After Abu Ghraib (Sep.20 2004)| In the Rubble of Fallujah (Dec. 02 2004) | Sad Stories of the Fallujah Continuing Tragedy (Jan.13 2005) | Part 2 (Jan. 25 2005) | For One Contractor, A Road Too Hard (Jan.17 2005) | Fallujah: the truth at last (Feb.24 2005) | Fallujah: the American Earthquake (March 05 2005) | Letter from Mark Manning, eye witness in Fallujah (March 03 2005) | Back to Fallujah: Tents on rubble (March 24 2005) | The Fallujah tragedy in numbers (March 24 2005) | Fallujah foto's (March 24 2005) | Fallujah: one family's tragedy (March 30 2005) | Report of the conference for Iraqi women leaders in Amman (April 10 2005) | Tarmiya: The Silent Agony - Irak, des marines coupeurs de tête ? (April 14 2005) | Tarmiya: The Silent Agony II (April 26 2005) | Hostage Hoax (April 23 2005) | Getuigenissen van Iraakse gevangenen ( May 30 2005) |
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Eman Ahmed Khammas
Ein Tamor (Spring of Dates) is a small picturesque spot in the western Iraqi
desert, 90 kilometers to the west of the sacred
The tourist complex was fifty small flats surrounding the lake and the colorful
natural springs. After the 1991 war, and during the UN economic sanctions against
Now it is a refugee camp for more than 50 Fallujan families, who fled the
bombing and killings last October. It is like Habbaniya, another refugee camp, which was a tourist complex
40 kilometers to the north, near the
Obviously, Fallujans fled to these places because there were walls and roofs
which can be used as better shelters than tents in the cold season. Ein Tamor, once one of the most
beautiful areas of
Usually it takes an hour to go to Karbalaa. It took us 3 hours, because of the check points, a bombed car that was still on fire, and traffic jam due to fuel (kilometers-long) queues. The roads are not the same. I used to go there to visit my grand mother. These are not the roads I used to go through; they are not roads at all, nothing is straight, just snake-like curves in the dusty wilderness. Paradoxically, the way from Karbalaa to Ein Tamor was calmer, better, and easier to go through, although the Iraqi Human Rights Watch members who accompanied us to the refugee camp warned us of looters.
The refugee camp was a club of sadness. Every one there had a story, even the children.
"No one visited us, except these people" said Sabiha Hashim, pointing to the Iraqi HRW members who accompanied us. She is a crippled widow in her fifties, and a mother of two young boys. She was burnt two years ago, and was handicapped since. Wrapped in a blanket, she was sitting in the middle of her miserable properties. Few dirty dishes, a blackened broken oil lamp that has not been cleaned ever, small primitive oil stove…etc. There was a new electric heater donated by some generous donor, but there was no electricity. Sabiha was silent," why do not you talk to this lady" Sami of the Iraqi HRW asked her, pointing to me," she came from Baghdad to see you".
"She did not ask" replied Sabiha.
"How did you come here?" I asked looking for some thing to say, after I saw her inhuman, totally unacceptable situation.
"The neighbors brought me when the bombing began"
" She promised to give me a dinar for every joke I tell her" said Sami, trying to lighten the very gloomy atmosphere " she is my fiancée now"
"poor Sami" I said, "now you have to look for 1000 jokes to get 1000 dinars" ($ 0.7)
"What do you need", I asked Sabiha
"What is it?"
"I do not know, I did not bring the doctor's receipt, there was no time. It is unfair" that was the only thing Sabiha said about her tragedy.
I looked for my friend Dr. Intisar, she is a pharmacist who is working with me and other Iraqi doctors to help Falluja refugees with medicines and supplies. I could not see her any where, but I could see a big crowd of women and children near the gate.
"Your friend, Dr. Intisar, is examining the children and giving medicines", said Ismael Chali, a man in his fifties who is helping in running the camp.
It was not raining that day, Ein Tamor was sunny and warm. The gardens are no more than dusty yards now, few dry trees scattered, the once beautiful tourist flats are just walls, with hanging sheets of cloths serving as doors and windows. Falluja women did amazing job keeping the whole place clean.
"May be you want to see this old man" Sami said and pointed to a man sitting in the sun, two crunches in his hands. Hussein Abdul Nabbi, had an accident and broke his thighs. He is the father of a family of 18; two of them are young and very healthy looking men.
"What are you doing here?" I asked them, in a rather criticizing tone.
"Waiting for God's mercy" one of them replied," we are cotton carders, our shop was burnt, three electric sewing machines, cotton and cloths that worth 2 million dinars, and other equipments ,all are gone"
"But staying here does not help, does it" I insisted
"We went to Falluja a week ago; we waited the whole day but could not pass through the check points. Next day we went at , it was not before that we could pass through the third sonar check point. Our house was destroyed, there is a huge hole in the ceiling, the fence is totally ruined, and the furniture damaged. The soldiers told us not to move out side the house or open the door after . We are not supposed to make any noise; there is no electricity, no water, no shops, no hospitals, and no schools. How are we supposed to live there with our families? There are no families there, only men, those who can not live in tents any longer."
Other Fallujans told us that burning houses, bombing and looting are still going on until now.
Mustapha, 20 years, a student, said that he found his house, the furniture, the door, and the car destroyed and burnt. But the American soldiers told him not to use any thing from Falluja, not to use the sheets and blankets for example, not to drink water, and that if he does, it is his own decision and he has to take the responsibility for that.
"What does that mean?"
It means that everything in Falluja is contaminated" "
Ahmad Hashim, a guard in the Falluja sewage station, and a father of 3 children, found his house, which was no more than a room under the water tank, burnt." If a child gets ill, he simply dies, it is suicide to decide to go back to Falluja now"
Alahin Jalil, a young beautiful wife and a mother of 4 children, decided to go back home , no matter what. She was too tired of difficulties in the refugee camp, "I have to go to Karbalaa for medicines, there is no water here, no fuel, no money" . When she went to Falluja, she found out that her house which was in Nazzal district, one of the most bombed areas in Falluja, was totally destroyed. She decided to return back to the refugee camp, but it was not a better option. "For the whole family we get half a sheet of ampiciline (anti-biotic)
Money was the most difficult problem in the camp. These families consumed all their savings, if they had any. Food is given according to the food ration ID. Many of them fled Falluja without bringing their documents. Those get no food.
"What about the 150.000 dinars that are given to each Falluja family that we read about in the newspapers this week?"
"We never heard about them" every body replied. Where is UN, the Iraqi government, the humanitarian orgs, the Red Crescent, the Red Cross…they asked.
Darawsha is a small village 5 kilometers to the west of Ein Tamor. The Iraqi
HRW in Karbalaa told us that its villagers share their houses with Falluja refugees. When we entered
Darawsha, I remembered what James Baker said before the 1991 American attack on
Sheikh Farhan Al-Duleimi, the local council head, said" my name is Farhan
(happy), but I am very sad for what happened to Falluja… at the same time this is a good example of the
Shiite-Sunni unity in
We decided to stop in the middle of the village, and to donate the medicines and financial help to the families, promising them and ourselves to come back again to listen to their stories. It was already , we need to hurry back because it is too dangerous to be on the highway after sunset. There are at least 85 Falluja families here. Dr. Intisar opened the car box and began to donate medicines. A young, shy girl approached her and said "do you need help, I am a pharmacist". We asked the villagers to form a committee with at least one woman in it, to receive the money and distribute it on the Falluja refugees.
"You need to go to Rahaliya and Ahmad bin Hashim villages" said Abbass, from the Iraqi HRW, who was accompanying us all the time," the situation in those refugee camps are much more difficult, and they rarely get any help, because they are too far away"
"Then we need to come back again soon", I replied
"Yes, you have also to visit refugees from
"What are you talking about?"
"There are refugees from the south, fleeing from the worsening security situation"
The way back to
Dr. Intisar was very calm and exhausted "I love you" she suddenly said.
I was too tired to ask what made her say so. Surprisingly, we were not afraid at all, of any thing.
To be continued
Refugee Camps in Ahmad bin Hashim and Rahaliya villages
Eman Ahmad Khammas
We were supposed to leave to Karabla'a, and from there to two Falloja refugee camps deep in the western desert, at 7 am, but Ahmad who insisted on accompanying us for protection, showed up at 9.00am. I was impatient.
-"I had to stay with my family for awhile; there were American snipers on my roof" he explained…
He told me the story. His wife went up the roof to check the water tank at 4.30am. For the last three days there was no water in Baghdad. Families fill their water tanks at night when water is available some times. It was still dark. On the roof, she was taking another ladder to go up the attic roof, when she heard a "shshshsh …" sound. Stunned, she looked in its direction, she could not figure out what was there, then she realized that there was a man, an American soldier, heavily armed, pointing his gun at her. Another voice, whispering, came from the other side of the roof, this time it was another soldier, a black one. He said some thing in English and the first soldier put his gun down. He waved to her to go down silently. She did, but she did not know what to do next. She decided to wait for a while. Half an hour later she went up again, they were gone. When she waked up her husband she was still shivering, it took him two hours to calm her down.
This is the second day of Eid Aladha (Sacrifice Feast)*. There were not any of the usual Eid manifestations in Baghdad streets, no children in new colorful dresses, no traffic jam of jubilant families celebrating Eid, visiting relatives and friends, going to parks…etc. The streets were almost empty, except for few quickly driving cars, Iraqi National Guards pick ups, filled with young men in black masks pointing their guns in every direction, police cars and a very long line of American big trucks loaded with tanks and many humvees and armored vehicles heading north. The streets themselves were not of Baghdad that we knew. Sand barriers, cement blocks, burned out and destroyed buildings, with many elections posters pasted every where. Dr.Intisar, my friend, the pharmacist with whom I am working on donating medicines and aids for Falluja refugees, was weeping silently as usual. I remembered that Christmas and New Year celebrations were canceled too. This is the election season, which is in Iraq very different from any where else; it is also the season of extreme insecurity
On the Way
On the way, through what is called now the Triangle of death south of Baghdad, the situation was worse. Too long queues at the check points, even longer queues at fuel stations, many ING pick ups stopping at the road sides, too serious masked men jump quickly and run in different directions, obviously on a dangerous duty. Some of them were at the check points handing over elections announcements, many burned or destroyed cars, walls covered with bullet shot holes . One of the buildings in Haswa was flattened to the ground; a new neighboring building was thickly surrounded by 2 meter high sand barriers." This is the new police station "Abu Hussein, our driver said "the other one was exploded by cooking gas tubes". He is from Najaf, and he works on this line long enough to be well-known at the check points. Some times we were delayed for an American patrol to pass
Different kind of Refugees
Mr. Mohannad Al-Kinany, the Iraqi Human Rights director, with all other members, happily volunteered to help us around again. We told him that we want to see the Falluja refugee camps and the refugees from the south too. He explained to us the story of the southern refugees and how badly they are in need of help. Karbala'a population is around 790.000 thousands, he said, now they are 1.050.000. Over 200.000 refugees came since the 1990s, from Basra, Nasiriya, the marshes, Amara, and Samawa, over 70.000 came after the occupation in 2003. "It is a big problem that no one is taking care of". These refugee communities have become a fertile ground for crime. We decided to spend the next day in these places.
Ahmad bin Hashim
On the way to Ahmad bin Hashim village (ABH) we passed by Ein Tamor camp, to greet them for the Eid and to give them the medicines that they asked for two weeks ago when we visited them last time.
Ahmad bin Hashim is the name of a grandson of Imam Mosa Al-Kadhim or Imam Al-Hassan (both are of the 12 imams in Islam who are descendants of the Prophet Mohammad family). It has been a sacred place where people visit to get the blessings in a kind of pilgrimage. It is a very beautiful calm village west of Razzaza lake. The villagers built rows of big rooms for pilgrims coming from far away places. These rooms are now the Falluja refugee camps
Near ABH there is also an unexcavated historical site that goes back to about 4000 years. It was protected by the Iraqi police and the Tourism State Institute before the occupation. Mohannad told us that this very culturally precious site was looted after the invasion, and that the Iraqi HRW in Karbala'a has documented everything on tapes. He told us how looters attacked the place, dug the tombs and stole what ever was buried there of historical jewelry, beads and household properties... The place is buried again now by tons of sand for protection, we could see the large freshly covered area on the foot of a big castle called the Berthaweel Castle in the middle of the desert
There are 18 Falluja families living in the ABH pilgrims' rooms. The majority of them were from Jolan district in Falluja, which was heavily bombed last October. As expected, there is no electricity, no clean water, to bathrooms in the pilgrim's rooms. Mohannad who owns a hotel in Karbala'a offered his hotel free to these families, but they preferred to stay near the shrine. Ten other hotel owners in Karbala'a did the same. These relatively wealthy people and others formed a group called the Karbala'i Group to collect and donate aid to the Falluja refugees here and in other places. It is another example of the Iraqi people unity between Shiite and Sunnis.
The rooms are very primitive, just roofed walls. Falluja women kept them very clean and tidy, although the rooms were used for sleeping, cooking, washing and living. The most needed thing here is medical. The sick and the old are most hurt, and of course women because they have to run everything in this too difficult environment.
Abdulrahman Khalaf, for example, suffers from chronic schizophrenia that goes back to his years in the Iranian POW camps in the 1980s. He is married, has 6 children, and very friendly. His only abnormality is repeating himself many times.
-"I am the honored one, I am the honored one, I am the honored one, I am the….." He repeated at least 8 times, replying to Sami of the Iraqi HRW when he said "I am honored to meet you".
He was repeating the number 50, tens of times. I felt so ashamed of myself when I thought he was asking for $50, because his relatives explained that he needs Modicate injections/50 m, and that was what he was asking me. They showed me his chronic diseases card; he used to get his medications from Falluja hospital free, as all Iraqis who have chronic illnesses used to in the past. Not any longer. I promised to bring him the medicine as soon as I can get them from Baghdad
Solution rather than Aid
Aalaa' Hussein, 6 years, suffers from hemiplegia; She looks ok except for her left leg which was shorter and slack. Naufa Hamza, awoman in her70s, suffers from joints pain. Tilba Ali, another old woman who does not know her age, 60 or 70, she said, suffers from diabetes. Sahira Ali, 35, suffers from hormone abnormality; she keeps on getting fatter and fatter. She also suffers from chronic diarrhea, "because of the water" she explained. Dr.Intisar saw them all and promised to send the medicines. Ahmad was busy giving the children some toys donated by the American Families for Peace delegation. I tried to take some pictures of the children, but a young tall man, dashed in, and threatened to beat one of the young girls who joined the others for the picture
"What kind of help is this, just for the media, I know your kind" he was talking to me.
"I understand your feelings very well" I replied, and did not take the picture. "Please do not beat her, here is my camera, I did not take the picture". He left silently, giving me a very angry look.
Other men apologized, and invited us for lunch.
UN Silence Unacceptable
I did understand his feelings; at many times I feel the bitter humiliation these people feel. They do need aid, but what they need more is a solution to their problem. They are not beggars. They used to have their houses, jobs, lives and every thing. May be they were not rich, but they were dignified. Everyone said that they want to go back to Falluja. This is a big human rights violation that must be investigated, accounted for, and compensated. International organizations, especially the UN, should give this problem the utmost priority. The occupation is responsible for their misery. Silence, justifications, excuses are totally unacceptable. All the human rights, political, medical, law, journalists, teachers….organizations all over the world should not keep silent to these crimes
Rahaliya Refugee Camps
Rahaliya is a village on the borders of Anbar. Mohannad told us that there are at least 150 families here. I realized that I am in a big problem. I can hardly cover 30 families
, and by covering I mean giving them a gift for Eid Al-Adha. We decided to visit 3 camps where there are many families. There were two schools and a clinic where such camps are, again promising ourselves and the others to try to come back. In the first school, Al-Waha Al-Khadra (the Green Oasis) which is a boys' high school, 15 Falluja families live, each one(or more) in a class room, the teachers', and the director's. The director's story is interesting. When the refugees came last summer, he decided to give them the school except his room where he kept the files, books and documents. In the last minute a woman came with her children, she had no place to stay in, he gave her the room. The school time table is still hanging on her stove, the books piled under the mattresses. The desks are piled in the unpaved yard, on which children clothes are hanged now to dry.
-"What about the students?!" was my question.
-" there are no schools in all the cities of the Anbar governorates this year, the students just had mid-year exam formally, the boys in the yard and the girls in one class room"
-"what about other schools?" I insisted
-" it is the same in the majority of Anbar schools". Children gathered near the desks pretending to be very polite to get Ahmad's toys. Their naughty eyes exposed every thing. Sami, Dr Intisar and Ahmad were very happy with them, asking for more and more pictures.
Beida'a, Iqbal, Amaal, Sajida, Haala, Montaha, Aziza, Um Sofian, Sundos... and others were young women and mothers running the camp. They were heroines, simply, doing an extraordinarily amazing job keeping life going on as smoothly as possible. Cleaning, cooking, making fires, washing, baking bread, and taking care of the children. But Sami was unhappy. He asked Sundos who was a teacher" why did not you open a class for these children?" she was embarrassed, "this is a good idea", she replied" I will think about it"
When Sajida talked, dr.Intisar could not help her tears. Sajida is a very beautiful girl in her early 20s. She suffers from some kind of brain damage that made it difficult for her to speak normally. She lives in a room with her mother who sells petty things on the street side. Thier room was destroyed. Sajida made a great effort to tell us how her glass dishes, cups and other small belongings were smashed
I asked Ghazi Mnachid, an assistant doctor in Rahaliya clinic about the situation. "Very bad" was his reply, "we need medicines" and he gave me a long list of most needed medicines. The majority were children's. Cold, fever, antibiotics, skin, intestinal worms…etc. The most dangerous thing is that there are no vaccines in the clinic. This village is in danger of a health catastrophe if this problem is not solved soon.
All the women agreed that the bathroom is most difficult thing. The toilets were more than 50 meters away from the nearest class room; mothers have to take children all this distance in the cold at night. With no electricity, no water, no fuel, it is almost a miracle that women can manage to take care of the children, and keep so clean and tidy rooms. "You should see the well we dug behind the school, you would not believe it" Iqbal Abdulla , 29, a mother of 5, said. Some times women go to a brook outside the village to wash in cleaner water
Night in the Camp
"It is almost 5" Mohannad said, "we need to go back to Karbala'a now, it is becoming too dangerous now"
"I am staying here. I need to listen to these women, I need to see how they live here" I said. Dr. Intisar, Ahmad and Sami exchanged glances. Dr.Intisar pulled my arm and took me a side "these people can barely manage their food and supplies, you are embarrassing them". Falluja people are well-known for their extreme hospitality; they would do any thing to make the guest comfortable. Actually there are many jokes on there almost illogical hospitality. We had some food, but we know that it is almost a crime even to show your food while you are in a Falluja house. I know that Dr.Intisar was right.
"I can just put my head on my arm and sleep, I do not need any thing, you go if you want" I insisted again. Sami was the first to approve and support.
"I am not leaving you alone here" Dr. Intisar said. Ahmad and the driver had nothing else to say.
We decided to go to the clinic first, then to visit the Refugee houses. We had plenty of time to talk.
"Dinner is going to be here" said Mohammad Abdulla, a taxi driver who is unemployed now.
"No, dinner is at my place" Ghazi objected, referring to the clinic camp.
"Listen, we are here to work, let us finish the job, and then see what we can do about dinner invitations" I said.
Many men gathered to talk to us in the Diwaniya (guest room for men). Beautiful mattresses and pillows were layed on the ground for us to sit on.
"Why do not you ask the women to join us?" I asked, although I know that women do not share such men gathering in Falluja. "May be you can talk to them later" replied Ggazi.
They began to tell their stories. The houses which were bombed, burnt, looted and occupied…
"What do mean by occupied" I asked the speaker.
"Our house is occupied now by the American troops, it is now a headquarter for one battalion"
"I do not know. But the Iraqis are down stairs and the Americans are on the second floor. Actually they took the neighboring house too, and opened the wall between the two houses. It is not a house any more. It is surrounded by barbed wires, the aerials on the roof; we can not even go near"
"What did you do?"
"I went to them; I asked them to give me back my house, an Iraqi captain said this is impossible, I asked what am I going to do, he replied: go wherever you want to go. My mother does not want to give up. She goes there every day; sits in front of the house til the afternoon, just looking at her house."
Another man sitting in the room laughed and said" prepare your self, you are going to be arrested tomorrow"
-"are there any foreigners fighting in Falluja?
-"even if there are, how do we know! They do not go around saying we are foreign fighters. The majority are Fallujans defending their houses. Many of them were killed guarding their homes. There are bodies till now in some places like Alqudoos mosque, many injured people were shot in the head, and few injured people were left. Falluja smells very bad
Living in a Barn
The other man lives in a cow barn now. There is a store room in the barn that he sleeps in with his family, a wife and 6 children. The room was dim, wet and smelling bad. Again the main problem for the wife was the toilet for the children, especially at night. This man went to Falluja the day before, he went on a wrong road mistakenly, his car was shot but he was not injured. A tank approached and hit his car from the back. The soldiers told him to get down; they tied his hands, put a sac on his head and took him through a zigzag road. They investigated him for two hours, then let him go.
"Why did not you ask them to pay for repairing the car?" I asked….
"I wanted to run away as soon as possible, I was afraid that they are going to arrest me again"
Abid Awad Sheilam, a driver in his 50s, is a father of a family of 12. They live in an unfinished house structure whose owner let them to use, but Abid had to put a roof for one of the room. He did, using date palm trunk and leaves and a tent donated by Rahaliya mosque sheikh
"Oh, this smell!" Sami said, taking a deep breath, while we were entering the roofless house. It was a typical Iraqi farm smell, a mixture of smoke, fresh bread being baked, fire, thick green plantations, and dust. It was not dark yet, there were few deep red lines still hanging in the sky, dog barking in the distance. Abid's daughter was preparing the traditional Iraqi fire place, manqala. There were two empty water barrels.
"How do you get water?" I asked
"Water tank car comes some times and fill the barrels, now the driver says he has no gasoline, we have to pay him to come again"
Shiha, Abid's 98 year old mother, was deaf and blind. She kept on kissing Ahmad, Dr. Intisar and Sami, and cursing Bush for preventing her of going back to Falluja. There was no door, just a sheet of cloth. Another sheet traditionally embroidered "In the Name of God, the most Gracious, and the most merciful". The family told us how their house in Jolan was shot, how the furniture was destroyed. Strangely enough, every body we met told us how their glass and porcelain buffet were smashed. The American soldiers must have fun smashing these things.
Sami told the family how he spent 20 years in the US, how his friends were crying in the good by party, how they asked him to tell the Iraqi people that they have nothing to do with killing the Iraqis and occupying their country.
Sami asked Lina, 15, one of Abid's daughters:" If I were an American soldier what would you want to tell me?"
"Get out of my country"
"and if I were a civilian American coming as a guest?"
"I would say you are welcome, you can stay"
"for how long?"
"As long as you need"
Abid said we thank the American people who reject the war. Isam, a neighbor in his 30s, a graduate of electricity institute, but studying to be a teacher now, said the resistance is legal, as far as there is occupation people resist. We do not want to be humiliated. We do not want them (the American) to be humiliated. But they did not suffer as we did.
Mohammad Kreidi, is 85, he lives with his 4 sons and there families in one house. He can barely feel what is going on around him, he was dying. Dawood Obeid is 73, he suffers from muscles atrophy, and he lives in another house with his 15 daughters and sons….
We had to go back to the school camp. The women have baked fresh bread, cooked dinner and were waiting for us.
Back to the school
It was very dark in the school, the oil lamps can hardly help in the big class rooms, neither the fading embers, or the kerosene heaters which were sending suffocating smoke. It was getting very cold; obviously it was going to rain. Dinner was a big meal, with meat, beans, rice, salad, potatoes, typical Falluja tea, black, sweet and hot, and even Eid cookies. The women helped us wash in warm water.
I was telling them how deeply impressed I am with the wonderful work they are doing in the camp. Sundos said that 25 years of war taught us a lot. Her father was the first man to enter Falluja ten days after the October bombing was over." The decomposed bodies' smell was the most hideous thing "he said. Many people stayed in Falluja because they did not imagine that it was going to be so notorious, and because they had no place to go to. Some are still under the rubbles till now. Many houses and shops were looted, even after the bombing stopped. Sundos and her mother tried to go back to Falluja; they found a 20 kilometer queue of cars.
The American soldiers were using obscene words, if some body objected they beat and arrest him. One soldier near the new bridge was repeating "Haush ,Baa' …Haush, Baa'"(calling the people cows and sheep).
When we went to the toilet we realized what the women were talking about. It was already raining, we had to cross the unpaved yard to the toilet which was dark, blocked, and there was no water. The drain was open, sending very bad smell. Dr. Intisar was furious; she gave the men hard words for leaving the drain open, jeopardizing the children lives and every body's health.
The night was noisy with foxes and wolves howl. We had to leave early in the morning. It was colder and the still raining heavily. We had other kind of refugee camps to visit and write about. Sami had to attend a training course in the Iraqi HRW office, as a facilitator. It is a course suggested by the Christian Peacemakers Team, an organization which has been working in Iraq for more than two years. This training course is about creating an Islamic Peacemakers Team.
I am supposed to write now about the Karbala'a refugee camps, the 200.000 thousands refugees on the outskirts of the city. But this story is already very long, the new one is different and my computer battery is running out in few minutes.
*Many of the names mentioned here are not real. The people are.
*Aladha Eid is connected to Mecca pilgrimage. God ordered Prophet Abraham in Mecca to slaughter his son, when he was about to do it, God sent him a ram to slaughter instead of his son. In this Eid Moslems slaughter sheep and feed the poor, and to celebrate the Mecca pilgrimage.
Eman Ahmed Kmammas was a journalist with, and was co-director of Occupation Watch(that doesn't exist anymore in Iraq) , a translator, and advised the Code Pink Delegation on Iraqi women’s issues during January 24 – February 4, 2004.
Dr Salam Ismael took aid to Fallujah in January.
It was the smell that first hit me, a smell that is difficult to describe, and one that will never leave me. It was the smell of death. Hundreds of corpses were decomposing in the houses, gardens and streets of Fallujah. Bodies were rotting where they had fallen — bodies of men, women and children, many half-eaten by wild dogs.
A wave of hate had wiped out two-thirds of the town, destroying houses and mosques, schools and clinics. This was the terrible and frightening power of the US military assault.
The accounts I heard over the next few days will live with me forever. You may think you know what happened in Fallujah. But the truth is worse than you could possibly have imagined.
In Saqlawiya, one of the makeshift refugee camps that surround Fallujah, we found a 17-year-old woman. “I am Hudda Fawzi Salam Issawi from the Jolan district of Fallujah”, she told me. “On November 9, American marines came to our house. My father and the neighbour went to the door to meet them. We were not fighters. We thought we had nothing to fear. I ran into the kitchen to put on my veil, since men were going to enter our house and it would be wrong for them to see me with my hair uncovered.
“This saved my life. As my father and neighbour approached the door, the Americans opened fire on them. They died instantly.
“Me and my 13-year-old brother hid in the kitchen behind the fridge. The soldiers came into the house and caught my older sister. They beat her. Then they shot her. But they did not see me. Soon they left, but not before they had destroyed our furniture and stolen the money from my father’s pocket.”
Hudda told me how she comforted her dying sister by reading verses from the Koran. After four hours her sister died. For three days, Hudda and her brother stayed with their murdered relatives. But they were thirsty and had only a few dates to eat. They feared the troops would return and decided to try to flee the city. But they were spotted by a US sniper.
Hudda was shot in the leg, her brother ran but was shot in the back and died instantly. “I prepared myself to die”, she told me. “But I was found by an American woman soldier, and she took me to hospital.” She was eventually reunited with the surviving members of her family.
I also found survivors of another family from the Jolan district. They told me that at the end of the second week of the siege the US troops swept through the Jolan. The Iraqi National Guard used loudspeakers to call on people to get out of the houses carrying white flags, bringing all their belongings with them. They were ordered to gather outside near the Jamah al Furkan mosque in the centre of town.
On November 12, Eyad Naji Latif and eight members of his family — one of them a six-month-old child — gathered their belongings and walked in single file, as instructed, to the mosque.
When they reached the main road outside the mosque they heard a shout, but they could not understand what was being shouted. Eyad told me it could have been “now” in English. Then the firing began.
US soldiers appeared on the roofs of surrounding houses and opened fire. Eyad’s father was shot in the heart and his mother in the chest.
They died instantly. Two of Eyad’s brothers were also hit, one in the chest and one in the neck. Two of the women were hit, one in the hand and one in the leg.
Then the snipers killed the wife of one of Eyad’s brothers. When she fell her five year old son ran to her and stood over her body. They shot him dead too.
Survivors made desperate appeals to the troops to stop firing.
But Eyad told me that whenever one of them tried to raise a white flag they were shot. After several hours he tried to raise his arm with the flag. But they shot him in the arm. Finally he tried to raise his hand. So they shot him in the hand.
The five survivors, including the six-month-old child, lay in the street for seven hours. Then four of them crawled to the nearest home to find shelter.
The next morning, the brother who was shot in the neck also managed to crawl to safety. They all stayed in the house for eight days, surviving on roots and one cup of water, which they saved for the baby.
On the eighth day they were discovered by some members of the Iraqi National Guard and taken to hospital in Fallujah. They heard the US soldiers were arresting any young men, so the family fled the hospital and finally obtained treatment in a nearby town.
They do not know in detail what happened to the other families who had gone to the mosque as instructed. But they told me the street was awash with blood.
I had come to Fallujah in January as part of a humanitarian aid convoy funded by donations from Britain.
Our small convoy of trucks and vans brought 15 tonnes of flour, eight tonnes of rice, medical aid and 900 pieces of clothing for the orphans. We knew that thousands of refugees were camped in terrible conditions in four camps on the outskirts of town.
There we heard the accounts of families killed in their houses, of wounded people dragged into the streets and run over by tanks, of a container with the bodies of 481 civilians inside, of premeditated murder, looting and acts of savagery and cruelty that beggar belief.
That is why we decided to go into Fallujah and investigate. When we entered the town I almost did not recognise the place where I had worked as a doctor in April 2004, during the first siege.
We found people wandering like ghosts through the ruins. Some were looking for the bodies of relatives. Others were trying to recover some of their possessions from destroyed homes.
Here and there, small knots of people were queuing for fuel or food. In one queue some of the survivors were fighting over a blanket.
I remember being approached by an elderly woman, her eyes raw with tears. She grabbed my arm and told me how her house had been hit by a US bomb during an air raid. The ceiling collapsed on her 19-year-old son, cutting off both his legs.
She could not get help. She could not go into the streets because the Us military had posted snipers on the roofs and were killing anyone who ventured out, even at night.
She tried her best to stop the bleeding, but it was to no avail. She stayed with him, her only son, until he died. He took four hours to die.
Fallujah’s main hospital was seized by the US troops in the first days of the siege. The only other clinic, the Hey Nazzal, was hit twice by US missiles. Its medicines and medical equipment were all destroyed.
There were no ambulances — the two ambulances that came to help the wounded were shot up and destroyed by US troops.
We visited houses in the Jolan district, a poor working-class area in the north-western part of the city that had been the centre of resistance during the April siege.
This quarter seemed to have been singled out for punishment during the second siege. We moved from house to house, discovering families dead in their beds, or cut down in living rooms or in the kitchen. House after house had furniture smashed and possessions scattered.
In some places we found bodies of fighters, dressed in black and with ammunition belts.
But in most of the houses, the bodies were of civilians. Many were dressed in housecoats, many of the women were not veiled — meaning there were no men other than family members in the house. There were no weapons, no spent cartridges.
It became clear to us that we were witnessing the aftermath of a massacre, the cold-blooded butchery of helpless and defenceless civilians.
Nobody knows how many died. The occupation forces are now bulldozing the neighbourhoods to cover up their crime. What happened in Fallujah was an act of barbarity. The whole world must be told the truth.
Seeing Fallujah, I realize why the American called the operation woe and shock. It is not only the American earthquake ridden city, the completely destroyed houses, schools, hospitals, market places, shops, streets, vehicles, not only the burnt out walls, the hills of garbage, not the only the broken life, it is more the feelings read on the Fallujan's faces, I could not find any other description more expressive than woe and shock. It is the silence that hides anger, bewilderment, fatigue, helpless, suspicion of any thing and any body. It is the sadness.
"Are you from the committee?" An old man who was collecting some ruined materials from the rubbles, asked me when he saw my camera.
"What committee?" I asked. He exchanged glances with his young son.
"If you have something of benefit for us, say, if not, please go sister, and put your camera in your pocket"
"Look behind me!"
Behind him there were four soldiers’ nests, as an American friend called them, hiding on the houses' roofs.
"If you want to move around, just say that you are from the committee" he adviced.
He was refering to a compenstaion committee which was visiting Falloja, estimating the damage and the compensations.
I did not say that.
I told the pharmcist , who was repairing the public clinic in Golan area, that I was looking for families, especially children and women, who are badly in need of help, trying to help them in whatever way I can. He asked one of the construction workers to help us a round
In the Health Care Center
Dr. Najm, the director of Jolan health center, said that the center receives at least 1000 patient a day, because the nearest health center, in Hay Al-Jomhuria, is ruined in bombing. In his center, which works 24 hours a day, only 4-5 male doctors can attend work now, female doctors find it too difficult to come from Baghdad. They have shortage in every thing, even stethoscopes and manometers. He gave my colleague, Dr. Intisar , a long list of the medicines they lack. It includes all the essential medicines, such as antibiotics and painkillers. They just got electricity generators a week ago, 3 months after the October attack on Falloja.
What about the children vaccines? Dr. Intisar asked
No vaccines, was Dr. Najm's answer.
Dr Thamir , the director of the Falloja area hospitals, complains that the Ministry of Health has no good understanding of problems he faces in his area. Lacking of medicines, supplies, medicines for chronic diseases, electricity…is not his only problem. To come to the hospital daily is.
"Some times I have to wait at the check points queue for hours. This is our main problem. A road that normally takes 10 minutes, takes now 1.5 hours or more. We do not care any more about searching and humiliating us, but we need to pass through easily. Ambulances are attacked. Last time we had medicines, they were not allowed in, so we had to divide them into smaller packages and deliver them little by little. Now the way to Ramadi (the province capital) is cut. Ramadi is under siege for days."
Dr. Najm's family was not allowed to enter.
"But to go to the Falluja main hospital is even more difficult"
"We need to go there; do you think this is not possible now?" I asked
"You can try" He called Dr. Ayad, the director of the Falluja main hospital, who promised to wait for us, no matter how long it would take.
The Main Hospital
When we went to the main hospital, we had a better understanding of this situation. It is located across the Old Bridge, outside the city. The American troops use the river as a natural barrier to enter Falloja. The bridge is closed. Patients have to go through three check points to reach the bridg. They have to go on foot. We had to leave the car in the destroyed market place (Sooq Al-Shohada'), far away from the first Iraqi check point, and walk. The Iraqi soldiers did not think that we can pass through because we were females, but they allowed us to try at the American check point.
"No madam, female patients have to go through the other bridge" confirmed the American soldier at the next check point, who had Asian features, pointing to the other bridge far away behind him. The other bridge is more than 2 kilometers away. We had to walk there, cross the New Bridge and come to the hospital all the way again on the other side of the river, and of course we had to make the same trip again back.
"But why females?" I asked.
"Do not know, madam"
"But we are not patients" said Dr. Intisar, "we want to meet Dr. Ayad for half an hour, that is all, he is waiting for us". The soldier called his officer, who came to see us. We explained the problem again, he allowed us to go through, if it is no more than 30 minutes.
We had to run on the bridge. "why do not they allow women patients to come through this bridge? What if a woman has labor or bleeding'' was my first question to Dr. Ayad.
"They do not have woman soldier to search women, that is all. This is a big problem for all patients, not only women. The Handicapped, the old, the emergencies, imagine how these people walk all the way to the hospital, especially in the middle of the night. Women normally have labor at night, which makes it even more difficult and dangerous". There are no priorities, explained Dr. Ayad, not for ambulances, not for emergencies, not for doctors…
"But why do not they simply put the check point behind the hospital, so that patients do not have to go through all these difficulties?" I asked again
"We have been negotiating this for months with the American officers, some of whom are women. They understood and agreed to open the bridge, but did not open it yet"
Dr. Ayad was very grateful that we tried to meet him and ask about his needs. Again he gave Dr. Intisar a long list of medicines and supplies.
"Do you thing you can provide wheel chairs, especially for children?"
"How many?" I asked
"Oh, as many as you can get?"
"Hundred if you can"
I explained to him that there are international humanitarian organizations that are willing to help children injured in the bombing. He promised to give me these children’s medical records
We had to run again back, Dr Ayad was searched on his way out." Do not they know you?"
"Of course they do, but these are the normal procedures. We are used to it".
The Angry Sheikh
Some men in the market place were very happy that we could enter the hospital." Do you want to see the graveyard? There are at least 2500 new graves" One of them volunteered enthusiastically to take us there.
"Not really, we are here trying to help the injured".
"Do you want to go to Fawzi's house?" another one said
"What about him?" I asked
"His three daughters, who are students in the medical college, are killed under the rubbles".
We had to leave Falloja before 4 pm, other wise we could not go back to Baghdad.
"You can stay with my family" he insisted.
"Thank you, may be next time" I said sincerely" can you take us to Gebeil, and to some one who can help us around " I explained to him that we were looking for injured children.
He took us to a sheikh, who was hesitant to help.
"Many people come here and they ask for medical records of people in need of help, we do our best to provide all the medical papers, then they go and we never hear about them again, and I remain embarrassed, do not know what to tell these families" the sheikh explained.
I understood his situation perfectly. I did not insist. He was very angry about many things: the promises of compensations that never come, the absence of services, the tricks played by some political parties during the elections, the burning of libraries, his helplessness before families who come to him asking for help.
He took us to see two neighboring families. The first was of a widow and two girls. The widow, Wichriya Alwan,50, lost her husband,51, and son, 18, in the bombing. They were buried alive under the rubbles. Her house was totally destroyed. Her daughter Sheima',12, is mentally retarded and paralyzed. The family lives on relatives donations.
"What are you going to do now?"
"Waiting for God's mercy, and the compensations" she replied.
The second family was of Khalaf Abid Khalaf , the ambulance driver who was killed during the fighting, when he was trying to help the injured. He left behind a widow and six children, the oldest of them is 12
"Yes, go to Gebeil, and then you understand what I am talking about" the sheikh suggested angrily.
On the way to Gebeil, I stopped the driver in front of a school. There were two girl schools in the same building according to the sign, Falloja and Sokeina. Part of the roof was flattened to the ground, a 10 meter wide hole was opened in the yard, windows and doors were broken. I had some pictures and was leaving when a voice of a woman called me." Come in please, have some photos for the classrooms, see how the girls are studying"
"Are you saying that there are students here?"
"Of course" said Ikhlass, the assistant director, who saw me from the window and came to meet me. I did not imagine that there were people in.
The crowded classrooms were freezing. Big holes and broken windows were entering very cold wind. The director's office, the bathrooms, the yard, were all destroyed.
"Is not it dangerous for girls to be here?"
“Of course it is, what else we can do?" said Ikhlass. She suggested that I visit
the neighboring boy's high school, Al-Jahidh. There was no one in that school except the guard and his family. The school was more badly damaged. There was a huge opening in the biology laboratory with the iron and cement ceiling falling to the ground. The class rooms, the administration and teachers' rooms were burned
"What are guarding here?" I asked sarcastically.
"Where else would I go, this is my home" was the guard's answer. It was so bitter, I could hear all the Iraqis saying the same sentence.
Gebeil Was the Worst
"Are you sure you want to go to Gebeil?" The driver asked
"Yes, why not?" I was very childishly curious
"Nothing, lets go, only you have to hide your camera" he answered
It seems that the American "earthquake" hit Gebeil most badly. The majority of the houses were 100% damaged. Lakes of stagnant water, hills of garbage, dusty roads were all around. Few families were still there. Queues of women were waiting near 3 big water tanks, trying to get some water for the families.Dr. Thamir had already explained to us that the water was not good for drinking. He tested six samples, 2 of them had bacteria, the other 4 had under minimum chlorine.
"I need to have some photos!" I told the driver
"Not now!" was his abrupt reply. He moved the car few meters back ward "now, and make it very quick"
He did not stop the car. I had two shots for a school and a mosque, and he drove quickly.
There were 4 or 5 American snipers around, as he explained later. Many American vehicles were driving along one of the roads. The driver decided to take a side road.
"You do not have to do that" I objected. "We are not doing anything wrong". He did not reply, just smiled.
In the side road, a red old Toyota stopped us. Four men came out of the car and approached. Who are you? What are you doing here? Why this sister was taking pictures...etc. were their questions. We introduced our selves, and explained what we were doing there. They were still suspicious. We were more suspicious.
"It is getting too late, you come with us now, and stay with our families, or you come tomorrow, we can give any help you need". We thanked them and promised to return in few days.
On the way back to Baghdad, three Iraqi National Guards check points stopped us. They were surprised that we were going on the high way that late. They searched the car, checked the papers, made some jokes, gave suspicious hints and let us go.
I have been out of touch. I have been in Iraq and would like to share a little of my story with you today.
I got back from Iraq a few weeks ago where I stayed inside the city of Falluja and lived with the refugees of that city for over two weeks. I decided to go there because it seems to be the heart of the trouble in Iraq and the place to see if any sense or peace can be found. I had also heard that the city had 250,000 citizens in it who were told to leave when my government attacked, yet there had been no stories of their situation in our media. As an American, I felt responsible for this and decided to take a look myself.
On February 10th 2005 I flew into Iraq and drove to the city of Falluja. For over two weeks I was a resident and a refugee of Falluja and I am honored and privileged for that experience. They hosted me in their homes, and cared for me because they believed that I was there to listen to them and to honestly bring home their stories to the American people. I came to Falluja without military escort or armed protection in any way. I think because of this they thought I was crazy, but they honored what they thought was courage and they trusted me. Trust means everything there and they look deep into your eyes as they decide who you are. I lived with them and listened to their stories. They told me they do not trust American journalists to accurately tell the story of Iraq. They believe that the American public does not know what is really happening there, and that if they did they would feel differently about the war. They feel that the American people are their brothers and sisters and they are asking them for help. They wanted me to tell you their story.
The horrors of war have been brought to the people of Falluja. The people there say the city had 500,000 people in it, not the 250,000 quoted by our media. The refugees told me that they were given one week notice to leave the city. After three days, they were told they could no longer drive out, they had to walk. No camps were established for them and no refugee location was given. There was no planning by the American government for the people, no food, no shelter and no water. They were just told to leave or be killed. Anyone who stayed in the city after one week would be considered a terrorist and would be killed.
For five months these people have been living in any location they could find, nothing was established for them in the surrounding areas of the Falluja countryside. They are living in tents in the mud, schools, abandoned chicken coups, burned out buildings, cars and other buildings that people were not using or where others have made room for them. The weather is bad, with much rain and it is very cold. When they were told to leave the city, it was summer and they were not dressed for this cold and many could not carry out their clothes. Some lucky children are going to school in tents and all the classes have been shortened to 2 hours per day. Food is short and they are eating what the farmers grow and the surrounding community can spare. Again, even after five months they have received no outside aid from either the American government or the new Iraqi government.
The city itself has been devastated. Most houses have been seriously damaged, with about 65% of them totally destroyed. Evidence of depleted uranium (DU) shells is everywhere. This leaves radioactive contamination behind which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. (See note1). Unexploded ordinance is a common sight. Many residents who were there speak of chemical weapons, napalm, cluster bombs and phosphorous used by the Americans. These are all illegal weapons and considered war crimes by the international community. Many of the houses were fired, meaning that the troops burned them down after searching them. Many houses with white flags and markings stating “Family Here” were destroyed.
Some families who had nowhere to go stayed in the city during the fighting and have paid dearly. I interviewed many people who were there and their stories will live forever in my mind. Here are some samples:
· A mother whose son was killed by DU shells. He was in his bed sleeping when the shells came through the walls.
· A father who at 65 years of age was shot during a raid of his house, whose son was arrested during that raid and has not been seen since (he states that his son was not a fighter.)
· A 17 year old girl who hid under her bed with her 13 year old brother during a raid of her house and witnessed her father, her cousin, and her two sisters 18 and 19 years old, all shot to death. She hid for three more days with the dead bodies of her family and then they returned and shot her and her brother after finding them under the bed. Her brother died. She survived and told me her story.
· A Family of ten who lived through all the fighting. The kids were 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 12. They were a mess. These kids will never be ok. Their faces were marked with open and oozing sores and they were exhibiting serious signs of emotional damage.
There is presently very little medical aid available to the residents and refugees, and again, no aid has been provided to the refugees in the surrounding area. The medical centers in the city have been destroyed and have not been rebuilt. The main hospital has been reopened, but to get there you have to walk, as the ambulances are still being shot by the Americans and the Iraqi National Guard. The doctors have been beaten and their lives have been threatened by the Iraqi National Guard. These are the security forces that the Americans are training. The new government has warned them not to talk to any journalists about the conditions in Falluja. They understand this threat to be very real and a direct threat on their lives and the lives of their families.
To walk to the hospital you must go through checkpoints, sometimes through fighting, and only at certain daylight hours. The checkpoints are manned by the Iraqi National Guards and they are very hostile to the residents of Falluja. When we were at the hospital, an old man died of a heart attack because he was not allowed through the checkpoint. A woman gave birth in the ambulance because they would not let the ambulance back to the hospital after 5 pm and instead turned it away with her in labor.
We delivered by hand the medical aid provided by some of you to the hospital in Falluja. Me and one Iraqi woman, WE were the international medical aid to Falluja. We carried these boxes one at a time through the checkpoints, across the bridge and into the hospital. They would not let us drive in, we had to walk these boxes in. We did it every day for a week, one box at a time.
All of the people I talked to had messages to the American people. They said: “We did not attack you! We have done nothing to the Americans. Why have you done this to us?”
These are the people who hosted me, fed me, and worried about my safety. They took care of me and I will never forget their generosity, compassion and grace. They want peace with America and they want the fighting to stop. They feel they are the ones being attacked and that the Americans are the terrorists. They see absolutely no justification for this war and were constantly asking me to explain how the American people can support these acts against a civilian population. For the first time in my life, I was ashamed to be an American.
There are so many more stories to tell you and I will be making a film about it all. But for now, what I want you to know is that I spent two weeks in the heart of the beast. The place where our government and media said is the heart of the resistance, terrorists and Saddam Loyalists, and guess what; the place is full of people. People like you and me. Kids are everywhere. The average Fallujan family has 10 people in it. That means about 8 kids. 500,000 people in the city, you do the math. That is a lot of kids.
There are fighters in Falluja. That is a fact. But they are surrounded by some 490,000 innocent people. As a country, we have decided the damage to the innocents is worth the end result, whatever that may be. These people are being shattered by this very serious situation that they have no control over. They are the innocent victims of this war.
I cannot tell you what to do. This is a story of just one area in Iraq. These stories are all over the area we call the Sunni Triangle. But I was there and lived with these people and they taught me about love, forgiveness, truth and compassion. They, after all that has happened to them, still have the ability to differentiate between the acts of an enemy and the people of a nation. They cry out to us to save them from the ignorance that has brought this destruction on them. They have suffered 33 times 9/11. Over 100, 000 Iraqis have died at the hands of the American invasion (note 2) and still they say that they have nothing against the American people. This is grace. I learned from these people how to find peace. By deeply listening to my “enemy” I have found that the real enemy is ignorance and fear and acting from that place of weakness.
I will never forget the people of Falluja.
Thank you for listening to them.
Back to Fallujah: Tents on rubble
Eman Ahmed KHAMMAS (March 24 2005)
Sudden closing of the roads is a big problem
We had to attend a very important meeting on reconstructing Falloja. Mohammad, of the Human Rights Organization in Falloja, told us that we have to be in Falloja Cement Factory, where the meeting is held, at 8 am. We did our best to be in time, but the high way was closed just near the cement factory, we had to go all the way back to take a side road. When we were there, the meeting was over, the head of the Reconstructing Falloja Committee, Mr. Fawzi, was leaving.
Mr. Samir, a director in the factory, volunteered to talk to us.
"Closing the roads is a big problem, soldiers close the roads at any minute, there are no signs, and people do not know which road is open and which is closed at a certain moment. They have to be very careful. We lost an employee in the factory because of this problem. Hadi Saleh Hantoosh, who was leaving the factory, did not know that the road he came on in the morning was then closed. He was shot dead by the American soldiers. An ambulance driver was also shot dead, he had an emergency case, again did not know that the road was just closed".
30.000 Completely Destroyed Buildings
Mr. Samir told us that 30.000 buildings were totally destroyed in Falloja in the October attack. The estimated funds to rebuild them are at least $500 million. The Committee was promised 20% of this amount, which is $100 million.
"How many families received the money tell now?"
"None" replied Samir" we are supposed to begin today giving people their compensations". It was March 14, more than five months after the October attack.
"What about schools, hospitals, streets and public buildings?"
"They need special projects, the money we are talking about are just for the houses"
"What about services, water, electricity, telephones, garbage…etc"
"Dr. Ni'ma Al-Jaser, of WHO was not allowed to enter the city, also Mr. Elia Tambori of the UN, was not allowed" replied Mohammad of the HRO.
Inside Falloja, life was beginning to return back. Some shops were opened, although destroyed. People were living in the rubbles. Some families were working on removing them. Some put their tents in the middle of the rubbles.
Abu Qeis is one of them. A retired man in his sixties looks after a family of 25, in Gebeil area. He has 10 sons, 3 daughters (one of them is a widow with 4 orphans, whose husband was killed in the war March 2003), his wife, his daughters in law, (one of them is again a widow with 3 orphans). When the American attack on Falloja began in October, the whole family left to Halaabsa, a town to the west of Iraq, to live in a school, Iben Roshd, with other 14 families.
When he left Falloja he locked the bathroom door of his house.
He was forced to return back to Falloja after 4 months. Iben Roshed school director told the families to leave because the school was supposed to reopen, and because the war has stopped.
When he returned to Falloja, he found that his house was completely damaged, but the bathroom door was still locked. "Obviously there was no one living in the house, there were no Mujahideen hiding, so why they destroyed it?"
Gebeil was one of Falloja areas that were totally destroyed. It looks as if an earthquake has ridden the place and leveled it to the ground. It sits on the way of one of the American troops entrances inside Falloja.
Abu Qeis believes that his house was destroyed by a tank, not by bombing. "There are no signs of explosion, all the furniture is crushed, and we are using it now as wood for the fire. We hear talks about compensations, and we are waiting". Abu Qeis puts a tent near his house rubbles, and is living with his family there. It was given by the Red Crescent.
Abu Qeis pension is 100.000 Iraqi Dinar ($75). He receives the pension every three months. "I am called the Responsible of the Widows" he laughs showing broken teeth. There were too many widows in the tent, cousins and nieces. Each was very eager to talk, each with a story and a problem. The major one was a roof to live under, and medicines.
We heard about the same problem in Amiriya complex, 25 kilometers west of Falloja. In the Complex Local Council hall there were 5 families, living in separated tents. Two babies were just born in the camp. The families were told to leave the hall or else they are going to be arrested.
"What are you going to do now?" I asked the men.
"Run away, we can do nothing else. We have no money to rebuild our completely destroyed houses, they are not convenient to live in at all, and we do not want to be arrested" said Nadim, who spent 9 years in Iran as POW.
In Ibn Al-Nadim School for boys in the same complex, 40 families were still occupying the class rooms. A British charity organization (built) tent class rooms in the yard for the boys to attend classes. There was a big sign in English referring to the Charity org. There were at least a dozen of class tents in the yard. Mrs. Mariam, the assistant director, was furious
"We can not go on like this, the world has to see this tragedy, we are drowned in the dust here, the children are getting sick, we do not give them breaks because it is unhealthy to play in this dust, and also we have to close early because there is a girls school after the boys, and I do not know why they put the sign in English, our language is Arabic, do they want to humiliate us or just to show of".
Mariam's son does not attend school either. He is a student in another school, Al-Faris Al-Arabi High School in the same complex. But the school is occupied by the American troops, who invaded it one night and in the morning they turned it into a military base.
Working like Bees
A Sheikh in Jolan Mosque told us that Fallojans are working like bees, rebuilding their houses, without waiting for the promised compensations.
At the beginning they refused to live in Falloja, seeing all the destruction. His wife slapped her face and cried bitterly when she first saw her ruined house. Now she is living among the rubbles. But the Sheikh insists that before talking about rebuilding we have to ask why? Why children were torn apart, why women were exposed to killing and humiliation?
"Now it is us who are asking for Al- Zarqawi? Where is he? Our city, our history, our documents, our libraries are all erased; we want to know why is that? We told them there is no Zarqawi here, we are not responsible for terrorism, and we did not open the borders? They are responsible for that, why is it that American can not control the borders?"
Ismael, a friend of the Sheikh was even angrier. His house was occupied by the American soldier, they ruined the house. But that was not the reason why he was so angry. "They put human waste on the Holy Qur'aan. I did my best to clean it, but could not, it was too late".
Occupying houses in Falloja by the American troops, using them as offices or lodgings, or just using them temporarily is familiar. Abu Mohammad, who has a big new house, looking on the river, told us his story.
"They came at 2 am one night, told me to leave with my family. I asked them where to go at this hour; they said it is your problem. They stayed in the house for 3 days. After they left, we used a whole box of detergents to clean. They used the curtains to wipe their boots, they put human waste in the pots, and boots traces were every where on the newly painted walls. They took an old pistol that I inherited from my grandfather. I went to their base four times asking for it, but it is gone. Next time they came, they did not tell us to leave. They told us to remain in one room. It was very difficult. They gave us 15 minutes to prepare the bread; it normally takes at least one hour. Bathroom was the most difficult, you cant imagine with all the women and children"
When we visited the Al-Mostafa Mosque refugee camp in Baghdad university (where 175 families were living) last month, the Sheikh told us that the refugees organized a demonstration protesting their inhuman conditions and asking for compensation and for international organizations to visit Falloja and see for themselves what happened. They did not get any reply.
But many families had to go back looking for the missing ones. Um Ahmad, 35, was looking for her son, Ahmad who decided to stay with his friends when the family left. He was calling them every day, sometimes asking how to cook a certain dish…then he disappeared. They checked in all the probable places, morgues, but there is no trace of him.
Um Omar, 51, is asking about her son, Iziddeen, who is missing since November.
Ahmad Ramzi, 10, is asking about his father who was supposed to be arrested 2 days before Eid(mid October), but no trace is found of him in any prison or military base near Falloja.
In Amiriya complex refugee camp, Abdul Rahman was asking about his mentally retarded brother, Khidhr Ali Abdulla, 25, who is missing for 5 months.
The problem with all these families and many others is that they do not know what to do, where to go, and whom to ask about the missing. I suggested that they look in lists of bodies evacuated more than a month after Falloja was attacked. Some of these bodies were decomposed beyond recognition, but it is a place where they can look for their beloved ones
All foto's: Eman Ahmed Khammas
Hafidh al-Dulaimi, the head of “the Commission for the Compensation of Fallujah citizens” has reported
the following destruction that has been inflicted on Fallujah as a result of the American attack on it:
and what will their faces tell them
when they look in the mirror
when they look on their dressers
and see the pieces of metal
they were given for killing us
in our own homes, in own cities, in
our own mosques and churches,
what will their eyes say,
what will they say when their twisted
lies are uncovered, when the rest of the
world speaks of their massacres of
women and children, of old men, of
(excerpt from This Night in Fallujah by Sam Hamod (2004)
In late 2001 I received an
invitation from a geographer at
Anti-globalisation, and War, to be held in
It was no such event. Populated by senior US Marine Corps, Israeli Defense Force, and British Army specialists and commanders in `urban warfare', and by representatives from the likes of the RAND military think tank, the conference, we quickly realised, was one of an ongoing series where practitioners of state urban warfare exchanged practical tips on fighting wars and on counterinsurgency operations in cities. Once the initial shock of being catapulted into a dark world of `urban research' that we never in our wildest nightmares imagined existed wore off, Simon and I retreated to a nearby bar for a long discussion about what to do. Fairly na|« vely, in retrospect, we were revolted and angry to discover that urban state killing had been elevated to a technoscientific discipline with its own conference series, research centres, and journals. We were sickened by the euphemistic and obfuscatory language where every discursive trick was employed not to call a killing `a killing'.We were amazed to discover that US, Israeli, and British `experts' in this emerging field of urban warfare were such close friends that they seemed to constitute a transnational social body, orchestrating the intense exchange of technology, experience, training, and experience between the three nations.We were nauseated at the bellicose technophiliac masculinities, where systematic repression and state killing were portrayed in glossy PowerPoint slides with a palpable sense of fascination, even excitement. Finally, the fact that the organisers of the event were geographers astonished us.
After considerable deliberation we decided to stay on to the end of the event, conscious that this dark world of urban research was virtually unknown in critical social science (at least as far as we knew). It was better to stay, and record everything we could, we thought, than to make some political statement by leaving halfway through.
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2005, volume 23, pages 1 ^ 10
The construction of urban warfare
In the years since, that week has constantly haunted me. My personal research agenda radically transformed, I have since tried to help expose the dark, obscured terrains where states systematically practice, hone, and exchange their skills in city killing, and killing in cities. Meanwhile, the murderous effects of Arial Sharon's incursions into the Occupied Territories and of George Bush's `war on terror' invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have provided a continuous stream of gory evidence of the importance of emerging doctrines of urban warfare (see Graham, 2003; 2004a; 2004b; 2004c). Strikingly, the tricks of the trade of such warfare have, since 2001, quickly morphed to once again become central platforms of state geopolitical power. Fueled by a paranoid sense
that global urbanisation is somehow working to undermine the technoscientific, disciplinary, and killing abilities of imperial nation-states, military urban specialists, such as those who attended the Haifa event, are helping to rethink radically how the United States, the other Western powers, and Israel wage war.
The symptoms and results of such a transformation are now all too clear. In fact, they are difficult to escape. There are the demonisation and the calls to annihilate cities that symbolise resistance to colonial power; the masking of atrocities through an all-encompassing `terrorist' discourse; and the Orientalist `Othering' of Arab urban places and their inhabitants. Then there are the assaults on dense cities with helicopter gunships, cluster bombs, and artillery; the `psychological operations' that involve the bombing and targeting of journalists who have the temerity to show the resulting carnage on the ground; and the voyeuristic consumption of city-killing for pleasure and entertainment in news, films, novels, and video games (some produced by the militaries themselves). Finally, there are the political calls to destroy, `cleanse', or `pacify' aberrant, dehumanised `terrorist nest' cities, the inhabitants of which, it is endlessly implied, might easily project unimaginable terror ontoWestern cities if not annihilated.
All these are elements in
the call to legitimise, celebrate, be entertained by, even consume orgies of state terror.
Fallujah: atrocity invisible
In Iraq it has been estimated, in a Lancet article, that at least 100 000 people died prematurely in the US ^UK invasion between March 2003 and September 2004, mostly through the effects of aerial bombing, helicopter gunships, rockets, and the urban insurgency (Roberts et al, 2004). More than 50% of the deaths recorded in this study were of women and children.
Tellingly, one Iraqi city was systematically excluded from this research because the death rates revealed by the adopted methodology were considered so high by the research team that they would unreasonably skew the overall national results, so radically increasing the above estimate still further. This is the city that, after Jenin in 2002, has now come to symbolise the attempted killing of a city, or `urbicide', by the massive high-tech forces of imperial nation-states in our `colonial present' (Gregory, 2004a).
This city, of course, is
Fallujah, a largely Sunni and densely populated city with a population of 300 000 people, situated 50 km to
the west of
The US forces' first
attempt to `pacify' the city began between the 4 April and
By then at least 600 (and possibly up to 880) Iraqis lay dead. Over 1500 were seriously wounded. There were 60 000 refugees who had been forced from their homes. Also, 10 marines had been killed (Wilding, 2004). On 14 April Iraqi medical staff working for the Medecins sans Frontiè res NGO who had entered Fallujah on 10 April on a bus filled with medical equipment spoke of the casualties that they found in the city on their arrival. By Sunday 11 April an audit of all hospitals treating casualties from the assault revealed that, of the 518 confirmed dead by that date, at least 157 were women and 146 were children. Of the dead children, 100 were under the age of 12. And 1200 wounded people had also been admitted (Ekklesia, 2004). Dr Abed Al-llah, a representative of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, reported after visiting the city on 13 April that ``about 350 out of the 600 dead were women and children. Many died from simple wounds and could have been saved if they had had medical attention'' (quoted in Cockburn, 2004).
After the temporary
withdrawal of US forces, the lack of control of the
With Bush reelected, a much
more massive, and even more violent, second assault on Fallujah was launched in early November 2004.
Deliberately bombing the Nazzal hospital firstöpresumably to reduce the chances of casualty images and
figures leaking out to the outside world this timeöthis assault seems likely, at the time of writing (
It is clear that the newly
reelected Bush regime, emboldened by the electoral victory, was keen to unleash its deepest fantasies of
place annihilation in the second Fallujah assault. Simply irritated that the population of an entire city,
grieving and enraged after the carnage of the first assault, could sit outside its dreams of `Full Spectrum
Dominance', the Bush regime singled out Fallujah and its citizens for special attention. As Robin Cook,
Blair's ex-foreign secretary, commented, Paul Wolfowitz, in particular, was ``furious [in spring 2004] when
the outcry among both Sunnis and Shias obliged the Marine corps to abandon its siege'' (2004, page 28). US
forces, meanwhile, entertained fantasies of some final military assault on Fallujah that would be their
biggest `urban operation' since they invaded
In this second assault, indiscriminate artillery barrages were employed. British forces were moved north to help lay siege to the city. Once the barriers were in place, all men of `military age' were prevented from leaving the city. Water and power were switched off. Mass demolitions were employed. Dozens of mosques were occupied or bombed. Humanitarian aid convoys and non-`embedded' independent journalists were prevented from entering the city. Above all, over 12 000 marines were systematically trained to employ new rules of engagement. ``Shoot everything that moves and everything that doesn't move'', instructed one marine commander in the runup to the assault (Al-Jazeera, 2004). Marines were told that they should shoot dead any male on the street between the ages of 15 and 50öeven if they were unarmed if they could in any way be viewed as a `security threat'.When marines asked a gunnery sergeant for clarification on this policy, he told his men that if they saw `military-age' men on the street that they should `drop 'em' (Al-Jazeera, 2004). This policy was captured on film when an embedded TV reporter filmed the routine killing of injured fighters in the city.
Both assaults on Fallujah
were legitimised by powerful propaganda campaigns, by US state public-relations operations and mainstream
In making sense of the Fallujah atrocities, three points deserve special emphasis.
First, the Fallujah
assaults, and the
Central here is the
principle of the absolute eternality of the `terrorist' the inviolable inhumanity and shadowy, monster-like
status of those deemed to be actual or dormant `terrorists' or of those deemed to be sympathetic to them.
Crucially, any act of resistance to
`Terrorist' discourses do
much to shield the realities of
``relatives of Ateka Abdel
Hamid, 24, did not know that this seven-month pregnant woman was a terrorist until the day she died. As the
family collected the mutilated bodies of Ateka and her family, a
Legitimations of the assaults on Fallujah, and other Iraqi cities, have also relied on Orientalist tropes and cliche¨ s (see Tuastad, 2003). These emphasise the supposed impenetrability and structurelessness of Islamic cities and the purported irrationality, backwardness, and infantile nature of their inhabitants. Closely leavened here also are heavy doses of dehumanising racism and Islamophobia. All this, of course, is constructed in a complex binary system where the Orientalised, barbarian, terroristic Other is opposed to the legitimate, rational, technologised mastery of `Western civilisation', which has the mandate to possess and direct the `Orient', colonially, from afar (Said, 1978).
Like Palestinian civilians in Israeli military discourse, then, US depictions of Iraqi civilians construct them ``essentially, as evil children who have to be brought back to an honest life by stern discipline and punishment'' (Zí iz ek, 2002). As Edward Said stressed just before his death, ``without a well-organised sense that these people over there were not like `us' and didn't appreciate `our' valuesöthe very core of the Orientalist dogmaöthere would have been no war'' in Iraq (2003, pages x ^ xxiii).
Such a blend of Orientalism, dehumanisation, Islamophobia, and `terrorist' Othering does the (geo)political work of casting out Islamic citiesöand their inhabitantsöfrom any notion of `civilisation'. From Samuel Huntingdon's binaries of a `clash of civilisations' (1996), to a widespread demonisation of entire Islamic cities as `terrorist' or barbarian `nests' amongst US military and political leaders and mainstream media, such discourses directly legitimise the use of massive, indiscriminate force by US forces in Islamic cities.
`Kill faster!' Constructing Islamic cities as military targets
The discursive roots of the
The US Armyöwhich now
brands itself as ``the world's premier land force'' (see, for example, West and Reimer, 1997)öworks hard
and at many levels to demonise Islamic urbanism per se. Now one of the world's biggest developers of video
games, it gives games such as America's Armyöwith its simulations of `counterterror' warfare in densely
packed Islamic cities in a fictional country of `Zekistan'öto millions over the Internet for free. `The
To parallel such virtual, voyeuristic Otheringöthe mass, racist construction of (virtual) bodies for potential and actual US military recruits to kill routinely for entertainment US forces have constructed their own `shadow' urban system: a chain of 60 mock `Islamic' urban districts, built across the world since 9/11, and designed purely to hone the skills of US forces in fighting and killing in `urbanised terrain'. Taking 18 months to construct, these simulated `cities' are then endlessly destroyed and remade in practice assaults that hone the US forces for the `real thing' in sieges such as tose in Fallujah (Davis, 2004).
Replete with minarets, pyrotechnic systems, loop tapes with calls to prayer, donkeys, and hired `civilians' in Islamic dress wandering through narrow streets, and olfactory machines to create the smell of rotting corpses, this shadow urban system works like some bastard child of Disney. It simulates, of course, not the complex cultural, social, or physical realities of Middle Eastern urbanism, but the imaginative geographies of the military and theme-park designers who are brought in to design and construct it.
All this furthers the deep discursive equivalence that is constructed between Islamic urban places and `terrorist-nest' war zones to be assaulted and `cleansed'.
Military commanders often
compare the various facilities as though comparing cities as holiday destinations. ``The advantage of [the
training complex at] George Air Force Base'', reflected Colonel James Cashwell in March 2003, ``is that it
is ugly, torn up, all the windows are broken and trees have fallen down in the street. It's perfect for the
replication of a war-torn city'' (quoted in
Finally, the US military's demonisation of Islamic (and other global South) cities per se is accomplished through the combined vitriol of a whole legion of US military `commentators' who enjoy huge coverage, exposure, and influence in the US media.
Taking advantage of the
traditional reticence of US forces to engage in urban warfare, these commentators endlessly discuss what is
known in the jargon as `Military Operations on Urbanised Terrain' (or `MOUT'). MOUT discourses and
representations serve to construct Islamic urbanism as little more than a combat site, a killing zone which
Crucially, here, the
purportedly irrational, structureless, and impenetrable spaces of Casbahs and medinas are cast as little
more than the results of deliberate strategies to interrupt the high-tech killing power of US forces: the
only remaining shelters from the verticalised, orbital targeting that sustains
One of the most influential
sources of these discursive appeals to the Islamic city-as-target is Ralph Peters, a retired
``Boom cities pay for failed states'', he writes, ``post-modern dispersed cities pay for failed states, and failed cities turn into killing grounds and reservoirs for humanity's surplus and discards (guess where we [the US military] will fight)'' (Peters, 1996, page 2).
And yet even the savagery
of the first
Nearly a month later,
Peters concluded that a military, technological solution was available to
``This is the new reality
of combat'', he wrote, ``Not only in
Arguing that the presence
of ``global media'' meant that ``a bonanza of terrorists and insurgents'' were allowed to `escape'
The second Fallujah assault
was certainly planned to maximise the speed, and scale, of the killing of `insurgents'. ``By quitting in
April, we created the terrorist city-state of Fallujah'', Peters argued. ``Now we need to shut it down for
good'' (2004d). Discussing the high `kill number' on Murdoch's Fox News, he argued that ``the best outcome,
frankly, is that [the insurgents are] all killed''. He was proud that ``the proportion of killed to
prisoners is extraordinarily high and that is good news because, at the end of the day, this is about
taking Fallujah. You kill enough of the right people and you make the problem a lot smaller'' (quoted by
News Hounds, 2004). ``Even if Fallujah has to go the way of
Casting out Islamic cities
The third and final point to stress is that the tightly coupled projects of dehumanising the people living in Islamic cities and demonising such cities so that they can be constructed as little more than spaces to absorb US military firepower together work to produce a third discursive trick. In this construction of people as inhuman `terrorist' barbarians understanding little but force, and urban places as animalistic labyrinths or `nests' demanding massive military assault, Islamic cities, and their inhabitants, are, in turn, cast out beyond any philosophical, legal, or humanitarian definitions of humankind or civilisation' (Gregory, 2004a, pages 63 ^ 67). Civilian inhabitants of cities such as Fallujah are thus denied the protection of international law. Their piling-up bodies remain unworthy, largely invisible, unrecorded, and uncounted. And their deaths are rendered of no account. Like the inmates of Abu Ghraib, Basra Airbase, or Guanta namo Bay (Gregory, 2004c), such dying civilians and resistance fighters become examples of Agamben's homo sacer (sacred man) or `bare life mere zoological organisms to be targeted through force and disciplinary measures, who are completely devoid of political or human rights (Agamben, 1998). Derek Gregory has termed such people ``the half-human detritus of Bush's Holy War'' (Gregory, 2004b).
Here a final perverse twist
emerges in the massive discursive work being done to construct Iraqi civilians and the cities in which they
live as targets for the
Perversely, then, in places such as Fallujah, the violence of the `war on terror' occurring as it does after the massive modernisation brought by the 1991 war and 12 years of sanctionsöproduces exactly what the above discourses depict: an urban world ``outside of the modern, figuratively as well as physically'' (Gregory, 2003, page 313). As the despair amongst those unlucky enough to be in the way of the hate-filled violence of US forces pushes them to support their own violent resistance, so the self-fulfilling cycles of the `war on terror' take another bloody turn. For, as Joseba Zulaika argues: ``the ultimate catastrophe is that such a categorically ill-defined, perpetually deferred, simple minded Good-versus-Evil war [`against terror'] echoes and re-creates the very absolutist mentality and exceptionalist tactics of the insurgent terrorists. By formally adopting the terrorists' own gameöone that by definition lacks rules of engagement, definite endings, clear alignments between enemies and friends, or formal arrangements of any sort, military, political, legal, or ethical the inevitable danger lies in reproducing it endlessly (2003, page 198).
Acknowledgements. Thanks to the British Academy without whose support this research would not have been possible.
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ß 2005 a Pion publication
BRussells Tribunal (March 30 2005)
The ongoing tragedy of the people of Fallujah after the US assault is not well known to the Western audiences. Non-embedded journalists are being prevented to do their job and to report about the devastations of the city. Fallujah is the Guernica of modern times. A disgrace for the human race, US democracy in action.
Today we received the following letter:
Please have a look at the following pictures included with the letter. And this is only one family's tragedy:
Name of writer withheld for security reasons
April 14, 2005,
excerpt: "yes, they were Marines. People say that they are called Group 27, the dirty squad. They wear black glasses, they were not very tall, but big, very strong and well built. They were very heavily armed, more than usual soldiers, much ammunition, even with a portable ejector on their backs. There was a small drawing on their chest, a sign. I can not remember it. I remember the leader very well; he had green eyes, not very tall."
Tarmiya is a small town about 60
kilometers north of Baghdad, on the west bank of the Tigres, well known for its beautiful landscapes,
peaceful and hospitable people, and the Karkh water project which supplies Baghdad with drinking water. For
the last two years it was rarely in the news. But a horrible story of three young men slaughtered took us
Four American check points, with tens of soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles, very detailed search of cars and people, a totally damaged high school of industry, a graveyard of agricultural vehicles, and the whole tense atmosphere on the way , say that Tarmiya is no longer the peaceful town we know. Inside the town, however, there were no American soldiers that day. The police station was a military fortress, covered with bullet shots, surrounded with sand bags and barbed wires. No police men to be seen. No glass on the windows, only sand bags. On the walls writings glorify the resistance and condemn spies.
Tarmiya is no more than just one main street, with many side roads, and one central market place, and of course the water project complex.
We have nothing to be afraid of
N, the man we went all the way from Baghdad to see, refused to talk to us, and for good reason. His life is at risk. But he found it too cruel to send us away. "God is the protector" he said, deciding to tell us his story.
N is in his mid twenties, a father of two children. He is a worker in a poultry farm. There was a deep wound on his neck from ear to ear, with stitches on both sides.
_" what happened to your neck?" I asked.
One afternoon, two months ago, he had to hurry back to work after some gusts delayed him at home. When he reached the farm, his friend B. who was eating his lunch, asked:" why did you come, the American are every where surrounding the orchards?"
"I did not see any" N replied, "but any way we have nothing to be afraid of, they can come, ask, search, whatever, we have nothing to hide". N went out to see. The armored vehicles were surrounding the farm. When they saw him, they pointed the guns towards him. He did not move. He knew that any movement could get him killed. There were more than ten foot soldiers too.
"They ordered us to put our hands up. We did. They ordered us to go inside the farm. 6 of them came in, all in black eye glasses, very well built. One was rather tall and fat, took off his glasses and threw them in my face. I did not move, did not put my hands down. I heard them searching the farm, breaking things. One of them who was holding a big machine gun(Iraqis call it a PKT), asked if there were any weapons? I said no. He went in and came back again, and again asked where are the weapons, I told him we have no weapons. He hit me by the gun end on my left cheek, then opened my mouth and put the gun in it. Then he began hitting me on my chest, saying there are weapons in the farm. I told him he can take the chickens out and search the place. He became mad and hit me again very strongly. Then he pulled me very near to his face, and kept looking in my eyes. I looked in his. After a long while, he smiled and shook his head.
"You are good and strong" he said. You are the one who put the blasting package on the way"
"No, I am just a worker here" I replied.
From Ear to Ear
They were taking a shooting position all the time. Now, they pulled back and said bye, bye, taking out their bayonets and rubbing them on their hands. The group leader went to the vehicle and came back and told the others to bring us.
was a head of me, and the gun was in my back. A soldier said Ali Baba, I said no. They took us inside the
orchard, they were looking for something. I realized later that they were looking for a dark and hidden
place. The thicket was perfect with the vinery and the banana trees. They made us sit with our backs to each
other. The group leader stood beside me, and the fat one beside B. He fixed my hands back on the ground by
his boot. All the others took a shooting position. He caught my neck. I realized that they are going to kill
us. With one hand he pulled back my head clutching my hair. I saw the bayonet in the other hand going down
on my neck. He put it here".
-He is in jail, and the American woman soldier did not allow me to
get his signature on the authorization. Every time I go to Um Qasr (Bucca Prison) I spend more than 150.000
($100), and I am tired of this.
K's brother said we ask for justice. We demand the right of our brothers. Why N, B and K are killed in this ugly way, what did they do? What is their guilt, just poor workers…
- " How do you ask?"
- "I complained in the police station , who sent me to the judge , the judge sent me to the compensation committees….I do not know where to go now, I do not know them.
I have all the documents here. I want to go to some one who listens, and try to do us some justice.
K's widow says that she depends on God to help her in bringing up her children, and to avenge her husband against the Americans. She is a house wife, has no income at all. She is counting on her family and her mother in law in supporting her. A sad look of loss and helplessness overwhelm her big black eyes. She is in her late twenties. A girl baby of one year was sucking her breast.
The prisoner's wife decided to take all the children out of school; she can not afford the expenses. But the children know and understand. The main problem for them is the transportation. The school is too far to go on foot. They have to go by car, which they can not afford. But women problems are bigger here for different reasons.
To be continued...
Dénonciation du « Tribunal de Bruxelles » (ex-Russell) pour les crimes de guerre en Irak. Un mystérieux « groupe 27 » de marines aurait égorgé deux paysans et mis le feu aux palmeraies du village de Tarmiya. Témoignages des survivants recueillis sur vidéo par un journaliste irakien courageux.
Une mystérieuse équipe spéciale de marines, appelée par les gens de la région « groupe 27 », véritable escadron de la mort dont les membres porteraient sur la poitrine un tatouage particulier, aurait opéré il y a quelques semaines dans la zone de Tarmyia, à soixante kilomètres au nord de Bagdad, en égorgeant deux paysans suspectés d’aider la résistance locale, et en mettant le feu à la ferme où ils travaillaient et aux palmeraies à l’entour. Ce sont les habitants du village qui l’ont affirmé devant la télé caméra d’un journaliste irakien ; parmi eux un ouvrier agricole survivant du massacre, parce qu’on l’a cru mort, et la famille d’une autre victime. Depuis des mois, depuis que, l’été dernier, le nouvel ambassadeur Us Negroponte s’est installé à Bagdad, on parle en Irak d’une « option Salvador » pour écraser la résistance irakienne, et de l’utilisation de véritables escadrons de la mort et d’une totale immunité pour les soldats Us quand ils tuent, volent, torturent, violent. Il n’y a quasiment jamais de témoins et les victimes tenaillées par la terreur, n’osent même pas dénoncer les violences subies. Ceux qui le font après être sorti de prison, comme la femme d’affaires Huda Hafez al Azawi, emprisonnée à Abou Ghraib de décembre 2003 à juillet 2004, sont arrêtés à nouveau et on ne sait plus rien d’eux. C’est pour cette raison que le témoignage sur l’escadron de la mort de Tarmyia est un rayon de lumière sur les horreurs d’une guerre d’occupation sans témoins. L’identité du journaliste irakien comme celle du survivant et des autres témoins, pour des raisons évidentes de sécurité, ont été gardées secrètes mais déposées auprès du Tribunal de Bruxelles, héritier du fameux « tribunal Russel », à l’époque de la guerre au Vietnam. Les faits qui sont l’objet de cette retentissante déclaration ont eu pour protagonistes trois ouvriers agricoles employés dans un élevage de poulets. L’un d’eux est justement le témoin survivant. Environ 25 ans, deux enfants, cet ouvrier, que nous appellerons Omar, travaillait ce jour là dans la ferme quand il vit arriver une dizaine de soldats, tous avec des lunettes noires, « beaucoup plus armés que ceux qu’on voit d’habitude». Un des marines le frappe tout de suite au visage avec la crosse d’une mitrailleuse portative, puis sur la poitrine et à l’estomac en lui criant d’avouer s’il y avait des armes dans la ferme. Omar crie : « Sortez les poulets et regardez. Ici, il n’y a jamais eu d’armes ».
Le marine lui répond en souriant « Tu es fort, je suis sûr que c’est toi qui pose des bombes sur la route ». Puis les soldats sortent leurs baïonnettes et commencent à les passer sur leurs mains. Le commandant leur donne l’ordre d’emmener Omar et un de ses compagnons, que nous appellerons Saad, dans une palmeraie très dense, à côté de la serre. Là, à l’abri des regards indiscrets, le chef du peloton « massif, pas très grand, avec des yeux verts et un tatouage sur le torse » s’agenouille à côté de Omar, assis par terre, et un autre marine, plus corpulent encore, à côté de son camarade. « A ce moment là » déclare Omar « j’ai compris qu’ils allaient nous tuer. Le chef des marines m’a attrapé par les cheveux, d’une main, en me tirant la tête en arrière. J’ai vu la baïonnette aller sur mon cou et me couper la gorge de l’oreille gauche jusqu’à la droite. J’ai senti une immense douleur, je me suis retourné et j’ai essayé d’arrêter le sang avec mes mains ». Puis Omar voit son ami mourir : « Le gros a mis sa baïonnette devant la gorge de (Saad) et lui a tranchée. Ensuite il lui a mis son brodequin derrière la nuque et en lui tirant la tête en arrière de toutes ses forces il lui a cassé le cou. Le pauvre est mort tout de suite ». Omar est par terre, à moitié évanoui, saignant, quand le commandant appuie sa chaussure sur sa gorge coupée pour l’étouffer, et l’autre soldat lui donne un autre coup de baïonnette sur le flanc droit. Les marines, à ce moment là, sûrs que tous les deux étaient morts, jettent les corps dans les eaux basses du fleuve et mettent le feu à la palmeraie et aux champs des alentours. Omar, qui est revenu à lui au contact de l’eau, réussit à remonter sur la rive et c’est là qu’il est trouvé, et sauvé par le propriétaire de la ferme accouru avec quelques policiers locaux pour éteindre l’incendie. Emmené à Bagdad, l’ouvrier a réussi à être sauvé même s’il reste pour le moment à moitié paralysé. Omar n’arrive pas à trouver une explication à ce qui est arrivé et à la férocité de ses bourreaux : « Je ne sais pas pourquoi ils nous ont fait ça. Je ne sais pas s’il y avait eu une attaque contre eux mais en tout cas pas dans nos parages. Et puis je ne comprends pas pourquoi, peu après, ils sont revenus pour mutiler nos corps. Evidemment le mien ils ne l’ont pas trouvé et ils se sont acharnés sur celui de mon collègue. Ils ont pris son cadavre et ils lui ont arraché les yeux, massacré le visage et le menton. Nous, nous ne sommes que des travailleurs, que leur avons-nous fait ? » Après, essayant de trouver quelque explication, Omar déclare : « Peut-être qu’ils voulaient accuser quelqu’un d’autre de nous avoir égorgé, peut-être qu’ils voulaient nous terroriser en envoyant un message à tout le village, peut-être qu’ils voulaient nous montrer leur force. Peut-être qu’il s’agissait d’une punition collective. Ils sont restés dans les palmeraies pendant six jours et personne n’a pu s’approcher ». Avant de finir son interview, le paysan irakien parle ensuite d’un autre épisode, terrible dans sa brutalité, qui aurait eu comme protagonistes les marines du « groupe 27 » : « Nous avons été les premiers mais peut-être pas les derniers à subir ce traitement. J’ai entendu parler ici, dans le village, de deux jeunes conducteurs tués et mutilés sur la route principale. Un des deux a été écartelé et ils lui ont mis ses intestins autour du cou. L’autre, ils lui ont arraché le cœur et ils le lui ont mis sur le dos ». Tout cela naturellement « dans le respect des « règles d’engagement ».
Edition de dimanche 17 avril 2005 de il manifesto,
Traduit de l’italien par marie-ange patrizio
 Stefano Chiarini a été le correspondant de il manifesto en Irak, en même temps que Giuliana Sgrena ; il a quitté le pays récemment, à la demande du journal et après avoir été menacé. Il est aussi secrétaire du Comité "Justice for the victims of the Sabra and Chatila massacre".
Tarmiya: The Silent Agony II
Name of writer withheld for security reasons
April 26, 2005
One of the saddest parts of the agony is the helpless women the men leave behind. The three women in K's house, we wrote about weeks ago, were one example. Sana and Afrah were other different examples. Two young women, with two different stories, but the silent agony is the same. Tarmiya, like almost all of the Iraqi rural areas, is a very conservative town. Women rarely go out to work, may be only as teachers in girls' schools, that is all. It is a shame on men in the family, the tribe, even the neighborhood, if a woman relative has to follow a case, or some business, definitely not at the gate of an American military base. This is the utmost humiliation they can imagine. "If I had to choose between execution and my wife coming to ask about me in an American prison, I would choose death" one of them told me.
Sana is a wife of a mentally ill man, Jasim. People in Tarmiya call him (Jasim the crazy).He was dismissed from the Iraqi army 15 years ago. Sana showed me a thick dossier of medical reports, doctors' receipts, medicines …etc saying that Jasim suffers from chronicle melancholy, personality disturbances and impotence. Jasim was arrested by the American troops 9 months ago; he is in Bucca prison, number xxxxxx. He was watching a football game in his house when they raided it and took him on June 28, 2004. His father, who was very worried about his sons' safety inside the prison, complained to the troops trying to explain that he was ill, but it was useless. Sana finds it too cruel to say that her husband is crazy, "he has some psychological problems "she insists." I wish I know why they took him, they searched the house and did not find anything, he does not leave the house at all, all the time sleeping"
-"how do you live now?"
-"my family supports me. The American took all Jasim' documents, I can not get his pension now, and the monthly food ration was cut too."
-"why do not you go and ask for the documents?"
-" I can not, I am afraid of the American"
Sana is heavily covered with a black hijab, with veil and gloves. "If she goes like this, they would shot her form a long distance", one man explained.
Sana and her younger sister Afrah are married to two brothers, Jasim and…. When Jasim was arrested, his brother brought his family to live with Sana.
Afrah husband is a taxi driver, he goes every day in the morning to Baghdad, to the Kadhymiya hospital, and waits there for ill people or families to bring them back to Tarmiya. On October 2, 2004, he left at 7 in the morning as usual and never returned back. The father asked every where, the American bases, the Iraqi police stations, they announced him missing in the newspapers, but there is no news of him ( The Islamic Party printed out a list of 1181 men missing ,they were arrested but have no numbers in the prisons lists). Even the car is gone… was a soldier and he lost his job when the Iraqi army was dissolved. He used to receive 225 Iraqi dinars ($150) each three months. Now, after his disappearance the family does not have any income
Afrah has three children, a girl and two boys. The oldest boy is 6 years.
-" How do you live now?"
-"My family supports me. The pension is cut; I am working on getting a document saying that I am supporting my kids now, so that I can get the pension. But it is too expensive; you know the lawyers, transportation, and other thing. People say that there are many missing in Al-Taji military base, that they do not have numbers, and we are trying now to ask there, but no success yet".
On our way to Tarmiya, we saw the Taji American military base. Before the invasion, it was the second biggest military barracks in Iraq. Now, on the very long base fence , there were many signs, may be one each 10 meters, saying this is a military area, authorized to shoot , do not come near". The gate was heavily guarded by tanks, armored vehicles, blocks, and many soldiers. There were many Iraqi men, may be hundreds waiting at a distance of the gate.
The Water Project
The Karkh water project is one of the most important water projects in Iraq. It supplies the Baghdad area with 1.200.000 barrel of water daily. It has 8 separate stations, a tower of 30 meters, and 3 huge reservoirs. The people of Tarmiya know that very well, that is why they protected the project during the invasion. Many of them work in it. But in the spring of 2003, when the Iraqi government was toppled, the Tarmiya people formed teams to protect the project. They chose 3-4 armed young men from each mosque to guard it 24 hours. They had fights with looters, but they succeeded in protecting it. They also worked on keeping the water flowing to Baghdad by encouraging the employees to go to work in the project during the bombing. They collected money in the mosques to pay part of those employees' salaries. They went on that for 3 months, until there was some kind of relative stability in the country.
But the project was exposed to sabotage few months ago. One of the big pipes, which are buried 9 meters under the ground, was exploded, drowning all the farms and orchards around. During the Eid Al-Adhha, (the Sacrifice Feast) and before the January 30 elections, there was a very big water crisis in Baghdad. Media published many statements saying that the terrorists did that. Tarmiya people believe that this is not true, and that the American troops probably did that.
-" But why would the American troops do such a thing?" we asked
The Tarmiyians have little evidence of who did it, but they have evidence of who did not do it: Few months ago, papers were attached to walls asking the employees to evacuate the complex (meaning that it is going to be exploded by fighters). All the Tarmiyia mosques began calling on minarets, asking whoever is planning to attack the project not to do it, saying that such deeds have nothing to do with resistance, that this facility is the property of the Iraqi people, that no one has the right to attack it, that for humanitarian reasons, it is religiously forbidden to do such thing, and hurting the people of the beloved Baghdad…etc. After these calls, a message was sent saying that the project would not attacked, and it was not.
Later, American troops raided the place, searched it, searched the houses, and arrested the employees. The director was forced to lie on the ground, and was called Ali Baba. He felt so humiliated that he does not go to his office since then, and he works in one of the project's secondary stations. 18 workers were arrested, houses are raided, and 1.300.000 dinars were stolen during the raids. No weapons were found. Few days later, they left the project, leaving behind all their remains. The same night, the project exploded.
People say that the attack was technically too sophisticated to be done by the fighter. "We know that these fighters are not capable of more than a roadside bombed, it is impossible that they can dig 9 meters to bury explosives under the huge water pipe, especially that the American troops were there, so how was that possible?"
Tarmiyans believe that the American needed an excuse to be there to control the whole area. Now the American troops occupy the project and the tower, many check points were put and intensified.
Life is becoming very difficult especially for the farmers in this little town. They live in terror. Working in the farms and the orchards became very dangerous. Irrigation, which needs to be checked in different times during the day, especially early in the morning and night, is extremely risky. Harvest, which farmers wait for the whole year is ruined. They have to go to the farms accompanied by their families to prove that they are not fighters. Citizens have to raise their hands when they pass beside the American troops, which these citizens find very difficult and again humiliating, because Iraqis raise their hands when they salute a friend, so they consider this sign as a compulsory salute for the enemies, and they do not want to do it.
Abu Mohammad, an old man in his sixties was shot from the tower while driving his car. Sheikh J, one of the prominent old personalities in the area, and an educational inspector, was humiliatingly searched; his house was searched, his furniture broken. The American soldiers told him that they were looking for some body called Abdul Ilah, and he simply does not know such a person.
The Tarmyians agree that the American troops are attacked from their area, but that does not mean that the fighters are from the area." After they attack they move, they do not stay here" they insist. They have no right to scrooge villages. In al-Ishaqi, they were attacked, for two nights hundreds of bombs of bombs were sent to the village.
Ahmad Ismael, a father of 2 children, works as a building security (special forces created after the occupation to guard public facilities) in the water project. One afternoon he was driving in when the American troops shot him twice in the neck. "I had the car's double signal on, I was blinking with the car lights all the time, driving very slowly, but they kept on shooting until the car turned over. I was bleeding, I waved to them, they were looking at me by binoculars, but they did not move to help. I lost so much blood that I felt I was dying. I began walking towards them, putting my hand on the wound and holding my guard ID in my mouth, falling to the ground many times, when I reached them, and they saw my ID, they called a doctor, who put a pad on the wound and let me go. It took 45 minutes until the project director took me in his car to the hospital. Even then, they blocked the road and kept on asking questions"
Ahmad can not move his right hand now, one shot went out through his shoulder, and the other remained in. Ahmad's older brother was killed a year ago in the random shooting. He went out to check the water in the farm, when he got a shot in his kidney and intestine.
-Did you complain?
-"What for? Compensation? What would compensate my brother or my hand?"
-"not only compensation, this is unfair!!
-" what is fair?!"
Sunday, April 10th, 2005
I came back to Amman from the Dead Sea, where there was a conference for Iraqi women leaders held there.
Humm… I had a great curiosity to attend, to discover the dialogue, the topics that were to be discussed, concerning the future of Iraq, and the visions that could be adopted to manufacture that future…
On Friday afternoon… I went to the hotel, where I met a lot of women, who came
from many Iraqi cities; north, south and middle-region. Some I saw for the first time, but I had already
met some in Baghdad, for they worked for various women's organizations, like orphans, widow's, and
In the evening we met at the hall, after dinner, and we spoke to the program organizer, who asked us to gather and discuss the conference's arrangement for tomorrow, or to hear the delegation's comments.
Many women spoke, complaining about not being flown to Amman by plane, nor
providing security protection for the participants, and each woman mentioned her responsibilities, and how
she left her house and children to join this conference. But it seems that the conference organizers, which
is being held to train Iraqi women to become leaders, did not care for the safety of the participants, nor
offered help in that matter. Why?
They wondered, asking: Is it because of a low budget? If this was the case, why didn't they hold it inside Iraq, to reduce the expenditures? Why not in the north of Iraq, for example, where the security situation is excellent, compared to Baghdad, and other Iraqi cities? Are they afraid for the security of the American participants, providing protection to them, but do not care about the Iraqi participants, giving each $150 only, as traveling expanses, and let her go at her responsibility?
This is not fair.
Then, one of the participants from Sulaimania said: they told us that the road
to Jordan is safe, and full of American check points to protect people, but we found no one to protect us,
a car followed us, shooting at the car, because we wrote on it: The Sulaimania Delegation, I do not know,
but we made a mistake, not noticing that this might bring us danger instead of protection. I do not know
how we got here, we almost died of fright. Who shall take responsibility of what happened to us?
Another delegation said there were some bothering on the Jordanian boarders,
inquiries like a questioning; why did you come? Where are you going? What is this conference?
Some official letters were supposed to have addressed the boarders, so we would be respected, and not bothered…
We looked into each other's faces…
Then, one of the organizers interfered, (a Kurdish woman who was in the
opposition during the Saddam rule, and who lives in America now), and apologized to them, making many
excuses, but finally asked them to form a committee, to write down their problems to the conference's
She told them to address three letters; one to the Jordanian boarders,(a complaint), a second to the conference's organizers,( an other complaint), and a third to the American government. (Hummm… now I wonder if those letters were really written by the committee? where did they go? And will the American government really read this letter, and apologize to the Iraqi women? Or is it merely a new way, made up the American way, to pull out the people's anger, and laugh at them?
When I saw the head of the program, I smiled at her, and we introduced ourselves to each other, mentioning our names… I haven't met her before, (she comes from Basra, and lives now in America, that's all I knew).
The next day, on stage, the same woman came forward to read the opening speech of the conference…she was wearing an orange veil on her head… I suddenly remembered her… I remembered her colored photo in newspapers wearing the same veil, months ago from now. I turned to my colleague next to me and asked: Isn't this the same woman who read a speech in the congress, thanking Bush for liberating Iraq?
My colleague smiled and said: yes, she is the one!
Oh, my GOD! I remained stunned for some moments.........! Then I said to my
self: All right, we shall see and hear; I will not take a premature stand, nor decide negatively. I shall
be more patient and moderate. I want to see how the Iraqi women who come from America think in this phase,
and what kind of an agreement is between us and the Americans who came to lecture us? What are the common
things between us?
There is no new experiment without some useful information in the end.
We shall see what this new information is.
When they distributed the conference cases among us, with the printed program inside, along with some of the lectures that were to be read, and a biography of the participants, Iraqis, Arabs, and Americans.
I noticed that the Iraqi participants, men and women, who were included in the conference's committees, had a common quality: they were among the opposition against Saddam, they lived in America, they supported the idea of war against Iraq to topple Saddam. And now they are participating in conferences as coordinators between the American administration and the Iraqi people, meaning; salesmen to market the American ideas, and to ease the spreading of these ideas in the (New Iraq). Exactly as the Ba'athis used to do, when they took over the rule in Iraq, to spread the intellects of Saddam Hussein, and beautify his image in the minds of the miserable Iraqis…
The same game, but with different faces and names… these people live with the
mentality of: the oppressor or the oppressed… these are their positions in life, swinging between two
possibilities that have no third. While the rest of the people, (the majority), are less hypocrite, and
less opportunist from those samples.
In truth, I see these people as opportunists, who deserve no respect.
I noticed that the date was the 9th of April. I remembered Baghdad falling on this date, and my heart contracted….
I looked through the program, finding many axis around which the lectures and discussions would focus; (Principals of Democracy, Planning the constitution, federalism, Economic freedom, free Media, Free Economy, Eliminating Corruption, Democracy and Religion, and, the American Role in building Democracy in Iraq).
I found the names of the Iraqi, Arab, and American participants. There was a
delegation from the American congress, comprising men and women, some of whom are members in the Iraqi
Woman committee. (Hummm…this point drew my attention. So, there is a special committee thinking of the
During the opening session, a representative of the American Foreign office spoke, then two American women, (who work in American organizations propagating for Democracy in the world).
The first one said, in meaning: Congratulations to you, Iraqi women, for the decision of allotting 25% of the parliamentary seats and election lists to women, this was achieved by your struggle to obtain these rights…
A woman beside me commented: What struggle? The General Legation of Elections
put these points. We didn't struggle….
I laughed…smelling hypocrisy and adulation in the American woman's talk. Why is she lying to us? Explaining things the way she likes??
Hummm… to convince us we are strugglers, and she is showing us the right way. She must be enjoying this game.
And so, the second woman came along, and spoke in smooth tones, as if she was an actress on stage: My dears, close your eyes and imagine your selves in Iraq, 2020. What do you see?
The woman beside me, a Doctor from Hilla, in the south, said: Huh, I see naked,
shameless women filling the streets… ha,ha,ha.
By GOD, I never thought of that, but I turned to her, and burst into laughter.
She asked me: What is this farce? Why are they talking to us as if we were fools?
I said: She is an American, my dear. What do you expect her to say? She is from another world..........
The woman smiled, then shook her hand in a sign of amazement, wonder, and scorn at what is happening…
The second lecturer came along… he was an Arab, the head of an American university in an adjoining Arab state. His lecture was at lunch time, I wondered at that, for who would pay attention when the majority was tired, with food dishes in front of them, instead of papers and pencils.
His lecture was excellent, at the beginning he said that the general Arabic situation was deteriorated; the collective economic product of the Arabic states equals that of a small European country, like Italy, in spite of the fact that the Arab world population is more than 200 millions. He started to list the reasons, speaking of the history of dictatorship in the Arabic governments, their control of the poor Arab citizen, then the emergence of strict religious lines who control what is left of the margins of the social Arabic life. He then spoke of the existence of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is putting pressures upon the governments to become dictatorships.
By GOD, the topics in general are excellent in their appearance, then become vicious in their core, when you see what is the subject? Who is the speaker? Who are the audience?
Of course, these lectures were spoken to us in the presence of the lecturers
who came from America, with the congress delegation, as they think of themselves as the liberators of Iraq,
and will liberate the Arab Nation from all its problems, and let-downs…. The lecturer was well-cultured,
but he looked like there was a brand on his brow that says: Made in America… they wouldn't have employed
him as the head of an American university if he wasn't of the brand that was: Made in America…
How do we trust him???? This is a big point of suspicion that wouldn't let us believe in his intentions, and won't imagine them to be innocent.
As if he was saying: The solution is; topple all those governments, push the clergy out of your lives, have reconciliation with Israel…
Oh, yes, we do want to topple these rotten, tyrant governments, we do want to change the narrow minds of the clergy; we do want to solve our problems with Israel…
BUT NOT THE AMERICAN WAY. We should solve our problems the way that suits us, without the interference of America, because America is not completely innocent of the devastation that has befallen our life…
We have an Iraqi parable that describes some man: He tells the thief to go on and steel, and tells the wealth owner to beware…
And that is exactly what the imperial western countries are doing with our governments, and people… they provoke one against the other… and play the role of the adviser to each.
And in truth, they want nothing but their interests.
The lecture ended, and the discussion period started… we raised our hands to join in, and the chance was given to those seated in front. One woman stood up, with a microphone in her hand, and said: You claim to be an educated man, but all your speech was about the Arab countries, Arab governments, and the Arab League. Why don't you respect the fact that we are Kurds, and the Iraqi president is now a Kurd?
The lecturer was embarrassed, and said he was sorry, but he didn't mean it this way… and what do you suggest that we should say?
She said: say, for example, that we are Mid-Eastern countries.
The voices of women rose in the hall, some, the Kurds, approving, and some, the Arabs, in protest….
Another Kurdish woman stood up, and spoke in Kurdish, with the help of another woman, as a translator… of course she said the same speech, heatedly…
The chairwoman of the conference, (An Iraqi woman from Basra), came forwards and said: Please to end the dialogue … for the time of discussion is over, we shall meet after the recess.
Of course we were astonished…and looked at each other.
I asked the women who were beside me, from southern Iraq: What is the percentage of the Kurds in Iraq?
One said: three and a half millions.
So, we took a piece of paper and a pen, and divided 3.5 on 25. The result was less than 15%.
So, is this the New Iraq? You are not to say you are an Arab, so as not to hurt the feelings of the Kurd?
This diversity became the reason of separation, not unity.
I noticed that the tables in the conference were almost divided, on some tables sat Kurdish women, in their folklore dresses, and on some other tables sat the Arabs, from Baghdad, the south, and the Middle-region.
This was the first time I see the Iraqis like this…. Thanks to America….for
this is how she wants us to be quarreling, scattered, and far away from each other.
The lecture was to open important avenues of discussions, but for these silly comments, that reflect the ignorance, and narrow-mindedness of their speakers.
In the afternoon… we were divided into groups. Ours attended the lecture about (democracy and the Constitution). First, an Iraqi law professor, from Basra (an ex-opposition for Saddam, and a war-on- Iraq supporter) spoke, reciting to us the same old, rutting record: Saddam executed my brother, and my cousin, and lab…lab…lab. The same boring speech, that we learnt by heart, and which became an identity to a lot of hypocrites , the new climbers on the Iraqi shoulders, and those who stole and robbed what is left of the wealth of the miserable Iraq, during the last two years.
Saddam executed the relatives of most Iraqis, but this wasn't an excuse to turn into a bunch of clapping hypocrites, supporters of war and occupation.
Anyway… the law professor said that a new constitution should be written, on which people would agree, to protect their rights and possessions… and multiplicity, democracy, and human rights…etc.
The American lecturer came, focusing in his speech on the point of the necessity of separating the religion from the state, and learning from the American constitution, and the American people's experience.
Their slogan is: Live and let others live…
Oh, well, but why do they think that the Islamic slogan is: Live and do not let
We live, since thousands of years, in our countries, in peace and harmony; Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs.
Why are these strifes being roused among us?
I remembered a saying by the Prophet Mohammad (The Prayers of GOD Be upon Him, and His Peace), in meaning: "strife sleeps, accursed is that who wakes her up".
Yes, by GOD, accursed is that who opened the doors of these mean, destructive, strifes upon us.
An Iraqi woman from the south stood up, and asked the American lecturer: Why did you leave Iraq during the uprising of 1991, and didn't help the people?
He answered with the sentence that I heard from most Americans who claim sympathy with the Iraqi people: I am sorry, president Bush Senior made a mistake, and I apologize for what happened to you, but president Bush Junior took notice of the mistake, and decided to wage the war to help you and rescue you.
Hummm, by GOD, a nice, convincing answer, and very humane.
The Iraqi lecturer asked, trying to ease the embarrassment of his colleague: what is this man's fault, my daughter? Are you responsible for the behaviors of Saddam Hussein? This man is wretched; he isn't responsible for the mistakes of his government.
We looked on foolishly… this man is wretched?
What brought him here? Isn't he playing the role of the salesman, marketing the
intellects of his government?
Then the Iraqi asked the woman: Aren't you happy that Saddam was toppled?
She said: yes.
He said: that's it then, we would put our hands in the hands of the devil, to topple Saddam!
We kept staring in astonishment, by this abortive, sick logic with which he was trying to fool us.
The lecture ended, and some of the women moved on to argue with the American lecturer about the importance of religion in our life, and how separating it from the state would spread chaos and corruption in society, so the homosexuals and others like them would have rights…. We shall not agree to this, they might be human rights in your society, but in ours that would be corruption.
The women kept on arguing, he was confused, saying they were right, the
American constitution isn't the "perfect one". I could almost see hypocricy on his face, fearing them,
their questions, and criticism.
But I discovered now that in the "New Iraq", one isn't supposed to say: I am an Arab, I am a Muslim. That would be aggression, and anti-democratic.
What should one say? I am a mid-eastern??
Hummm… what does that mean? Probably nothing!
Yes, it seems that this is the point: BE NOTHING!
This is the model of democracy needed to be implemented here; erasing our
identity, and the common things between us, to become strangers from each other, and the enemies of each
On the next morning…the lecture was about democracy and the free economy… the same American lecturer, who is a scholar in an American institution, a university principle in Washington D.C., holding a Masters and PH. D. degree, and a lecturer on the subjects of Constitution, Economy, and Federalism. And with him there was the Iraqi, Kurdish woman who lives in America now, and was in the opposition against Saddam Hussein. She was holding the microphone, seeming very confident and proud, conducting the discussions with the lecturer, criticizing, interfering, and dictating her informations to us….
The man spoke about the necessity of adopting the Free Economy in Iraq for the coming phase, not giving the unbounded control of the country's wealth to the state, because then it will be rich and strong, and become a dictatorship. He said that oil is a wealth, but would be like a curse on people, if governments took hold of its investment. He said that we are supposed to forget the government in our future life, we shouldn't need it, nor expect it to clean our houses or do our laundry, for we shall be doing this ourselves… some of the women laughed, one of them asked: What is this silly talk? What government would clean houses and wash cloths?
We laughed, and Iraqi Kurd, who was the session's chairwoman shouted, asking
for quiet… then the discussions begun…
The Kurdish Iraqi woman took hold of the microphone, giving us no chance to talk, then looking around according to her mood to choose the speakers; she would almost stand on the woman's head until she would finish her question. If the question was a silly one, she would be patient, but if it was a difficult one, she would say: That's enough, time is short!
The questions begun with easy ones, then became difficult, then violent…
A woman asked: very well, we suffered from the administrational corruption in the time of Saddam, and after the war new, corrupt leaderships came, steeling a lot of the people's money. How do you demand that we hand over the income of oil to the private sector? How shall we trust their impartiality?
A second woman rose up, saying: free Economy means very rich classes, and very poor classes in the future. This is a frightening vision of Iraq, and what is going to happen.
A third woman said: where would the income of the Iraqis come from, if the
wealth was to be in the hands of private companies, and free economy? Aren't we supposed to write a new
constitution, containing good laws to protect the people, elect a good government, and divide the wealth
justly among citizens?
The Kurdish woman who was conducting the discussions said: of course you could find good income sources in a free economy, I mean you can apply for a contract from the state, and have a chance to get it, instead of someone else with connections getting it…
We shouted: this has nothing to do with free economy…this has everything to do with administrational corruption.
She seemed to become angry, so she said: all right, discussion time is over.
We shouted back, in protest. The woman beside me said: we want to finish the discussion; we want to understand why would they want the oil for their private companies? Huh… so, they are telling us; from now on, wash your hands, the oil isn't yours, so, manage your affairs without it.
How shall we live??
Shouting rose up in the hall… the lady who was conducting the discussions said:
that's enough, the time is over.
The American was staring at us, not exactly understanding what was happening…
I felt myself bursting with anger… I stood up and shouted at her: let them speak; we've heard enough from the lecturers do not make time an excuse, let us speak!
She said: whoever wants to speak further should go to him after the lecture.
I told her: we do not want individual talks with him; we want open, public, and downright talks, for everyone to hear them…
She started talking and babbling…but I went past her and looked at the lecturer, and spoke directly to him, raising my voice so he would hear me well: it is not correct that the time would be limited for us only to listen, this isn't acceptable. You should listen to us. We listened to you, and know your viewpoint, but you too should listen to us, because we, the Iraqi women, shall go back to Iraq, and not you. We shall build Iraq, not you. The future of Iraq belongs to us, not you … we didn't come here only to listen to you, we came to learn, and debate, but you won't allow us to talk… the rules and laws of the conference should be re-arranged as we want…
The shouting increased in the hall, by the angry audience…
I walked up to the lecturer and asked him: should all governments be weak and poor, to be democratic? Are all the rich governments evil, and wouldn't interfere to help their citizens? Isn't your government strong? Doesn't she support public health, education, the poor, and those in need? Why do you give us lectures about bizarre things?
He was confused, his face went red, and said: we shall talk later, I want to go, and I have another lecture…
Hummm. I left him, and moved on….
We left the hall, angry. The women went to the adjacent hall to rest, and have tea. But I went up to my room, and sat on the bed, putting my head between my hands, I thought quietly: what makes me stay, and listen to this empty talk, that burns up the nerves?? A bunch of liars, feigning their silly stories to us… and burning our nerves…
I have a TOFEL class in Amman by evening, should I stay here, or leave to attend my lesson??
Of course the lesson is more important than this crap. I packed my bags, then called the reception to send someone to bring them down, so I could catch the bus to Amman in 3o minutes. I wrote a note to my room mate, telling her that I was tired, and this is a silly, frustrating conference. I wrote another note to the conference's coordinator, in which I told her about the silly events I saw, the session's mismanagement, not allowing us to speak.
I went down to the big lobby of the hotel, and sat quietly to wait for the bus…
there was a woman in the outside walkway, strolling the line nervously, smoking …. I knew her in Baghdad. I
went out to her, and asked her what was wrong. She said her head was splitting by headache…
I told her this was easy, I too had a headache, perhaps from exhaustion…
She said: no, not exhaustion, but from feelings of anger and repression.
I said: why? What happened to your group?
She said: the lecturer is talking about federalism, he says Iraq must be divided to provinces, each is separate, rules it self, and has independent resources.
What is this? They will destroy Iraq, and its unity??
I want to cry, I will burst from anger… she said.
I looked at her and said: do not cry my dear, and do not burst. Go to the hall,
and yell in their faces, like we did in our hall. And tell them that we do not want to hear your poisonous
She asked: what are they doing to us? Is this some brain wash??
I said: yes, this is a brain wash…they brought us here to wash our brains, and market their poisonous thoughts upon us, and they want us to market them when we get back to Iraq… I shall go back to Amman, I cannot endure more…
And she asked sadly: and how will I endure? Who will take me back to Baghdad now? I have to wait until the end of the conference, in two days or three…
I said to her: may GOD help you… may GOD help you all…
I left the hotel, as if getting out of a suffocating place, airless, or perhaps, the air was foul…. Today I think with myself; if time would go back, would I have participated in the conference?
The answer is: Yes.
I learned a lot… I have seen the true face of those who occupied Iraq, and
understood their plans about the future of Iraq…
If I remained far, hearing only through newspapers, I wouldn't have got all this astonishing sum of documented truths. Lectures full of poison, and empty talk…
Now I am certain the word "Muslim" hurts and irritates them, and so is the word "Arab"…
And they will divide Iraq as much as can be, so they would be able to hit one of us by the other; hit the Kurd by the Arab, the Sunni by the Shia'at, and the Muslim by the Christian.
We used to live under the injustice of a dictator, national government, yes,
but it didn't play such dirty games to scatter us, making us the enemies of each other, each biting the
other, and wants to bite a piece of the Iraqi wealth, for himself and his kin….. The former government was
unjust to us all…but it didn't divide us into sects and ethnics, as the occupation did to us.
It divided us, since it entered the country, to Sunnies, Shia'ats, and Kurds.
The occupation hit the Sunnies first, cornering them alone, giving privileges
to the Kurds and the Shia'ats. Tomorrow it will collide with the Shia'ats and hit them, then the Kurds,
according to the interests; for there are no permanent friendships, nor fixed alliances, they all follow
Today they use clergy men, like Al-Systani, tomorrow they will turn against him, hit him, and shrink his influence…..
I remembered a saying by Gandhi: our dictator, national government is more merciful to us than imperialism, and foreign occupation.
Now I understand why they cry upon the Iraqi women, giving them seats, and freedoms…
So they would become saleswomen for their thoughts; woman is half the society, she raises the generations, so, if we control her, control her mind, and brain wash it, she would become an excellent media tool, (cultural and social).
I see now how many entry points there were, through which America entered to occupy Iraq…
There is an axis to market their thoughts through the Iraqi parties … and that
means the government, and the national assembly… there is the axis of non-governmental assemblies (civil
society organizations). There is the Women axis… and that leaves the youth axis… but that is under control
within the media; the immoral, cheap-contents of the satellite channels… silly songs, shameless, loose
women, and advertisements of western products; mobiles, soda drinks, and western restaurants….and foreign
channels showing western movies and shows day and night…
Meaning- a siege from all sides…whatever channel you tune on to, you get such channels… this is also a daily brain-wash method…
After all this, I say in all honesty… I am not hopeless at all…
What I have seen from the Iraqi women in the conference made me trust them, trust all Iraqis in general, and I put a wager that these people will not be anyone's fool…..
Sooner or later… they will collide with the occupation, and its true face will
be revealed, and what it has in store for the future of Iraq…
I have hope in the Iraqis who didn't join Saddam in his injustice, nor joined America in her injustice. Those who endured the embargo, the war, the injustice, the devastation, and destruction… those who were not satisfied with what happened to Iraq, or what is happening now….
Those are the new opposition…
An opposition against the existence of the foreign occupation of Iraq… and
against all who support this occupation, or spread and market its thoughts…
An opposition against every terrorist act targeting the innocent Iraqis, civilians, army, and police…
Those will not take refuge in another country, encouraging her to wage a war on Iraq… who believe that Iraq is for Iraqis, the wealth of Iraq is for Iraqis, and take their strength from their people, not from foreign forces.
These, I think, are the characteristics of the new nationalists whom Iraq needs in this stage. I have a strong feeling they are there… and will show up on stage.
It is only a matter of time…
Sooner or latter…they will show up, and lead the people to the path of
liberation, salvation, and democracy. Away from fake leaders, salesmen of fake ideas, and vicious
intentions that became exposed to the young and old…to the ignorant and educated… to the near, and far.
Before I went to the conference, I was more moderate… I was in the middle. But after I attended it… I became convinced that I must move from the middle to some other, clearer position…
And I think what befell me will befall most Iraqis… with the passage of time,
when they face the true face of the American occupation.
Then, they will have to decide…either…or
Either stay with it, and spread its ideas….
Or renounce it…demanding that it should leave Iraq, refusing its ideas, and refusing the existence of everyone who spreads and markets its ideas among Iraqi men and women.
It is always… a matter of time.
The conference will end on Wednesday, perhaps the American newspapers will write about it…
They will say it was great, superb, the Iraqi women loved it, it was very useful to them, and they thanked its organizers, from the American government…
When you read about it… remember me.
Translated by May/Baghdad.