NAJAF, Iraq — At what's believed to be the world's largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn't good.
A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that's cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.
Few people have a better sense of the death rate in Iraq.
"I always think of the increasing and decreasing of the dead," said Sameer Shaaban, 23, one of more than 100 workers who specialize in ceremonially washing the corpses. "People want more and more money, and I am one of them, but most of the workers in this field don't talk frankly, because they wish for more coffins, to earn more and more."
Dhurgham Majed al Malik, 48, whose family has arranged burial services for generations, said that this spring, private cars and taxis with caskets lashed to their roofs arrived at a rate of 6,500 a month. Now it's 4,000 or less, he said.
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