BAGHDAD, Iraq -Iraqis stepped from their cars, emerged from shops and stood under the blazing sun Wednesday in a moment of silence to honor victims of suicide attacks, the first such memorial in this war-ravaged nation.
Traffic came to a halt in Baghdad and other cities at noon as police and citizens alike saluted the Iraqi flag and bowed their heads for three minutes. In the capital”s Tahrir Square, a car dropped off a group of flag-waving children and people lined up along the roadside to pay respects to the dead.
Some Iraqis said it was a futile gesture that could do nothing to stop the violence. Just three hours before the memorial, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an army recruiting center in central Baghdad, killing at least 10 people, police said.
But for many, the silence was a small but symbolic step aimed at telling the world they oppose terrorism.
"To me, participation in the three-minute silence is like taking part in last January”s elections — challenging the terrorists," said Sheik Jalal al-Saghir, a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric in Baghdad.
"They are spreading fear and, in response, we said today ”You are threatening to kill me and I am telling you here I am. Come and kill me”."
The Iraqi government called for the nationwide moment of silence to remember the 27 Iraqis and one American soldier killed July 13 by a car bomb in Baghdad and the nearly 100 people killed in Saturday”s massive bombing in Musayyib, 40 miles to the north.
It was the first time Iraqi authorities had organized such a ceremony, similar to one held in London to commemorate victims of the July 7 suicide bombings there.
The Baghdad bomb exploded in a Shiite neighborhood near U.S. troops giving candy to children. At the scene, grieving parents and friends gathered to weep and call out the names of the victims, 18 of them children and teenagers. A small impromptu shrine marked the spot with silk flowers and framed photos.
A woman in a black veil and abaya began crying as she called out for her son, "Ali, come back home. He is still here. Come back home."
Another mother, bowed over by grief, scooped dirt from the ground to pour over her face and head.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose staff stood at attention during the memorial, said the moment honored the "innocent victims who gave their souls to show the oppression Iraq”s people were living under now."
"Let the entire world see and hear who is standing behind these acts, who wants to kill childhood, to kill innocents and worshippers," he said. "These crimes will encourage our people to keep persevering in their march until the end."
Some Iraqis found the memorial pointless.
"I didn”t follow this moment of silence, not because I ignored those who were killed but because I don”t believe that this moment of silence will do anything for this tragedy," said Amer Kudhair, 32, a supermarket owner in the busy commercial district of Karradah.
In other parts of Baghdad, there were no signs that people were observing the memorial. Participation appeared sporadic throughout the country.
Traffic and pedestrian movement stopped along the main streets of Basra, Iraq”s second-largest city. Some people recited Quranic verses while uniformed police and government employees were silent.
Traffic also stopped in the main square of the northern city of Kirkuk.
But there was no ceremony in the country”s third-largest city, Mosul. The deputy provincial governor, Khisru Goran, said officials there had not been told of the moment of silence. He said the north had suffered more than its own share of violence — without any official commemoration for the victims.
"Why is there no three minutes of silence for them? Why just in Musayyib?" he asked. "There are a lot of crimes in Iraq. If we stand silent for three minutes for each one, there will come a day where we will stand for hours."
Back in Baghdad, Nidras Hassan, 27, a mobile phone shop owner, said he had also not heard about memorial, although it was announced in advance in newspapers and state television.
"I didn”t hear about this moment of silence because I don”t follow the news in Iraq. I have to feed my family," he said. "It”s a hopeless case in Iraq and we can”t do anything. We just pray to God to put an end to our suffering."