Written by 02:47 World

War-Weary Iraqis Feel for Gaza, but Fear Spread of the Conflict

Iraqis have known the bitter taste of war so intimately and frequently over the past 40 years that they say they can feel viscerally the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. They remember the dreaded whistling of a shell before impact, the fear of a knock at the door bringing word of a loved one’s loss, the stench of blood drying on concrete.

This was daily life for many Iraqis for years as an insurgent struggle against the American occupation and a civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims brought destruction and death to their neighborhoods, shattered families and left behind countless widows and orphans.

Those memories initially prompted thousands of people to join demonstrations on the streets of Iraq’s cities to show their solidarity with the Palestinian cause. But as the war in Gaza dragged on, those displays of support faded.

“You want to help,” said Yasmine Salih, a 25-year old dental student, referring to the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, “but you can’t because your own bucket of troubles is full.”

Nowhere is that sense more vivid than in Baghdad’s historic Adhamiyah neighborhood, where most people follow the Sunni branch of Islam — as do most Palestinians. A number here took up arms against the American military occupation of Iraq that began in 2003, and they view the Israeli assaults on Gaza as a similar fight against an occupying force.

Many people in the neighborhood cheered when they heard the news of the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7. But since then, the crowds have dwindled, partly because of a recognition that their efforts could do little to help Palestinians, residents say.

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Last modified: 30 May 2024
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