The world’s largest cemetery, Wadi al-Salam, in Iraq’s Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, has been expanding at double its usual rate, as its nation’s death rate increased with war on Islamic State.

The Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for “Peace Valley,” has a special place in hearts of Shi’ite Muslims as it surrounds Mausoleum of their first imam, Ali Bin Abi Talib, a cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad.

The pace of daily burials rose to 150-200 after Islamic State, but previously when ultra-hardline Sunni group, overran a third of Iraq in 2014, it was 80-120 a day.

However, Shi’ite paramilitary often visited Ali’s golden-domed shrine before heading to frontlines to battle Islamic State, and request to be laid to rest in Wadi al-Salam should they be killed, as a reward for their sacrifice.

Meanwhile, land had become scarce, while cost of a standard 25 square meter family burial lot, has risen to about 5 million Iraqi dinars ($4100) almost double amount paid for the same lots before violence escalated as IS exerted control over large swathes of north and western Iraq in 2014.

Millions of graves of different shapes lie in roughly 10 square km (4 square miles) cemetery that attracted burials from Shiites all over the world, and by nationality, Iraq’s Iranian neighbours were thought to come second in number people interred near Ali’s golden-domed shrine.

The cemetary was built with baked bricks and plaster, decorated with Koranic calligraphy, some graves were above ground tombs, reflecting the wealth of those within.

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