On July 19th, a suicide bomber in Sadr City took the lives of at least 35 people and wounded more than 60, making it the deadliest bomb attack in the capital of Baghdad in six months. The explosion occurred in the al-Wuhailat market as shoppers prepared for the Eid al-Adha festival. Sources from an Iraqi hospital told Reuters that some of the wounded were in critical condition, indicating a possibility that the death toll could rise. Both women and children are reported to be among the dead, and multiple shops were set on fire in the blast.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group, who announced that the blast was caused by a militant’s explosive vest. Consistent with that information, Iraq’s interior ministry declared that the bomb was an improvised explosive device. According to the BBC, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, called for the arrest of the commander of the federal police regiment that ran security for the al-Wuhailat market area, and launched an investigation into the event.
The frequency of bombings like this has not reduced the severity of their impact on people. The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, released a statement condemning the attack on civilians, highlighting that the bombing before Eid al-Adha is “a reminder to us all that the scourge of terrorism knows no bounds.” Sheema Sen Gupta, the U.N. Children’s Fund Representative in Iraq, expressed concern over the country’s children: “On the eve of Eid al-Adha and as Iraqis mourn this sad moment, UNICEF calls for all actors in Iraq to work together towards a safer Iraq where children do not have to live in fear and where they enjoy their very basic activities and rights.” Destructive acts of this capacity cause hardships on multiple levels.
The violence that has afflicted Iraq as consequence of I.S. has done irreparable damage to the country and its citizens. According to the Associated Press, within the past year, three prior I.S.-related bomb attacks have occurred in Baghdad, claiming the lives of over 50 people. While the presence of the Islamic State group has declined over the past few years, sleeper cells continue to arise and cause harm. The protection of civilians is paramount — nonviolent actions need to be taken to preemptively stop attacks before they occur. Aggressive reactions to these events only create a space where destruction can be further encouraged. While responding with further hostility is considered an option, it is neither the safest nor the most effective for dealing with this Islamic insurgency.
The Islamic State group formed out of al-Qaeda, which had been involved in a rebellion in Iraq since 2003. In 2014, I.S. began to take significant portions of territory in Iraq. Later that year, a U.S.-led coalition began airstrikes on the country. Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, has been consistently scarred by the actions of the I.S. fight. Bomb attacks occurred in the city almost every day until 2017, when an invasion by the Islamic State group in northern and western Iraq was beaten.
The war against I.S. has resulted in hundreds of thousands killed and millions of refugees. According to the Iraq Body Count project, the total number of documented civilian deaths as a result from violence ranges from 185,000 to 209,000 since 2003 — these numbers cover people killed by a variety of factors, including shootings, bombs, and airstrikes. Even though direct conflict has died down in recent years, violent acts like this recent incident continue to bring destruction to the country.
Iraqi citizens have long felt the turmoil of violence and war. Families have been torn apart as everyone, including children, are killed in the crossfire of governments and insurgents. Peace and security should not be a fleeting hope for these people, nor should safety only be a dream. International organizations and the Iraqi government need to make stronger, more effective steps in reducing the amount of violence that currently affects the country. Their responses need to move away from superficial, temporary fixes to things that will create long-term solutions. The lack of a large-scale war does not mean that the comparatively smaller attacks are absent of importance. The populace of Iraq deserves peace and stability, and that will require efforts from multiple actors in order to create the safe environment that the civilians need.