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The Cemetery at Najaf

The largest cemetery in the Arab world is located in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. The cemetery surrounds the Shrine of Imam Ali. It is a sacred site for all Shiites, and many of them bring relatives to be buried there. Hundreds of thousands of tombstones stretch as far as the eye can see. Locals call the cemetery the "Valley of Peace," but it has been the scene of violence as well. When the Shia uprising of 1991 began to collapse, many of the rebels fled to the cemetery, where they were brutally killed by Saddam Hussein's forces. Thousands of other Shiites died as a result of Saddam's repression, and many of them also lie in the cemetery. And thousands of those who died in the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war are buried there as well. The cemetery grew to eight times its previous size during the rule of Saddam Hussein. Kate Seelye reports.

Copyright 2003 NPR

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