Coffin Maker in Iraq Writes Article About His Sadly Busy Job

By: E&P Staff

A 36-year-old Iraqi man name Muhammad Abdel Kader wrote or dictated a first-person story published on Tuesday on the Web site of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. He explains how he has been making coffins for a living for about a dozen years, and was not particularly busy until the current war — but now has to make about 20 or more coffins a day.

His saddest moment? He had to make the coffin that would carry his brother, a bombing victim, to his grave.

Kader seems a bit like the character in the great Kurosawa movie, “Yojimbo,” who make coffins day and night due to the violence shaking his town.

Here is the article as it appears at


My name is Muhammad Abdel Kader. I am 36 years old and live in the Ejidida neighborhood of Baghdad with my parents, wife and only son. I have lived in Baghdad all my life. I have been making coffins since I was 24 to help with the family income.

I work non-stop, 12 hours a day, six days a week. I have never made so many coffins a day in my life. I have to make as many coffins as I can to meet demand in al-Qarah Cemetery.

Before the war, we were making about two or maximum three coffins a day for people who had died from diseases or car accidents. But today we make at least 20 a day for victims of the violence.

For me, this is good business because the more people I bury the more income I get. I usually get U.S. $10 per burial. But I can?t be inhuman and say that I don?t care because the suffering of the families sometimes makes me think about changing my profession so that I don?t ever have to see such depressing scenes.

We coffin makers are in so much demand these days. My job is essential to the country because of the dozens of people who are killed daily and if I don?t make coffins, there will be more chaos.

I remember a day, some four months ago, when I and my colleague had to make 50 coffins. Soon there will be no more places here in the cemetery to bury so many bodies.

Some of the dead have been killed by militias or insurgents or in bomb explosions. Others have been killed by gangsters for money or in senseless sectarian violence.

My worst experience was making the coffin of my own brother, Ahmed. He was a 33-year-old cabinet maker with two children. I had to help burying him. He was killed in a bomb explosion and fate had it that I was the one working in the cemetery on that day. Sometimes you don?t even have time to cry for the loss of your relative.

After burying my brother, I had to help make coffins for 13 other people who had died on the same day.

My brother?s death was a tragedy for my family. We were only two brothers helping our parents because my father lost his leg in the 1991 Gulf War and a month earlier my uncle had been killed by insurgents inside his home – but thank God I didn?t have to bury him as it was my day off.

It is very sad to see Iraq like this today. I hope that my children one day will live in a better country without violence but in a country filled with happiness and dignity.?

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