In the central Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, anti-government protests have taken a tragic toll on one local family.
Nasser and Qassim were cousins and close friends since childhood but they ended up on opposite sides during the demonstrations.
Qassim worked as a policeman and one recent morning, he changed into his uniform and went out to follow the day’s orders – this involved confronting the young men of the city who were demonstrating against the Iraqi government, demanding better state services and more job opportunities.
One of those young men was his much younger cousin, Nasser.
Although nobody in the family knew it at the time both men were to die that day.
Jamil Hashem, who works with the riot police in the province, explains that he and his colleague, Qassim, had been given orders to break up protests in front of the provincial government headquarters.
“That was the last time I saw Qassim, just before fighting started between the two sides,” Hashem explains.
Qassim’s brother, Jabbar Jawad, says the family received a call from a friend of his brother who said that, although the young officer had been taken to the local hospital, he had died after the fighting.
As yet, the family had not been told exactly how Qassim had died but Jawad said that his brother left a family of nine and his grieving mother.
“We are all still unable to absorb the fact that Qassim is gone” he added.
Meanwhile Nasser’s brother, Abdullah Qashish, tells his story. Nasser had gone out to fight for his and other Iraqis’ rights, Qashish explains.
“My brother was a football player in a popular team and had had a lot of friends in the team. He had been involved in the protests since early on and he had high hopes that things might change,” Qashish recounts. But during the demonstrations Nasser was shot in the neck and taken to hospital. He succumbed to his wounds there.
It was simply a strange coincidence that in the end Nasser was taken to the same hospital in Nasiriyah and that his body lay near his cousin’s, along with the other Iraqis killed that day.
Sadly, the two family members will now be buried in the same cemetery too.