BAGHDAD — The tattoos across Saad Khudeir’s body conceal the Iraqi soldier’s scars and reveal his unseen wounds.

The face of his fiancee, who was killed in a car bomb blast near his Baghdad home in 2008, looks up from his right arm. Four years later, a suicide bomber rammed his army convoy in Fallujah, leaving burns across 70 percent of his body.

He survived both bombings, but was left with gruesome scars.

"People stared at me, and sometimes I felt they were scared of me at the swimming pool," the 36-year-old said.

Iraqi soldier Saad Khudeir on Oct. 24 displays tattoos on his body to cover scars of the burns he was injured in a car bomb, in Baghdad, Iraq. In 2008, Khudeir lost his fiancee and suffered burns on his body when a car bomb went off near his home in Sadr City, a district on the eastern side of the capital. Four years later, he endured burns in nearly 70 percent of his body when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into his convoy in the then restive city of Fallujah.(Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)
Iraqi soldier Saad Khudeir on Oct. 24 displays tattoos on his body to cover scars of the burns he was injured in a car bomb, in Baghdad, Iraq. In 2008, Khudeir lost his fiancee and suffered burns on his body when a car bomb went off near his home in Sadr City, a district on the eastern side of the capital. Four years later, he endured burns in nearly 70 percent of his body when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into his convoy in the then restive city of Fallujah.(Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)

So over the next four years he spent some $2,500 on tattoos, which now cover most of his body. There is a cross and a staircase, and above it a man representing Jesus flanked by two angels. There are flames and Japanese letters.

Saad Khudeir displays his tattoo on his leg covering scars of the burns he suffered in a car bomb attack, in Baghdad, Iraq. (Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)
Saad Khudeir displays his tattoo on his leg covering scars of the burns he suffered in a car bomb attack, in Baghdad, Iraq. (Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)

"Through Christian icons, I want to say that there is no difference between Muslims and Christians," said Khudeir, who is a Muslim. "The flames express the fire still raging inside me for my loss."

“People stared at me and sometimes I felt they were scared of me at the swimming pool,” Saad Khudeir, 36, told The Associated Press, recalling how he decided to cover up his scars. (Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)
“People stared at me and sometimes I felt they were scared of me at the swimming pool,” Saad Khudeir, 36, told The Associated Press, recalling how he decided to cover up his scars. (Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)

Years of war and unrest have inflicted physical and emotional scars on countless Iraqis.

Zuhair Atwan displays a tattoo of his brother, who was killed in sectarian violence, in a tattoo studio Oct. 23 in Baghdad, Iraq. The Arabic sentence on his arm reads,
Zuhair Atwan displays a tattoo of his brother, who was killed in sectarian violence, in a tattoo studio Oct. 23 in Baghdad, Iraq. The Arabic sentence on his arm reads, "Oh life, where is my brother? Your absence hurts me, oh Abbas." (Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)

Aboud Abbas, who owns a tattoo studio in Baghdad, said around 20 people have come in this year asking for tattoos to conceal their scars, a 30 percent increase from last year.

A man gets a tattoo on his arm in a tattoo studio in Baghdad, Iraq, on Oct. 23. One tattoo shop owner said he receives an average of 20 people a year who want to cover their scars with tattoos, a nearly 30 percent increase from last year. (Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)
A man gets a tattoo on his arm in a tattoo studio in Baghdad, Iraq, on Oct. 23. One tattoo shop owner said he receives an average of 20 people a year who want to cover their scars with tattoos, a nearly 30 percent increase from last year. (Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)

Associated Press writer Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.