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Baghdad's Murder Rate

According to this report from the BBC, violent deaths in Baghdad this year have passed 6,000 through the end of May:

The bodies of 6,000 people, most of whom died violently, have been received by Baghdad's main mortuary so far this year, health ministry figures show.

The number has risen every month, to 1,400 in May. The majority are believed to be victims of sectarian killings.

But observers say the real death toll could be much higher.

A sidebar gives monthly totals:

  • January: 1068
  • February: 1110
  • March: 1294
  • April: 1155
  • May: 1398
This makes for a total of 6,025. The numbers are fuzzier than I'd like. The BBC says that "most" of the 6,000 died violently. They don't say what the proportion is. On the other hand, they say "the real death toll could be much higher", and later in the article say, "no-one believes these are the true figures from the violence in and around Baghdad as many bodies are not taken to the morgue, or are never found". So for the purposes of discussion, let's say that 6,025 is the correct number. Over a 12-month period, that would be 14,460 violent deaths (though as noted, the total has risen each month and could well end up much higher).

According to Wikipedia, Baghdad's estimated population as of 2005 is 7,400,000. That makes Baghdad's murder rate 195.41 per 100,000 residents.

According to this page, the murder rate for the US in 2004 was 5.5 per 100,000 residents. That means you're 35.53 times more likely to be murdered in Baghdad as you are in the US. But perhaps it isn't fair to compare an urban area to an entire nation. Fine. According to this page, the highest murder rate of any US city in 2002 was that of Washington, DC, at 45.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. That means you're 4.27 times more likely to be murdered in Baghdad as you are in the most dangerous city in the US. As long as we're at it, and drawing city murder rates from the same page:

  • You're 8.80 times more likely to murdered in Baghdad as you are in Chicago.
  • You're 11.17 times more likely to be murdered in Baghdad as you are in Los Angeles.
  • You're 26.77 times more likely to be murdered in Baghdad as you are in New York or San Francisco.
  • You're 43.42 times more likely to be murdered in Baghdad as you are in Seattle.
These are all rough figures. A more detailed analysis would involve projecting the trend line of murders in Baghdad (which isn't good), estimating the proportion of bodies brought to the mortuary that are murder victims, and estimating the number of deaths not accounted for by the mortuary.


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» Not Dramatic Enough? from pseudorandom
Perhaps my previous entry on the subject of Baghdad's murder rate wasn't dramatic enough. One commenter wrote: If your figures are close to the truth, then I'm forced to concede that I had no idea DC was such a dangerous... [Read More]


It might look a whole lot worse if you consider that in the US, most violent deaths involve people who are at least acquainted with each other.

The killings in Iraq don't seem to follow that pattern. If I've heard correctly, some times gunmen simply stop people and check for traditional Sunni or Shiite names.

If you were to compare violent killings by strangers, Baghdad would surely look far worse than the US.

it's bush's fault.

Ah, here's some numbers from the DOJ: "A survey of murder cases disposed in 1988 in the courts of large urban counties indicated that 16% of murder victims were members of the defendant's family. The remainder were murdered by friends or acquaintances (64%) or by strangers (20%). "

So if we figure that (pulling a number out of the air) 60% of the killings in Baghdad are by strangers, then you'd want to compare that 60% to 20% of our deaths that are by strangers.


117 per 100k for Baghdad
9 per 100k for Washington DC.

And how many deaths were there per month under Hussein? I seem to remember it being in the tens of thousands per year or more. And I think it is quite amazing that it is only 4X more likely to be murdered in Baghdad in the middle of an emerging civil war than in Washington D.C. So these numbers must not be taken in isolation. Furthermore, the deaths are Islamists murdering innocent muslims. It is the duty of the coalition forces to remain and figure out how to defeat this enemy. An enemy by the way that is still busy elsewhere in the world murdering and plotting mayhem as can be seen by the recent arrests in Canada.

Bagdad is undergoing a period of ethnic cleansing and has a murder rate four times that of Washington DC. If your figures are close to the truth, then I'm forced to concede that I had no idea DC was such a dangerous city. Maybe, as in my visits to Paris, I'm visiting the wrong suburbs.

And how many deaths were there per month under Hussein? I seem to remember it being in the tens of thousands per year or more.

Was that back when he was the US's ally against Iraq, and was gassing the Kurds, or during the first Gulf War when the Bush I administration told the Iraqis that the US would support them if they rose up against Hussein, and then they did and the US didn't? In more recent years, I'm given to understand, Hussein had run out of obvious targets, and had been restrained somewhat by UN sanctions, so his murder rate had declined. Ah, the good old days when the people of Iraq had electricity and potable water and only had to worry about not pissing off Hussein! Now there's hardly any of the first two and the Iraquis have to worry about being attacked by any of various groups of violent extremists and/or the Americans.

Strange how the BBC and the Left are so desperate to report daily death records from Iraq.

For 30 years Saddam was raping and slaughtering his way though that country and no one gave a toss.

Now the Americans are there, and suddenly every life is precious.

Nothing more than a political ploy by the Left to attack America.

>Ah, the good old days when the people of Iraq had electricity and potable water

Water and electricity rates are similar to that before the war.

But that was before we got involved, so that was ok.

The Iraqis being attacked by Americans are the ones tying to deny Iraqis water and electricity.

They must miss the 'good old days', when we didn't care about them.

I think that 7.4 million figure is either wrong or "greater" Bagdhad. The Wikipedia article states 5.77m in the first paragraph and other websites range in numbers from 5.5-5.9 million. So that would impact your estimates.

Secondly, the murder rate in DC has gone down since 2002. In 2005, the population was according to the latest US Census estimate 553,000. The number of murders in 2005 was 195 so the murder rate was 35.3 per 100k inhabitants.

Using the above figures for Baghdad (assuming a high end 6 million pop.) Baghdad's murder rate is 241 per 100k inhabitants. So, compared to DC you are 6.83 times more likely to be murdered in Baghdad.

Also, remember these are just murders. These figures are not counting people who are dying because they are not getting enough electricity, proper medical treatment, etc. and dying before they would if Iraq were not under such a crisis situation. Living near DC (I live across the water in Arlington) I like my odds here much better.

Jon H, you said it yourself with the words, "pulling a number out of the air". We simply have no idea what the proportion of stranger killings to non-stranger killings is in Baghdad.

HP and robert, be careful in assuming too much. First of all, Washington has the highest murder rate of any city in the US. I deliberately called it out to make a best-case (in terms of how much worse the murder rate is in Baghdad) comparison. A more reasonable comparison to what the average American understands would probably be New York, and Washington's murder rate is 6.27 times worse than it is in the Big Apple (which, to repeat from my blog entry, makes you 26.77 times more likely to be murdered in Baghdad). If I wanted to make a worst-case comparison, I would have used Honolulu, with a murder rate of 2.0 per 100,000 inhabitants. You're 97.71 times more likely to be murdered in Baghdad as in Honolulu.

tt, you're making the "facts can be bad or good" argument, with which I fundamentally disagree. Facts are facts. In any case, are you seriously suggesting the media failed to investigate and report on allegations of genocide and other atrocities by Saddam during his reign? Because I seem to remember that they did.

mdana, the population number of 7,400,000 is an estimate for 2005. Wikipedia's number of 5,772,000 is an estimate for 2003. Having said that, it's a good bet that no one knows quite what the population of Baghdad is these days, so your nominal figure of 6,000,000 is just as reasonable as the number I used. As for the DC statistics, good catch, and thanks.

for all those that say that 'Saddam was worse' I would then ask:

Does that make what we are doing okay??


I believe the Golden Rule is Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto You, not Bring 'em on!

We MADE OURSELVES responsible for these deaths when we invaded. Trying to avoid responsibility for them now is immature.

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