'There doesn't seem to be an end to the violence in Iraq'
RT:You've been researching the victims of terrorism in Iraq for a long time. Where do you get the information and how credible is it?
Lily Hamourtziadou: Our research is daily and what we do is we check many media sources, any media source that is available to us in English or in Arabic. We collect any information we have on civilian casualties on a particular day. We have a very large database that contains names, ages, places where attacks have taken place, as well as who the perpetrators were if they are identified. And that enables us to monitor the violence, to provide some statistics and to see whether it is increasing or decreasing, who is doing the killing, who the targets are.
RT:Is there something the media and the general public don't know about the situation in Iraq?
LH: What most people don’t understand is that the violence in Iraq is daily. Normally we turn on TV and if there happens to be a major attack, it is reported and we hear about it. But the daily violence we don’t hear about. At the best of times in Iraq, 300-400 civilians lost their lives in a month that was at its quietest. That is completely unacceptable. We won’t accept it in the UK, in the USA or anywhere else in the world and now we have come to disregard it or not be interested in it, but through my work I have come to know.
RT:Who are the main targets of the attacks and how difficult is it to find out who's behind them?
LH: The main targets, especially in the last few years, have been those who are seen as agents of the state – police, security forces in general, also politicians and in the past year attacks against the Shia have tripled. Who is behind [this] is hard to say because a lot of the time there is a car bomb somewhere and nobody knows who put it there and nobody acknowledges it. But more recently I can say that it is what they call Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has taken advantage of the discontent both in Iraq and in Syria against their government. They have directly attacked the states of Syria and Iraq, and that’s been since April in Iraq.
RT:Why did the situation in Iraq get so much worse this year?
LH: After the Americans left at the end of 2011, the Prime Minister of Iraq, who tried to be cross-sectarian at that point, started to have anti-Sunni policies, and the Sunnis were more and more distrustful of the government. At the end of 2012 they started protests; they got more frequent and on the 23rd of April this year the Iraqi security forces actually attacked protesters and killed 49, people who were just protesting and that was when the violence started to increase and has now reached the level of 2008. But in 2008 that was a decrease, 10 thousand civilians, and now it’s an increase. This is definitely an anti-government insurgency.
RT:If there's one main conclusion to be made about Iraq in 2013, what would it be in your opinion?
LH: It would be that there doesn't seem to be an end to the violence. Iraq has become so fragmented and has suffered such a serious internal collapse with so many interests being fought on these grounds, internal interests of the Shias, the Sunni, the Kurds, the religious fundamentalists, the terrorists, the insurgents, also external US interests, Iranian interests, Syrian interests, UK interests. This is a terrible legacy and a state that was already weak in 2003 has now completely collapsed 10 years later.
RT:Do you know how to make the situation better in Iraq?
LH: At the moment I cannot see a way. And I don’t think those parties who are behind the violence will let it get better. There are far too many competing interests and there is too much struggle for power on so many sides that I cannot see it could be allowed to get better, honestly.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.