Hiding in Plain Sight
Posted on Sep 6, 2006
Iraqis have been taking great pains to conceal their identities in order to avoid sectarian violence. Because personal information, such as a name and province of origin, can hint at whether they are Shiite or Sunni, the fake ID trade is booming and worried Iraqis sometimes even change their license plates.
New York Times:
Stories abound of Iraqi civilians being stopped at checkpoints by militiamen, insurgents or uniformed men and having their identification cards scrutinized. They are then taken away or executed on the spot if they have a suspect name or a hometown dominated by the rival sect. In Baghdad, Shiite death squads ? sometimes in police uniform ? operate many of the illegal checkpoints, Iraqi and American officials say.
The most infamous episode of this kind took place in July, when Shiite gunmen set up fake checkpoints and went on a daytime rampage through the Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad, dragging people from their cars and homes and shooting them after looking at their identification cards. Up to 50 people were killed.
In the first seven months of this year, 1,000 Iraqis officially changed their names, far more than in any similar period since the American invasion of 2003, said Maj. Gen. Yaseen Tahir al-Yasiri, director of the Interior Ministry department that issues identity documents. Most were Sunni Arabs. The rush began after the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra last February set off waves of sectarian violence.