Whenever a Christian holiday is drawing near, Youssef gets anxious. The 38-year-old packs his things and drives out of Baghdad, heading north. Around 350 kilometers (217 miles) later, he turns off toward Karakosh, a town with a large Christian community where he owns a small apartment. The guards at the town entrance already know his face.
“How is Baghdad?” the checkpoint officers ask him. “How many bombs did you have yesterday?”
Youssef tells them about two mortar shells fired at the airport and a car bomb that exploded in the Karrada business district. But he adds that he has given up on counting all the blasts – there are just too many of them.
For once, Dura, the southern Baghdad neighborhood where he lives, has remained trouble-free. But over Christmas, several attacks took place there. A car bomb exploded as Christians were leaving the mass. A day later someone bombed the market, which attracts both Christian and Muslim customers…