BAGHDAD, 19 July 2007 (IRIN) - "My age is the same as the olive tree," reads the blue tattoo on Qaisar Tariq al-Essawi's left shoulder.One thing the IRIN News story doesn't mention— probably because it would have been an insult to the intelligence of its primarily Arab, Asian and North African audience— is that tattoo is forbidden by the Quran. It's haraam.
Al-Eassawi, 36, got the tattoo so his family and close friends could recognise his remains if he ended up in a morgue.
"I selected this wording because only my family and close friends know about our olive tree which was planted by my father when I was born," al-Essawi, a father of two boys, told IRIN in Baghdad.
One response to sudden and violent death which has become commonplace in Iraq's turmoil, is the emergence of a new subculture - the etching of tattoo identities on people who fear becoming an unclaimed body in a packed morgue.
It is more than just another grim footnote in a nation brimming with sad stories. It points to how deeply war and sectarian bloodshed have transformed the way Iraqis live today and confront the constant possibility of death.
Imagine if these people were Jews. Jews getting tattooed so their remains would be identifiable. You'd never hear the end of the caterwauling in the U.S. about this story.