Civilians main victims of conflicts in Iraq

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Since 1979 and the rise to power of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has endured three deadly wars, bloody repression, including of the country’s Kurd and Shiite populations, and a trade embargo lasting more than ten years. On 20 March 2003, a coalition of British and American forces launched a military operation in Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s region was overthrown three weeks after troops entered the country. This third Gulf War officially ended on 1 May 2003. After a mission lasting almost nine years, the last American soldiers left Iraq on 18 December 2011. The war had a dramatic impact on the civilian population, as revealed by figures published in the Iraqi Body Count:

At least 250,000 civilians reported killed or injured between March 2003 and January 2012.

During the same period, the IBC recorded 162,000 deaths, of which 79% were civilians.

The withdrawal of American troops has not led to a more stable situation and armed violence continues to be a problem:

The number of civilian deaths between January and November 2012 (6,460 recorded) makes Iraq the second most dangerous country in the world for civilians after Syria.

The proliferation of small arms[1] among the civilian population poses a significant threat to the Iraqi population. 56% of civilian deaths or injuries since 2003 have been caused by small arms. According to Amnesty International, before 2003, 15 million small arms and light weapons were in circulation in Iraq (for an estimated population of 25 million). In 2008, a report by Amnesty International revealed that contracts and orders for the transfer of more than one million small arms have been made since 2003 [2]. Officials from the Pentagon have admitted that a large proportion of these weapons could have fallen into the hands of individuals, militias or armed groups. They also admitted to losing track of 54% of weapons (190,000 weapons) delivered to Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and initially intended for the police and armed forces [3].

[1] A light weapon is a firearm that can be transported and used by a single individual. This category includes pistols, automatic pistols and rifles (pump-action rifles, assault rifles, sniper rifles etc.)

[2] Blood at the crossroads, Amnesty International, 17 September 2008