Baghdad prom
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Baghdad prom

Baghdad prom
Even in the middle of a war, nothing will keep students from their prom.

This year, the students of Baghdad’s University of Technology decided to throw a costume party, and the theme was American movies.

The walls were plastered with posters for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Lost” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” but with students’ faces substituted for those of the actors. (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times.)
Baghdad prom
Men were dressed as cowboys, Ninja turtles and Count Dracula. (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times.)
Baghdad prom
It looked like Halloween. (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times.)
Baghdad prom
Students dressed up as U.S. and Iraqi troops were almost indistinguishable from the real thing. (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times.)
Baghdad prom
“We just want to forget the killing and other bad things around us, even if it is for one day,” said a 22-year-old student who gave his name only as Laui. (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times.)
Baghdad prom
Everyone was taking photos with everyone else, whether they knew each other or not. (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times.)
Baghdad prom
In the middle of the excitement, something caught my eye that brought me crashing back to reality. Hanging from a wall was a black funeral banner.

But as I got closer, I realized that it was just lamenting the departure of the graduating class -- another student joke. There were even tombstones, a funeral tent to receive mourners, and an empty wooden casket. (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times.)
Baghdad prom
The “masked gunmen” that had terrorized Baghdad neighborhoods made an appearance at the prom. (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times.)
Baghdad prom
As did their “victims” ... (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times.)
Baghdad prom
One department created its own miniature Hawaiian beach.

For the students celebrating that day, it was a rare escape from the daily bloodshed. (Usama Redha / Los Angeles Times)
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