|The failed siege of
By Dahr Jamail
AMMAN, Jordan - After two devastating
sieges of Fallujah in April and November of 2004,
which left thousands of Iraqis dead and hundreds
of thousands without homes, the aftermath of the
US attempt to rid the city of resistance fighters
in an effort to improve security in the country
continues to plague the residents of Fallujah, and
Iraq as a whole.
Simmering anger grows
with time among Fallujans who, after having most
of their city destroyed by the US military
onslaught, have seen promises of rebuilding by
both the US military and Iraqi government remain
"There are daily war
crimes being committed in Fallujah, even now,"
said Mohammed Abdulla, the executive director of
the Study Center for Human Rights and Democracy in
Fallujah (SCHRDF). His organization works within
the destruction of Fallujah, trying to monitor the
plight of residents, bring them reconstruction
aid, and document the war crimes and illegal
weapons that were used during the November siege.
"Now we have none of the rebuilding which
was promised, which people need so desperately in
order to get their lives back in order," said
Abdulla during a recent interview with Asia Times
Online in Amman.
Doctors working inside
the city continue to complain of US and Iraqi
security forces impeding their medical care. Along
with the continuance of strict US military
checkpoints, residents in the city say the
treatment they receive from both the US military
and Iraqi security forces operating inside
Fallujah is both degrading and humiliating. This
treatment is also being perceived by most as
"The checkpoints are too
obstructive," said Dr Amer Ani, who volunteers at
Fallujah General Hospital. "Fighting has resumed
inside the city, because in the last two weeks
there have been man-to-man clashes in different
districts of the city. This has caused ambulances
to have difficulty entering and exiting the city,
especially the main hospital.
"I work in
the refugee camp on the border, and because of the
checkpoint on the outskirts of the city, no
patients from that camp can enter the city," said
Ani. "Thus, they are forced to go to another
clinic 14 kilometers from them, whereas the
closest treatment in the city is less than one
kilometer from them."
Ani went on to add
that the main hospital and several primary health
clinics in the city need rebuilding, but the
building materials are being prevented from
entering by US forces.
Dr Riyad al-Obeidy,
who works in Ramadi, is also currently
volunteering inside Fallujah. "Previously, the
Ministry of Health was delivering aid into the
city, but now this is prohibited, for unknown
reasons," he said. "Thus, now there are shortages
of external fixators, surgical sets for
operations, and trauma equipment. There is really
a humanitarian health problem. People are living
as refugees inside their city, living in tents -
so we have lack of clean water and hygiene, so
there is rampant spreading of typhoid. With summer
coming, this will all get worse."
made prior to the siege by the Iraqi government
and US military to assist in reconstruction of the
city appear to have fallen flat.
to SCHRDF's Abdulla, "There is some
reconstruction, but this is only being done by
Fallujans and because the government of Iraq is
only helping just a little."
was also made by Dr Abrahim Aziz (last name
changed to protect identity), who works as a
volunteer inside Fallujah. "There is a little
rebuilding happening now, electric wires are being
replaced," he said during a phone interview from
Fallujah. "But the hospitals and clinics have only
been painted and the holes in the walls closed
Dr Fawzi, an engineer who owns a
cement factory in Fallujah, said the southern
districts of Fallujah remain closed, and only 10%
of the buildings and homes destroyed have been
rebuilt by residents themselves. Fawzi was
involved in negotiating compensation for residents
of the city, and presented a figure of US$600
million to the US military, who agreed to pay the
amount. But the Iraqi government did not agree.
"We went to Baghdad but the [then-premier
Iyad] Allawi office told us we could have only
$100 million, and they couldn't promise anything
because everything would change with the elections
[of January]," said Fawzi. "We disputed this
amount, and the government said they would give us
20% of the $600 million, which we refused because
this was not enough. At this meeting were
Americans, military and civilian both, and members
of the Iraqi government."
Dr Aziz said
that only 10% of the promised compensation had
been paid out to date, and added that the health
situation was "horrible, we are now having cholera
Recent drinking water tests
performed by SCHRDF found that there was no
potable water available inside Fallujah.
"Everybody knows this, and this is why we are
making announcements for people to boil their
water for 10 minutes," said Abdulla.
According to him, two-thirds of the city
lacks electricity because so many electrical wires
were cut, and any reconstruction occurring at the
moment is only being carried out by the residents
of Fallujah, with no outside help. "There is
little financial aid coming from the government,
if any at all."
Dr al-Obeidy said the
same. "There are some payouts being made, but it
is a small amount. But then recently the Iraqi
government stopped all the compensation payments.
So now the people are very angry about this,
especially because the Americans promised to give
each family $500, but there is nothing until now,"
he said. "So if a house is completely destroyed,
how can $500 be enough? It cannot."
it is estimated that 80% of the residents of
Fallujah have returned home, roughly 60% of the
houses and buildings inside the city sustained
enough damage to make them inhabitable. Most
people continue to live in tents, or amid the
rubble of their homes. Curfews remain in the city,
with residents not allowed on the streets past
9pm, and entire districts remain without power.
Abu Nawaf, a 42-year-old businessman who
lives near the Jolan quarter of the city, said in
a recent phone interview from Fallujah, "There is
no rebuilding happening here at all and the
Americans and Iraqi National Guard [ING] are
patrolling all the time, even the side streets."
Abdulla commented on the volatile
situation: "There is no law in the streets, and
there was a case of an ING killing an Iraqi
policeman and people asked for an inquiry." He
added: "Americans were inside with the ING who are
peshmerga [members of the Kurdish militia].
The ING inside now are all peshmerga and
Badr forces [Shi'ite militia of the Supreme
Council for Islamic Revolution] who are doing the
same humiliations and bad treatment that the
Americans are doing."
The SCHRDF has
reported that US soldiers currently occupy seven
primary schools in the city, causing children to
study in tents.
Meanwhile, Nawaf continues
to look for his three brothers who remain missing.
The US military painted on his home that three
bodies were found there, but Nawaf has been unable
to locate them and insists they remain missing.
Recent clashes and roadside bombs in
Fallujah have greatly impeded any return to
normalcy within the city, along with ongoing
complaints from residents of harassment and poor
treatment from the security forces. Thus
reconstruction, as important as it is for the
city, remains in the background for residents who
continue to testify of alleged war crimes during
the most recent siege, as well as seething
resentment over the destruction and lack of
rebuilding in their city.
plenty of women in Fallujah who have testified
they were raped by American soldiers," said
Abdulla. "They are nearby the secondary school for
girls inside Fallujah. When people came back to
Fallujah the first time they found so many girls
who were totally naked and they had been killed."
As Nawaf's situation shows, the number of
missing people remains one of the larger concerns.
"We don't have a total number of people killed
because so many people are missing ... this makes
it impossible for now to get an accurate count of
the dead," said Abdulla.
doctor who is a member of an Iraqi medical team
that also investigates human-rights issues,
reported that his group estimates that 60,000
Iraqis are in detention facilities throughout
Iraq. During the interview in Amman, he said the
US military had only registered the names of
17,000 detainees; they are being held without
charges and their whereabouts unknown, even to
their families. Speaking on condition of
anonymity, the doctor said, "Of course this only
pushes people more towards the resistance, because
people are eventually left desperate enough to
begin fighting the Americans. People can only take
Dr Fawzi, who is also reporting
to the SCHRDF, expressed concern about the number
of people missing from Fallujah. "For deaths, we
counted over 750 at first," he commented. "There
are so many missing people and it is so difficult
to have the figures of dead and detained, even
though we know so many more were killed. People
are afraid to admit their son might be detained
because the Americans might arrest or retaliate
against the rest of the family."
suffering of the residents of Fallujah continues
as fighting simmers once again within the
devastated city and the drastic heat of summer
"The Americans have committed
a very big massacre to the people of Fallujah. The
crime of Fallujah is the greatest crime ever,"
Abdulla said sternly. "This will remain as a black
spot in American history forever. Whatever the
American people will do, even if they get rid of
those liars who are in their government, they will
need a long time for people to forget what they
have done in Iraq and in Fallujah in order for us
to deal with them as a civilized people who have
Abdulla, like residents of the
city, wondered why the US military will not let
unembedded media into Fallujah. "Why have they not
let the media inside Fallujah," he asked. "If
America says she is right, then why did she stop
two UN investigators from getting inside
With the initial justification
for the siege of Fallujah being that the military
operation was conducted in order to bring security
and stability for the elections of January 30, it
is clear that this goal was not obtained. Scores
of Iraqis died on that day alone, and the
situation throughout Iraq has only continued to
More recently, since
the latest interim government in Iraq was sworn in
in April, well over 750 Iraqis have been killed in
violence that continues to spread throughout the
Thus, rather than
improving security and stability in Fallujah and
Iraq, the siege of Fallujah has accomplished
nothing more than devastating the city and
spreading the Iraqi resistance into other cities,
such as Qaim, Beji, Baquba, Mosul, Ramadi,
Latifiya and many areas of Baghdad.
could easily be argued now that the siege of
Fallujah accomplished the exact opposite of its
stated goals - rather than bringing increased
security and stability, it has inflamed tempers,
deepened sectarian rifts and spurred the Iraqi
resistance into levels of attack rarely seen prior
to the siege.
Abdulla paints a dismal
picture with his final comments on the situation
in Fallujah: "The mood is that people will never
forget what was done to them and their city. I
don't think we'll see the end of this. People will
never forget to have their revenge on the American
troops, but they would like to prepare themselves
for another attack. This is what the Fallujan
negotiators had warned the Americans of. Lack of
security, which is ongoing in Iraq now, is one
Dahr Jamail is
an independent journalist from Anchorage, Alaska.
He has reported from inside occupied Iraq for
eight months. He is currently reporting from
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