Hundreds of people, young and old, gathered outside Leeds Art Gallery this past week in memory of hundreds of Iraqi people that were killed in a terrorist attack in Baghdad.
At around midnight on Saturday 3rd July – on a busy street in the Karrada district – a lorry packed with explosives detonated in the mostly Shia area that was jam-packed with shoppers because of the holy month of Ramadan.
The explosion caused a huge fireball on the main street. Several buildings, including the popular al-Hadi Centre, were badly damaged.
Iraqi officials claim Baghdad has been struck upwards of 1,000 times, with the vast majority of those attacks targeting civilian areas frequented by the majority Shia sect, such as market places, shrines, shopping strips and religious gatherings.
Close to 300 people were killed in the attack.
Five days later, as people continued to mourn the loss of loved ones, crowds gathered in Victoria Gardens to light candles, place flowers and pay their respects to the victims. Some men hung the flag of Iraq on the wall.
Dr. Mohammad Mozaffari, co-founder of the Leeds Muslim Youth Group (LMYG), was taking photographs at the event. He said: “The #Karrada candle-vigil was a joint effort between the Muslim Community groups of Leeds to highlight the recent atrocity in Karrada.
“The atrocity was at the hands of Daesh and was aimed at the innocent shoppers of the Karrada, buying Eid gifts for friends and family during Ramadan. This vigil was a major show of unity against Daesh and demonstrates the Muslim community’s commitment against terrorism.”
He added: “The vigil highlights how people of all backgrounds and religions, including Muslims, are victims of terrorism.”
Zainab Al-Hariri, the other LMYG co-founder added: “I am originally from Karrada. I walked and shopped from these malls many, many times.
“The attack was only a few meters away from where my family in Baghdad live. Those innocent were either shopping for Eid clothes for themselves and their children, or having Sohour with their friends and family.
“Most of those people were burned to death or suffocated by the heavy smoke which came from the big fireball. Until this day, residents of the area say they can still strongly smell the burned flesh of the innocent souls.”
She added: “The reason I arranged this vigil is to condemned this fascist act by Daesh, who call themselves Muslims where in fact they are the furthest from what Islam is. In this vigil, we stood together as one hand against Daesh. No one, no matter who, or what religion or what their beliefs are, deserve to die this way.”
One elderly gentleman, who was lighting joss sticks, had travelled all the way from London to pay his respects.
Another man had wrapped himself in the colours of his hometown flag. He introduced himself as Hayder Arkawazi. He said: “I have been studying for my PHD in the UK after living here for two years. Most of my friends here are PHD and Masters degree students and some have UK citizenship. We came here to pay our respects to the people who died in the Eid attacks.
“Five days ago, people were ready to go and celebrate and Daesh attacked two shopping malls. The only way of identifying some of the victims was through DNA analysis, as they were so badly burnt.
“We are here to say we would like help from the United Nations or any social community to defeat Daesh and return our occupied cities. My family are still in Iraq but I am here to study so I can bring my knowledge back home to develop my country. Iraq is my heaven and I will go back there one day.”