The morgues at the hospitals of Baghdad are filling to capacity. At Yarmouk Hospital in central Baghdad, the three freezers reek of decaying bodies, despite the temperature.
The smell rushes out at us as the doors are opened. Iâ€™ve smelled the burning bodies on the funeral pires in Nepalâ€¦but this is different. This smellâ€¦how do I describe it? But it never leaves me, long after we leave the hospital later.
Many of the bodies
The bodies from Fallujah have the typical oddly discolored skin
I walk out of the first freezer straight into a metal pole. Two of the people with me, including Abu Talat, make sure Iâ€™m OK as I stand there stunnedâ€¦I didnâ€™t even feel the pole, just that it stopped me from proceeding to the next freezer.
Bodies are piled into the freezers
The doctor with us says that most of the bodies have been shotâ€¦and are not from Fallujah. The violence against Iraqis continues unabatedâ€¦worsening by the day.
I do my jobâ€¦taking photo after photo of the most horrible thing Iâ€™ve ever seen in my life. Many of the bodies are so old they are shrinking into themselves.
After the last cooler, we start to walk away. I am spitting, trying to get the smell to leave meâ€¦Abu Talat is staring off into distance. After I gag, the hospital worker who accompanied us to the coolers walks towards me with a small vial of scent, and begins rolling it across my upper lip.
â€œShukran jazeelan (thank you very much),â€ I tell him, then he proceeds to do the same for Abu Talat, then we walk on.
We talk with the doctor more as we shuffle along. â€œThe morgues in all the hospitals are filling with bodies everyday, most of them shot by soldiers,â€ she says, â€œBut also from crime and accidents. So many dead civilians.â€
We walk, well, kind of shuffle out of the hospital, towards the car.
â€œThat is the most horrible
We get in the car and just drive.
â€œI donâ€™t know what to do,â€ I tell him, â€œWhat do you want to do?â€
He holds his hands up, expressing that he doesnâ€™t know either. â€œLetâ€™s just drive,â€ I say.
â€œOk, Iâ€™m just trying to drive,â€ he replies.
I decide to go buy some suppliesâ€¦grasping towards normalcy as I catch whiffs of the decaying bodies despite the nice smelling scent that was rubbed across my upper lip.
We buy some lunch only because itâ€™s lunch time and weâ€™re supposed to be hungry, then drive the rest of the way to the hotel.
My head is spinning, as is Abu Talatâ€™s. â€œI am traumatized,â€ I tell him. â€œYes, my head is spinning also,â€ he replies before adding, â€œI want to take a shower.â€
â€œI wish I could shower from the inside,â€ I tell him.
â€œFrom the outside itâ€™s very easy,â€ he says quietly, â€œBut how do we clean from the inside?â€
We go to my room and I begin writing. The food sits in its bag on the couchâ€¦Abu Talat says, â€œIn Islam, if we touch a dead body, even if we just see one, we should shower,â€ he says while walking into the bathroom.
He pauses as he catches me staring out the window at nothing, â€œHey, donâ€™t think about it. I know it is hard.â€ I slowly look up at him as he adds, â€œIt is harder on me, because I am Iraqi. My heart is shredding.â€
He walks into the bathroom of my hotel room to take a shower, as I go back to writing this.
Nobody knows who these dead people are. The coolers are full. Others are full too, in the other hospitals.
He finishes and begins to pray as I start my shower, trying to wash the bodies away. It helps, some.
But itâ€™s the eyes