Honoring Iraq's Unclaimed Dead

Once a week, the worst of war and a man with the best of intentions meet in the most unlikely place: a makeshift morgue in Baghdad.

Sheikh Jamal-al Sudani gathers the unclaimed bodies of those killed by bombs and bullets, CBS News correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi . He wants to give each person a proper burial.

"Every week we bury forty or fifty corpses … 250 corpses a month," Sudani says.

Sudani and his group of volunteers aren't paid. They do this grim job, they say, solely for God's rewards.

"Prophet Mohammed said the best person is the person that helps other people," Sudani said.

So Sudani gathers people – who have been left behind — every week.

"We treat (each) ... human like we are his people," Sudani says. "Like my father, if he's older, or my son, if he's younger."

Loading their bodies, or often just a body part, into dump trucks: It's a crude start to this dangerous and delicate process.

The group drives the bodies from Baghdad to Najaf, to their final stop at the Al-Sallam Valley Cemetery. It's a holy place because it's where a number of prophets are buried there. It is also a practical place because the loose soil makes it easy to bury so many bodies.

The bodies of Sunnis, Shiites, Muslims and Christians are all carefully washed and wrapped.

Is there anyone Sudani won't bury?

"No. Every human is either my brother," he says.

And that philosophy has made him a target of violence. Terrorists want to kill him because he cares for the victims of their suicide attacks. Others, want to kill him because he buries suicide bombers.

But Sudani is no stranger to threats.

He's been doing this job for 15 years. He started by burying the victims of Saddam Hussein's henchmen.

He's become so sick from the routine that his doctors have begged him to stop.

But Sudani says he will continue because right now, there is no sign his work will be over anytime soon.
  • Melissa McNamara

Comments

Follow Us

On Twitter