BEIRUT

Middle East

Prostitutes slain in Baghdad amid culture of fear

BAGHDAD: Apartment blocks near a mosque and a kindergarten daubed with cartoon characters seem an unlikely place for the slaughter of 27 alleged prostitutes, but in Baghdad death is never far.

Few people in the Zayouna district know any details of what happened in their neighborhood late Saturday, and even fewer want to hazard a guess.

“People are afraid. They don’t know their neighbors. Everyone’s concerned about the safety of their own family and home. ... Some prostitutes were killed near me a few months ago and the neighbors only found out days later because of the smell,” said Zayouna resident Wissam Sami, 23, a student.

“I don’t know who carries out these killings. Both ISIS and the Shiite militias wear black and anyone can buy a uniform or fake an identity card.”

Police said gunmen stormed two apartment buildings and killed 27 women with silenced weapons.

“This is the fate of any prostitution,” read an inscription on one of the doors.

Questions about motives for the attack and the identity of the gunmen were in most cases met by a wall of silence.

Shiite militias and Sunni extremists share a fierce hostility to sex workers.

“Everyone’s afraid. ... I’m a Shiite, and I’m telling you these were Shiite gangs. Who else controls Baghdad? They’re more powerful than the police and any other authority,” said taxi driver Hassan Assad, 36, who works in Zayouna.

“Why do you think they’re doing this? Because their husband has been imprisoned or killed and they’re trying to feed their kids. How did Iraq come to this?”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 14, 2014, on page 8.
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Summary

Apartment blocks near a mosque and a kindergarten daubed with cartoon characters seem an unlikely place for the slaughter of 27 alleged prostitutes, but in Baghdad death is never far.

Few people in the Zayouna district know any details of what happened in their neighborhood late Saturday, and even fewer want to hazard a guess.

Police said gunmen stormed two apartment buildings and killed 27 women with silenced weapons.

Shiite militias and Sunni extremists share a fierce hostility to sex workers.


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