Fake IDs Save Lives at Illegal Checkpoints in Baghdad

In the United States, fake IDs help college kids get past skeptical bouncers outside bars. But in Iraq, they can save lives.

Fake identification comes in handy at illegal checkpoints, as radical Shiite and Sunni militias increasingly target people from the opposing group for abduction and often execution. Now many Iraqis carry two IDs in their pockets and will produce one or the other, depending on who is asking for it.

It's All in the Name

Iraqis are required to show ID cards at checkpoints all over Baghdad. These cards, which are handwritten and have a photograph attached before being laminated, do not actually state whether the bearer is Shiite or Sunni. But first names, tribal names, birthplaces and places of residence often indicate a person's stream of Islam.

Sunnis, for example, are often called Omar, and many have the tribal names of al Jabouri, Dulaibi and al Ani. Shiites are often named Ali or Hussein, and bear tribal names like al Saidi, al Miyahi or Al Mousawi.

Sunni areas include Anbar province, Tikrit, Mosul and western Baghdad. Shiites typically live in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala.

Bar Code Not Needed

Fake IDs can be bought in the electronics stores at the Eastern Gate on Sadun Street in central Baghdad, or at the Mredi Bazaar in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad. They cost between $10 and $15, and are good enough to pass inspection at most police checkpoints.

Sectarian conflict has intensified, particularly in Baghdad, a city of 5 million people that is approximately half Sunni and half Shiite. In recent days Shiite militiamen stormed into a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad and pulled people out of cars and shot them in the street if they suspected they were Sunni.

Meanwhile, in the southern suburb of Dora, which is mainly Sunni, 10 Shiites driving through on the way to a funeral in Najaf were similarly dragged from a minibus and killed, simply for being Shiite.

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