|News and opinions on situation in Iraq|
|23/11/04||Fallujah Refugees by Dahr Jamail|
** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** dahrjamailiraq.com **
November 23, 2004
“Doctors in Fallujah are reporting there are patients in the hospital there who were forced out by the Americans,” said Mehdi Abdulla, a 33 year-old ambulance driver at a hospital in Baghdad, “Some doctors there told me they had a major operation going, but the soldiers took the doctors away and left the patient to die.” He looks at the ground, then away to the distance.
Honking cars fill the chaotic street outside the hospital where they’d just received brand new desks. The empty boxes are strewn about outside. Um Mohammed, a doctor at the hospital sat behind her old, wooden desk. “How can I take a new desk when there are patients dying because we don’t have medicine for them,” she asked while holding her hands in the air, “They should build a lift so patients who can’t walk can be taken to surgery, and instead we have these new desks!” Her eyes were piercing with fire, while yet another layer of frustration is folded into her work.
“And there are still a few Iraqis who think the Americans came to liberate them,” she added while looking out the broken window. The glass lay about outside-shattered from a car bomb that had detonated in front of the hospital. “These people will change their minds about the liberators when they, too, have had a family member killed by them.”
Mehdi then takes us to a refugee camp of Fallujans over on the campus of the University of Baghdad. Tents surround an old mosque. Kids run about several of them kicking around a half-inflated soccer ball. Some women are using two water taps to clean pots and wash clothing. Many people stand around, walking aimlessly, waiting.
We contact a sheikh for permission to talk to some of the families. He greets us then says, “You can see how much we have suffered. We have 97 families here now, with 50 more coming tomorrow. People are kidnapping refugee children and selling them.”
A 35 year-old merchant from Fallujah, Abu Hammad, starts telling us what he experienced, and barely breathes while doing so because he is so enraged.
“The American warplanes came continuously through the night and bombed everywhere in Fallujah! It did not stop even for a moment! If the American forces did not find a target to bomb, they used sound bombs just to terrorize the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I cannot give a picture of how panicked everyone was.”
He is shaking with grief and anger. “In the mornings I found Fallujah empty, as if nobody lives in it. Even poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah-they used everything-tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground. Nothing is left.”
Several men standing with us, other refugees, nod in agreement while looking at the setting sun, the direction of Fallujah.
Abu Hammad continues, “Most of the innocent people there stayed in mosques to be closer to God for safety. Even the wounded people were killed. Old ladies with white flags were killed by the Americans! The Americans announced for people to come to a certain mosque if they wanted to leave Fallujah, and even the people who went there carrying white flags were killed!”
One of the men standing with us, a large man named Mohammad Ali is crying; his large body shuddering with each bit of new information revealed by Abu Hammad.
“There was no food, no electricity, no water,” continues Abu Hammad, “We couldn’t even light a candle because the Americans would see it and kill us.”
He pauses, then asks, “This suffering of the people, I would like to ask everyone in the world if they have seen suffering like this. The people in Fallujah are only Fallujans. Ayad Allawi was a liar when he said there are foreign fighters there.”
He continues on, “There are bodies the Americans threw in the river. I saw them do this! And anyone who stayed thought they would be killed by the Americans, so they tried to swim across the river. Even then the Americans shot them with rifles from the shore! Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white clothes over their heads to show they are not fighters, they were all shot! Even people who couldn’t swim tried to cross the river! They drowned rather than staying to be killed by the Americans.”
Mohammad cuts in and begins his plea. He is from the Julan district of Fallujah, where much of the heaviest fighting occurred, and continues to occur. “They call us terrorists when we live in the city. We own the city. We didn’t go to fight the Americans-they came to our city to fight us. Fallujans are defending our city, our houses, our mosques, our honor. Ayad Allawi says we are his family-can you attack your family Allawi? Do you attack your own family Allawi?”
He now raises his hands to the sky and asks loudly, “We are asking Islam, all the Islamic countries to have a clear conscience to look at what is happening to Fallujah. We were the most secured city with the police and ING (Iraqi National Guard) without the presence of the Americans. But now when we come to Baghdad we are afraid because our cars and belongings will be looted.”
His large body continues to shudder as he talks on, “We did not feel that there is Eid after Ramadan this year because of our situation being so bad. All we have is more fasting. They said they are going to reconstruct Fallujah-but I would like to ask when and how, and what did they do to Sadr City when they stopped fighting there? They did nothing.”
I notice a man with one leg sitting near the mosque nodding while he smokes his cigarette while Mohammad continues, “I would like to ask the whole world-why is this? I tell the presidents of the Arab and Muslim countries to wake up! Wake up please! We are being killed, we are refugees from our houses, our children have nothing-not even shoes to wear! Wake up! Wake up! Stop being traitors! Be human beings and not the dummies of the Americans!”
He is weeping even more when he adds, “I left Fallujah yesterday and I am handicapped. I asked God to save us but our house was bombed and I lost everything.”
As Mohammad no longer speaks, a 40 year-old refugee, Khalil, speaks up. “When the Americans come to our city we refuse to accept any foreigner coming to invade us. We accept the ING’s but not the Americans. Nobody has seen any Zarqawi. If the Americans don’t come in our city, who do Fallujans attack? Fallujans don’t attack other Iraqis. Fallujans only attack the American troops when they come inside or near our city.”
Rather than weeping like so many others I interviewed, Khalil is raging. His sadness is being covered with anger. “If we have a government-the government should solve the suffering of the people. Our government does not do this-instead they are always attacking us, our government is a dummy government. They are not here to help us. The Minister of Defense and Interior are speaking that we are their family-so why do they collapse our houses on our heads? Why do they kill all of us?”
But then tears find his eyes, and while pointing to several small children nearby he says, “Eid is over. Ramadan is over-and the kids are remaining without even a smile. They have nothing and nowhere to go. We used to take them to parks to amuse them, but now we don’t even have a house for them.”
He continues pointing at the children, along with some women nearby, “What about the children? What did they do? What about the women? I can’t describe the situation in Fallujah and the condition of the people-Fallujah is suffering too much, it is almost gone now.”
He then explains, “We got some supplies from the good people of Baghdad, and some volunteer doctors came on their own with some medicines, but they ran out daily because conditions are so bad. We saw nothing from the Ministry of Health-no medicines or doctors or anything.”
He said those who left Fallujah did not think they would be gone so long, so they brought only their summer clothes. Now it is quite cold at night, down to 10 degrees C at night and windy much of the time. Khalil adds, “We need more clothes. It’s a disaster we are living in here at this camp. We are living like dogs and the kids do not have enough clothes.”
As of today, a spokesman for the Iraqi Red Crescent told me none of their relief teams had been allowed into Fallujah, and the military said it would be at least two more weeks before any refugees would be allowed into their city.