In Fallujah, donkeys tell a
tale By Ali al-Fadhily
FALLUJAH - A brave new attempt is under
way to project that all is well now with Fallujah.
Residents know better - or worse.
Iraqi minister of state for foreign affairs Rafi
al-Issawi visited Fallujah, 60 kilometers west of
Baghdad, on August 22. Issawi, who resigned on
August 1 when the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front
withdrew from the government, visited the city
with other members of the Sunni Accordance Bloc,
The group toured the city and
met with senior officials and
community leaders in a
production designed to show that the city has
moved from being the most violent to the most
peaceful in Iraq.
The Iraqi Islamic
Party's TV channel, al-Baghdad, accompanied Issawi
on his tour and broadcast some of the scenes from
inside Fallujah. The footage exposed the painful
truth of the situation here. The streets were
deserted, shops were closed and people appeared
with sullen faces.
"Of course we are happy
to have our city peaceful, but not this way,"
lawyer Ahmed Hammad told Inter Press Service
(IPS). "The local police guided and supported by
the US Army have prevented car movements for
nearly three months now. They should not be proud
of having the city quiet in a way that kills
everybody with hunger and disease."
residents in Fallujah praised the police, others
described policemen as savages. "Those who are not
Fallujah citizens in the force must be expelled
and replaced by our own men," Nassir al-Dulaymi, a
former police officer, told IPS. "They swear at
people in the street and arrest people as they
please, and of course there is no real government
to hold them accountable for their crimes.
Probably they would be rewarded for their savage
An article titled "Fallujah catches
its breath" in the independent Salon.com magazine
on August 21 described the improving situation in
Fallujah in a report by David Morris, a former
marine who works as an embedded reporter with US
forces in Iraq:
Fallujah, once the symbol of
everything gone wrong with the American mission
in Iraq, seems to be breathing again. About half
the shops are open. Groups of children wave
heartily at American convoys driving
A journalist who lives in Fallujah
told IPS that several local journalists had been
detained and warned of trouble for them if they
reported anything other than "good news" about
"The media in the West are lying
about Fallujah by saying everything is well," said
the journalist. "What is so good about a city that
lives with no electricity, no water, no fuel, very
expensive life necessities, and most important,
with no vehicles? Moreover the unemployment is
Others said members of
the Sunni Iraqi Islamic party and the Sunni
Accordance Bloc are weak and self-interested
"The Islamic Party and its
allies convinced us that the situation would be
much improved after the elections, and we fell for
it," 60-year-old shopkeeper Sulayman Mahmood told
IPS. "All they did was give cover to the sectarian
government as well as getting rich, and having
thousands of bodyguards."
A tour of the
city on foot gives the impression of the Dark
Ages. People are back to riding donkeys. Everyone
IPS spoke with complained of the extremely high
price of basic goods, and a lack of work that
could raise money to meet those needs.
cylinder of cooking gas costs US$22, and it is
less than half full," said Um Ali from the Shurta
district west of the city. "Groceries are too
expensive, and we do not know what to eat,
especially since the food ration is practically
nothing. Our sons are either unemployed or in
A report released by Oxfam
International on July 30 said 8 million Iraqis (in
a population of 24 million) are in need of
Iraqis are suffering from a growing
lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation,
healthcare, education and employment. Of the 4
million Iraqis who are dependent on food
assistance, only 60% currently have access to
rations through the government-run Public
Distribution System (PDS), down from 96% in
The report said 43% of Iraqis
suffer from "absolute poverty", and over half the
population are unemployed.
The city has
also been affected by the US and Iraqi
authorities' dependence on tribes in Fallujah and
throughout Iraq's western al-Anbar province.
Sheikhs are the real leaders now.
are taking us back to the British occupation
period when the British gave power to ignorant
sheikhs of tribes instead of politicians and
academics," Shakir Ahmed, a historian in Fallujah,
told IPS. "This is a terrible conception that will
take us back to the Dark Ages instead of the
promised progress and prosperity. These men are
highly respected for being what they are, but
never to lead a city, a province and a country."
Ali al-Fadhily, IPS's
correspondent in Baghdad, works in close
collaboration with Dahr Jamail, IPS's US-based
specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively
in the region.