Roadside Memorials

Street signs, billboards, litters people discarded on the roadside are a common sight everywhere. My country, Thailand, is pretty notorious for hoards of street signs and advertisement boards. So when I first saw them on the way to the camp site in Basra, I didn’t pay too much attention. 

Roadside memorials are another kind of objects we often see along the road. They serve to commemorate a site where a person died in a car accident. They come in different shapes and forms, but mostly we would see images, statues, or symbols that represent a religious or cultural belief of the people in that region. In a way, one can learn a lot about local people  by simply observing these memorials, which are often ignored just like those street signs and billboards on the roadside.

Roadside memorials in Basra, however, are not for victims of car accidents. Instead, they are dedicated to fathers, sons, and grandsons - the brave men of Basra who lost their lives in the country’s many conflicts, the most recent one being the battle against ISIS. 

Portrait of Imam Hussain often adorns a roadside memorial. He died in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD, fighting against the army of the second Umayyad caliph Yazid I. Deeply respected among Shia Muslims, Imam Hussain represents a great example of martyrdom through an ultimate act of sacrifice. Such is a fitting description for the soldiers who died in the war to protect their homeland. Portrait of Imam Ali, the father of Hussain, along with Imam Abbas, Hussain’s brother, are other popular choices for the memorials.

Alternatively, many families simply chose to put up a portrait of the soldiers who lost their lives. I lost count how many of these roadside portraits I saw along the way. These memorials serve as a somber reminder of the human cost in a war.

Special Thanks to Ahmed Raad. 

For more photos, you can view the full image gallery.

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