Deaths of Iraqi civilians at the hands of insurgents continue to rise as the country spirals out of control.
More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first half of this year, an ominous figure reflecting the fact that "killings, kidnappings and torture remain widespread" in the war-torn country, a United Nations report says.
Killings of civilians are on "an upward trend," with more than 5,800 deaths and more than 5,700 injuries reported in May and June alone, it says.
The report, a bimonthly document produced by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, covers May and June, and includes chilling casualty figures and ugly anecdotes from the insurgent and sectarian warfare that continues to rage despite the establishment of a national unity government and a security crackdown in Baghdad.
The report lists examples of bloody suicide bombs aimed at mosques, attacks on laborers, the recovery of slain bodies, the assassinations of judges, the killings of prisoners, the targeting of clergy — all incidents dutifully reported by media over these three-plus years of chaos in the streets.
The U.N. agency says it has been made aware since last year of the targeting of homosexuals, "increasingly threatened and extra-judicially executed by militias and ‘death squads’ because of their sexual orientation."
The intolerance propelling the anti-gay prejudice extends to ethnic and religious minorities and others whose manner of dress doesn’t meet the standards of religious extremists.
"On 28 May, an Iraqi tennis coach and two of his players were shot dead in Baghdad allegedly because they were wearing shorts. Similar threats are said to be made to induce men to conform to certain hair styles or rules regarding facial hair," the report says.
Women face intolerance — and violence — as well.
"In some Baghdad neighborhoods, women are now prevented from going to the markets alone. In other cases, women have been warned not to drive cars or have faced harassment if they wear trousers. Women have also reported that wearing a headscarf is becoming not a matter of religious choice but one of survival in many parts of Iraq, a fact which is particularly resented by non-Muslim women."
Academics and health professionals have been attacked, spurring them to leave the country or their home regions, causing a brain drain and a dislocation in services.
"Health care providers face difficulties in carrying out their work because of the limited supply of electricity and growing number of patients due to the increase in violence," the report says.
Kidnappings have been part of the chaotic Iraqi scene since the insurgency began, with many hostages killed even after a ransom is paid. The abductors are not only motivated by sectarianism or politics; organized crime appears to be involved with some of the kidnappings.