.

Iraq suffered years of brutal sectarian bloodshed that peaked in 2006-2007, leaving tens of thousands of people dead and over one million displaced.

Violence was then brought under a semblance of control, but has spiked since April of last year, culminating in a sweeping jihadist-led militant offensive that overran swathes of the country in June.

Raghda’s relatives are angry, not just at the attack itself but at the circumstances that led to her death.

Her mother Sana says the owners of “the mall killed them with greed — if they provided a rear door, many people would have survived.”

“If there were firefighters to extinguish the fire, they would have been able to bring out these innocent people,” says Ruha, Raghda’s older sister.

“I came for her engagement, but I buried her” instead, says Ruha, who lives in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, an area that is largely spared the violence that plagues other parts of the country.

“I buried her… in her wedding dress, the only thing she took with her,” she says.

Adel wishes he could have died instead.

“I am ready to rest in her place,” he says. “I am over 60, while she has not seen anything of her life yet.”

 

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