News and opinions on situation in Iraq
14/04/04 "Pacify Fallujah" By Sara Khorshid
 
Staff Writer – IslamOnline
www.islamonline.net/English/Views/2004/04/article02.shtml

The body of an Iraqi protestor killed by US troops lies in the street in Fallujah, in April 2003
Occupy Iraq. Don’t tolerate resistance from its people. You liberated them from Saddam’s dictatorial rule and they ought to be grateful. When Iraqis express opposition to the occupation of their country, brand them “insurgents;” they hamper the liberation process; they hamper the rebuilding of Iraq. They are terrorists. Label them “terrorists.” Label them “remnants of the former regime.” Crack down on them. You are not to blame; you are fighting terrorism. You are bringing democracy and freedom to Iraqis. Impose democracy and freedom. If they resist your mission, punish them, bomb them, and impose liberty. Be firm. Maintain an iron grip on power, even if some civilian lives are lost in the process. If your policy sparks Iraqis’ anger, pacify them. Keep cracking down on them. Prevail. This is US policy in Iraq. Since the United States occupied the country one year ago, coalition soldiers’ conduct has continued to provoke Iraqis’ anger and trigger their opposition. US administration spokespersons and US media call resistance insurgency, proudly vowing to suppress it, as if the label “insurgents” justifies a further onslaught on Iraqi nationals. What is going on in Fallujah represents a case in point. On March 31, 2003, the anger of Fallujah’s residents at the US presence in Iraq obviously reached its peak: a mob killed four American contractors, burnt their bodies, mutilated them, and then dragged them through the streets. On April 4, US forces launched a major military offensive against the town.

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“Many of the families who were with us died, entire families were burnt.”

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Fleeing what she describes as a “massacre” that killed hundreds of Iraqis, Umm Muhanned left Fallujah two days ago with her husband and six kids. On their way to Baghdad, they were accompanied by several other families who also had no choice but to leave, at the risk of their lives, as the occupation forces were sealing off the town, allowing no one to enter or flee.

Sadly, many of the people trying to make their way out of Fallujah didn’t survive. “Trying to leave, we were bombed by US forces. As a result, many of the families who were with us died, entire families were burnt… on our way, we frequently passed by ashes, the remains of dead bodies… bodies of women, children and elderly people.”

The road was scary – military planes in the sky, soldiers on the ground, says Umm Shahd, another Fallujah resident who escaped with her family. Travelers were being bombed and shot – even women and children. Less fortunate families didn’t have cars to carry them to Baghdad, escaping on foot.

However, it wasn’t easy for them to make the decision to leave their town. “If it hadn’t been for my children, I wouldn’t have left my town Fallujah. I want to be there to support my brothers and sisters who are suffering now. But the kids couldn’t bear the horrific situation, the bombings, the danger,” Umm Shahd says.

Umm Muhanned was incapable of describing the life in the beleaguered city. “There are no words by which I can explain to you the situation we fled in Fallujah. Water and electricity are cut. No food. Nothing. Aid convoys were prevented from delivering supplies to us, except for a very little amount that was by no means enough, by no means proportionate to our needs, to the humanitarian tragedy in Fallujah.”

Perhaps Umm Shahd’s story of one of her in-laws best portrays the scale of the tragedy in the sealed town: “My father-in-law’s wife was in the ninth month of pregnancy, but due to the curfew imposed by US authorities, she couldn’t leave her house, she couldn’t go to the doctor to give birth, which resulted in the intrauterine death of the baby.”

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“Where is the Red Cross? We haven’t seen any international organization help us in Fallujah.”
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The baby was never born because the mother was unable to get out of her house, thanks to the US-imposed curfew. Yet, even those who stay inside their houses are not safe from the Americans’ aggression. US soldiers repeatedly storm and search citizen’s houses, including Umm Muhanned’s and Umm Shahd’s houses.

“They don’t come at specific times,” Umm Shahd explains. Sometimes they come during the day, sometimes at night. You never know. They stormed into Umm Mohanned’s house late at night, smashing the door. Once inside the house, US soldiers force all the family members outside, tying their hands behind their backs and forcing the men to the ground in front of their wives and children. “We can’t accept this disdainful demeanor. We have dignity and pride,” exclaims Umm Shahd. The soldiers turn the house upside down. What’s more, they steal gold and money and “everything that’s valuable.” Although Fallujah’s people are devout Muslims, with women keen on wearing the veil, Umm Shahd describes lamentably how her veiled friend was awoken at night by American troops, who refused to let her change and put on her veil, forcing her outside the house in her nightclothes along with her family. After they finish searching, the troops either leave as if nothing has happened, or detain one or two members of the family, or detain the entire family – men, women and children. Detainees may remain imprisoned for months without charge or conviction.

All Iraqis I have spoken with lately, from Fallujah, Baghdad and other places in Iraq, are literally crying for help. “Where is UNICEF?” Dr. Ali, a Baghdadi physician asks. “Where is the Red Cross? We haven’t seen any international organization help us in Fallujah,” Umm Muhanned says. Dr. Ibrahim Abu Yasser, a Baghdad physician, says that the siege of Fallujah is keeping him and other Iraqi doctors from delivering medicines to their fellow Iraqis trapped in the town. “Occupation forces prevent aid and medicines from reaching Fallujah… The injured are lying in the streets; there are no ambulances to take them to hospitals.” And in the hospitals there are not enough medicines or equipment to treat injuries. The clinic of Dr. Mustafa, another Baghdad physician, is in Fallujah. “He left Fallujah last Saturday, a day before the siege, and on that day, on his way to Baghdad at 7:30 pm, he was shot at by an American tank, so he remained in Baghdad and never went back to his clinic,” says Dr. Ali, a friend of Mustafa’s. According to Dr. Mustafa, the only pharmacist who provided medication to the people of Fallujah under the siege was killed two days ago in his pharmacy during the bombing of the city.

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Detainees remain imprisoned for months without charge or conviction.
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The people of Fallujah are being punished, judging by the statement of US officials who vowed that what was done to the four American contractors “will not go unpunished,” that Fallujah will be “pacified” and the US “will prevail.” The occupiers are punishing the citizens of the city for refusing to live under occupation.

The United States’ actions are allegedly in retaliation to the killing and mutilation of the four contractors, three of whom were Americans, who, according to Umm Muhanned, Dr. Ali, and many other Iraqis, were not civilians. “Even if we assume they were civilians,” Umm Muhanned reflects, “thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed by the occupation forces, but no one has moved to condemn their death… as though the lives of American civilians are valuable while the lives of Iraqi civilians are worthless.” Forgotten are nine Iraqis, including three children and an ABC News cameraman, who were killed in a US raid on Fallujah, five days before the killing of the four contractors.

Forgotten, too, are the 13-17 Iraqi civilians who were gunned down by US troops a year earlier, in late April, 2003, during a demonstration in Fallujah, when US troops opened fire at an Iraqi demonstration calling for an end to the occupation. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch demanded an investigation in the incident; however, no such investigation has yet taken place, and the American soldiers who gunned down the Iraqi demonstrators went unpunished.

“I hope that Arab leaders stop standing still. Why aren’t they helping us? Can’t they see what’s happening to us? Can’t they see all those dead bodies?” And with that, Umm Shahd burst into tears.

Sara Khorshid is staff writer for IslamOnline. She holds a BA in Political Science from Cairo University . You can reach her at sarakhorshid@islam-online.net.

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