The middle-aged man was killed at night, walking to his car in the Iraqi capital. No one seemed to know who did it or why.
The man’s bloated corpse lay on the metal examining table. His family waited outside. The only solid information about his death was in a vial that Dr. Aysa, a forensic pathologist, was holding in the air.
“Two bullets in the chest and one in the head,” she said.
In this country awash in death, most killers are never caught. The brutal Islamic State militants kill with impunity in the cities they control. Elsewhere, Iraqi police are too poorly trained, too overwhelmed, too powerless to solve cases. Sometimes they themselves are the perpetrators.
But the Baghdad morgue is one of the few places where you can get answers.
“We see the dark side of society,” said Dr. Iman, a 36-year-old radiologist. “I think we see the truth — not just what we see on television or read in the newspaper.”
Many factors at play
Iraq’s homicide rate soared during the Sunni-Shiite fighting of 2006-2007, then plunged. Now it is rising again. According to the U.N. mission for Iraq, at least 1,265 civilians were killed in August 2014, compared with 716 a year earlier. The jump reflects the rise of the Islamic State group but also other factors. The slashes and burns on recently delivered bodies suggest that old tactics from the sectarian warfare are returning.
The Crossroads of Special Operations