CNN has been airing a report throughout the day on the story of an Iraqi woman was was put on a death list and executed when she opened the door and identified herself. A background story can be read at CNN.com…
There is a name and a story that goes with every number in the mounting civilian death toll in Iraq. Rarely do loved ones have the courage to tell the victim’s story. 53-year-old Umm Luma was gunned down after the Brigades of Death filled in her name on the dotted line of a death threat, a death threat delivered to her house. Her niece heard the killers call her name, “He said to her are you Umm Luma? She said yes dear what would you like?” Then the killers shot her dead. A gut wrenching tale of a life lost as extremist groups carryout sectarian killings.
SOLEDAD O’BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And we told you this week that U.S.
military commanders say the violence in Baghdad has spiked. Multiple attacks being reported daily. Much of that violence is along sectarian lines, Sunnis versus Shiites. And many Iraqis live in fear today.
Well, CNN’s Arwa Damon takes a look at how the violence is affecting Iraqis every day.
Arwa, good morning.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
And just in the last 24 hours, Iraqi police have found another 25 unidentified bodies. They’re finding on average about 1,500 unidentified bodies just in Baghdad bearing signs of gruesome torture, many of them gunshot wounds to the head. And often we don’t get to know who these people are. Their family members are just too frightened to talk. But there was one family that wanted to share their story.
DAMON (voice over): For the family of Umm Luma (ph), pain and anger.
OSAMA RUMANI, VICTIM’S SON, (through translator): They killed my mother. I saw my mother on the street. I picked up her brains with my own hands and wrapped it.
DAMON: She was a grandmother, grew up in a middle class family, married the man she loved and lost him to illness two years ago. She had lived a simple life, raising a family of four boys and two girls.
But then one day the so-called Brigades of Death filled in her name on the dotted line. The death warrant was left at the house. “Where will you escape, Umm Luma?” it read. “Await the rage, the slaughter and the murder. Our swords are on the necks of every traitor, agent and coward.”
The Brigades of Death, like many Sunni extremist groups, view the Shia as being conspirators with the Americans. This is actually the second threat that the family received over the course of a year. But wrapped in this one was a bullet. The family fled, but no one, least of all Umm Luma herself, thought that they would really kill a woman. So after about a week, she went back home.
On September 16th, she went to buy bread for breakfast. Her niece heard the killer call her by name.
RAFAL ABBAS, VICTIM’S NIECE, (through translator): He said to her, “are you Umm Luma?” She said, “yes, dear, what would you like?” The first shot hit her in the arm and she fell to the ground. When she fell, he got out of the car and shot her four times all over her body.
The killers could not have been more than 18 years old.
RUMANI: Why? Why hurt us like this? We ask you, why?
DAMON: Within minutes of the shooting, a stranger pulls up on a motorcycle, checking to make sure Umm Luma was dead and asking for her sons.
ABBAS: We are now living in extraordinary fear. If I’m home alone, I get terrified. Yesterday, for example, was really windy. The door blew open. I fainted because I thought they had come for us.
DAMON: The niece said Umm Luma dreamed of a secure Iraq. Now the other members of her family fear they too may not live to see it.
DAMON: Soledad, Umm Luma’s death has not only left her family living in fear, but is has also left them asking a question that is on many Iraqi’s minds. A question of why. But so far, Soledad, there are no answers.
S. O’BRIEN: Explain something to me, Arwa. These death squads. They fill people’s names in on a piece of paper and stick it to their door?
That’s how they operate?
DAMON: Well, some of them. You know, threats arrive in many different forms. Sometimes it is quite simply — and, you know, if you remember back to that package, it looks like it’s just a dotted line, a form that a name is filled in on. Sometimes, though, it’s also a phone call.
Sometimes it’s delivered by word of mouth. Sometimes they receive it over e-mail. Sometimes over text message. I mean there are a number of different ways that these threats are being delivered all over the capital.
S. O’BRIEN: Oh, my gosh, what a horrible situation. Arwa Damon for us, thank you. Excellent piece.