Post-Ramadan Celebration Muted in Iraq

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Iraqis, both Sunnis and Shia, are observing Eid el Fitr, the feast days that mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. It's normally the liveliest holiday of the Muslim calendar, but not in conflict-ridden Iraq.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This time the violence in Iraq is supposed to be a time of celebration. This is the time when Muslims mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan with a feast.

From Baghdad, NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports on how the celebrations have gone this year.

(Soundbite of music)

JAMIE TARABAY: At an artificial lake by the Tigris River, Iraqi families sit at tables, listening to songs played over a loud speaker. Some are smoking water pipes; others drink tea out of little glasses. For people like Karmakek Rata Apor(ph), it's the most peaceful way he knows to celebrate Eid el Fitr.

Mr. KARMAKEK RATA APOR (Resident, Iraq): (Speaking foreign language)

TARABAY: He says we bring our families here. Our families who are locked in houses. We try to find an outlet for our worries and daily sorrow, leaving the children here to give them joy. If it wasn't for the children, Apor said he wouldn't leave the house. The street, he says, aren't safe.

Mr. APOR: (Speaking in foreign language)

TARABAY: He says we're worried. How will the driver be able to come and take us, and how will we get home? He sits with his fiancée and another young woman near an artificial waterfall, watching the motorboats float idly in the water. Standing nearby wearing an off-white shirt and chinos, Wahleed Halett(ph) says sectarian violence is worse this Fitr, and people are killed because of their sect.

Mr. WAHLEED HALETT (Resident, Iraq): (Through translator) I wish, like all Iraqis, that Iraq would be safe. Tell me why families are leaving for Syria and other countries to have fun? They should have fun in their country. It's true that those who left Iraq are having fun, but their hearts are with their families back home.

TARABAY: Throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan Arab satellite networks showed Iraqis living abroad - some in Jordan, others in the United Arab Emirates - breaking their fast while telling interviewers they hope to return and celebrate Eid in Iraq under better, safer circumstances. Sectarian strife, internal displacement and violence have marred this year's Ramadan more than any others since the 2003 invasion. Bombs and mortar attacks have struck Iraqis at outdoor markets shopping for last-minute supplies before Iftar, the meal that traditionally ends the day's fast. Attacks jumped by 22 percent this month. On average, more than 40 Iraqi civilians have died everyday during Ramadan.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TARABAY: In a darkened house off Palestine Street in Central Baghdad, 10-year- old Hasan Ali(ph) and his 7-year-old sister Yasmine(ph) sit in their pajamas watching Space Toons on the television. Hasan says he remembers what Eid was like before the war.

Mr. HASAN ALI (Resident, Baghdad): (Through translator) My mother used to make biscuits for us and we used to go to the amusement park. But now, and particularly after the invasion, the situation got so bad. There were many explosions. Papa says it's too dangerous for us to go out.

TARABAY: Hasan notices that his parents aren't as happy this year. His uncle, a pharmacist, was shot and killed by gunmen several weeks ago and the older members of the family are still wearing funeral black. In the kitchen, Hasan's mother, Zaina, rushes to finish the laundry before the power cuts out, a frequent occurrence in Baghdad today. She's using the holiday to do housework. She doesn't feel like there's much to celebrate this year.

Ms. ZAINA ALI (Hasan's Mother): (Speaking foreign language)

TARABAY: She says Eid is just like any other day. It's lost its old delights. People are under so much pressure now. It isn't as it used to be.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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