Fallujah under a different
siege By Ali al-Fadhily
FALLUJAH - Three years after a devastating
United States-led siege of the city, residents of
Fallujah continue to struggle with a shattered
economy, infrastructure and lack of mobility.
The city that was routed in November 2004
is still suffering the worst humanitarian
conditions under a siege that continues. Although
military actions are down to the minimum inside
the city, local and US authorities do not seem to
be thinking of ending
agonies of the over 400,000 residents of Fallujah.
"You, people of the media, say things in
Fallujah are good," Mohammad Sammy, an aid worker
for the Iraqi Red Crescent in Fallujah, told Inter
Press Service (IPS). "Then why don't you come and
live in this paradise with us? It is so easy to
say things for you, isn't it?"
is due to the fact that the embattled city is
still completely closed and surrounded by military
checkpoints to make it look like an isolated
island. Those who are not genuine residents of the
city are not granted the biometric identification
badge from the US Marines, and are thus not
allowed to enter the city.
November 2004 US-led attack on the city, named
Operation Phantom Fury, which left approximately
70% of the city destroyed, the US military has
required residents to undergo retina scans and
finger-printing to gain a bar-code for
"This isolation has
destroyed the economy of the city that was once
one the best in Iraq," Professor Mohammad
al-Dulaymi of al-Anbar University told IPS. "All
of the other cities in the province used to do
their wholesale shopping in Fallujah, but now they
have to find alternatives, leaving the city's
businesses to starve," he explained.
of the residents interviewed by IPS were extremely
angry with the media for recent reports that the
situation in the city is good. Many refused to be
quoted for different reasons.
probably the city that has had the most media
coverage in the history of the occupation," Hatam
Jawad, a school headmaster in Fallujah, told IPS.
"People are tired of shouting and appearing on TV
to complain, without feeling any change in their
sorrowful living situation. Some of them are
afraid of police revenge for telling the truth."
Many residents told IPS that US-backed
Iraqi police and army personnel have detained
people who have spoken to the media.
not going to tell you whether it is good or bad to
be a Fallujah resident," 55-year-old lawyer,
Shakir Naji, told IPS. "Why don't you just ask
what the prices of essential materials are and
judge for yourself? Kerosene for heating is almost
US$1 per liter, a jar of propane gas is $15, and
it is not winter yet when the prices will
definitely be doubled."
electricity services are at a minimum in the city.
An Oxfam International report released in July
found that 70% of Iraqis do not have access to
safe drinking water.
Since the November
2004 siege, entire neighborhoods remain totally
destroyed, and with no water or electricity. Most
of the businesses in Fallujah remain closed.
"We depend on the private sector for
electricity," Fatima Saed, a woman whose husband
was detained in 2005 and has not been released
yet, told IPS. "In my situation, to pay $50 a
month [for electricity] is a disaster because I
have to cut it from the quantity and quality of
food that I buy for myself and my kids."
The Oxfam report also stated, "At the
beginning of May 2007, the Central Office for
Statistics and Information Technology, part of the
Iraqi Ministry of Planning, released a survey
highlighting the fact that 43% of Iraqis suffer
from "absolute poverty". The poverty of many
families "is rooted in unemployment, which affects
probably more than 50% of the workforce".
Fallujah General Hospital, situated across
the Euphrates River from the city, is still
functioning, but with a minimal number of
specialist doctors and medical supplies. The only
doctor who would speak to IPS did not want his
"The manager of this
hospital is a good man and he is trying hard to
improve the services, but the Ministry of Health
in Baghdad still treats us here as a bunch of
terrorists. We are suffering both corruption from
the ministry and ignorance about al-Anbar province
from this [Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki]
administration," he explained. "We do not have
enough medicines, and the equipment brought to us
by contractors is still in boxes and seems to be
part of the corrupt contracts of the province. It
is impossible to work under such conditions."
People coming for treatment or surgery in
the hospital appeared desperate to get their
essential needs met.
"We have to buy
cotton, bandages, medicines and all we need from
private pharmacies," 35-year-old Muath Tahir, a
teacher who had his appendix removed three days
earlier, told IPS. "Those who can manage go to the
private hospital for better treatment, but my $230
salary is not even enough for my daily needs. This
city has become impossible to live in."
Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press
Services' correspondent in Baghdad, works in close
collaboration with Dahr Jamail, Inter Press
Services' US-based specialist writer on Iraq who
travels extensively in the region. (Inter