Study: Iraqis May Experience Sadness When Friends, Relatives Die

July 25, 2007

CHAPEL HILL, NC—A field study released Monday by the University of North Carolina School of Public Health suggests that Iraqi citizens experience sadness and a sense of loss when relatives, spouses, and even friends perish, emotions that have until recently been identified almost exclusively with Westerners.

“We were struck by how an Iraqi reacts to the sight of the bloody or decapitated corpse of a family member in a way not unlike an American, or at the very least a Canadian, would,” said Dr. Jonathan Pryztal, chief author of the study. “In addition to the rage, bloodlust, and hatred we already know to dominate the Iraqi emotional spectrum, it appears that they may have some capacity, however limited, for sadness.”

Though Pryztal was quick to add that more detailed analysis is needed, he said the findings cast some doubt on long-held assumptions about human nature in that region.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, it seems that Iraqis do indeed experience at least minor feelings of grief when a best friend or a grandparent is ripped apart by a car bomb or shot execution style and later unearthed in a shallow mass grave,” Prytzal said. “Last December’s suicide-bomb killing of 71 Shiites in Baghdad, for example, produced unexpected reactions ranging from crumpled, sobbing despair to silent, dazed shock.”

Iraqis have often been observed weeping and wailing in apparent anguish, but the study offers evidence indicating this may not be exclusively an outward expression of anger or a desire for revenge. It also provocatively suggests that this grief can possess an American-like personal quality, and is not simply a tribal lamentation ritual.

Said Pryztal: “When trying to understand the psychology of the Iraqi citizenry after four years of war, think of a small American town roiled by the death of a well-known high school football player.”

According to Pryztal, the intensity of the grief does not diminish if the mourner experiences multiple bereavements over time. “If a woman has already lost one child, the subsequent killings of other children will evoke similar responses,” he said. “In the majority of cases we studied, it appeared as though those who lost multiple kids never actually got used to it.”

Though Pryztal expects the results of the study may be of some interest to students of Arab psychology, he did concede that the data may not be entirely accurate because it was gathered directly from Iraqis themselves.

“Almost all the Iraqis we interviewed said the war had ruined their lives because of the incalculable loss of friends and family,” Pryztal said. “But to be totally honest, these types of studies can be skewed rather easily by participant exaggeration.”

Psychologists and anthropologists have thus far largely discounted the study, claiming it has the same bias as a 1971 Stanford University study that concluded that many Vietnamese showed signs of psychological trauma from nearly a quarter century of continuous war in southeast Asia.

“We are, in truth, still a long way from determining if Iraqis are exhibiting actual, U.S.-grade sadness,” Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist Norman Blum said. “At present, we see no reason for the popular press to report on Iraqi emotions as if they are real.”

Pryztal said that his research group would next examine whether children in Sudan prefer playing with toys or serving as guerrilla fighters and killing innocent civilians.

The Onion

(Published in the Archive without alteration or comment. The “Humor” tag was added in a moment of blackness)

13 Responses

  1. Bad! Very bad, Ærchie … one must not cast these people into the mould of human beings! One may then have to apologise for the horrific way the Westerners have treated them over the past umpteen years! Unthinkable! Why, if they really are human and not some alien race which deserves such treatment, we would have to feel shame that our leaders have led us, through apathy, into treating these people thus!!!

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  2. nursemyra, yep, it says a lot without saying anything.

    buff, definitely, we cannot afford to think of them as people. Sometime soon I can see them being declared an endangered species. Then we will have to keep them safe in cages. What? The Americans are already doing that? Oh, well done! I have never seen Bush as an environmentalist before.

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  3. “American like grief”, eh? I wonder what that means, exactly…

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  4. For a moment there, Archie, you really had me going.

    I was actually terrified (terror-fied?) that there may really BE an American heart so black that it thought a study like this was necessary.

    But then I went over to The Onion and saw that the original article was in the company of many other satirical gems. EG, ‘Iraqi Gandhi’ Preaches Slightly Less Violence and Pope Admits: ‘God Ain’t Said Shit To Me’. Whew!

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  5. az, I feel that should be “American-like Grief” which is similar but more real than “Canadian-like Grief” which, in its turn shows Iraqi-like grief to be a vague and mild form of regret. I have a feeling it fits in with the importance of “News”. A death in your city makes the news in your city. 300 killed in a mining disaster on the other side of the world gets less news space than the death in your city! By such stratagems our rulers lead us to kill those unimportant people “Over there”.

    Mike, This struck a chord with me and my anti-war stance. This is the reason the internet is getting up the nose of so many politicians. If friendships are made all over the world by ordinary people, how can we be forced to go and kill our friends?

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  6. “By such stratagems our rulers lead us to kill those unimportant people “Over there”.”

    Well yeah. Which is why I started this post awhile ago…
    Bombs away…

    Though I haven’t been able to keep up with all the bombings, it does seem that most people not living “over there” don’t really give a shit.

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  7. God, I love The Onion. I miss getting the actual newspaper version of it from my sister when she used to attend MSOE but this summer I’ve actually been able to get my hands on one. It’s quite funny getting a reaction from people who have never seen it before.

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  8. az, I read that post and your list of additions. Seen like that it is truly horrifying. And my Government is partly to blame. I feel guilty.

    samaha, Good to see you here again. I get the emailed version of the Onion. I can send you their email if you want. Hey, you’ve been very quiet, both here and there.

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  9. Nah, I visit it online occasionally. I just prefer actually having a copy of it in my hands.

    Yes, I’ve been too quiet. I have so much going on right now it’s not even funny. I do on occasion get to read the blogs through google reader although getting to comment on everyone’s blogs is another story.

    These past few days have been a bit slower because I’m in the middle of shifting my carreer (expectations/expected) around and got to be in front of the computer (while preparing for exam) for a couple of days .. but now training should start within a couple of days so..

    Hopefully, I’ll be back to normal soon.

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  10. samaha, Good luck with the exam and the training. It will be good when you return to normal – although “normal” can be over rated :)

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  11. Thanx Archie! Passed the exam – training is up next!

    As for normal – you have a point – normal atypical self. How’s that?

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  12. samaha, congratulations on the exam. I enjoy normal atypicalness – it is a good choice :)

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