FALLUJAH - The city that was mostly destroyed by the U.S. military operation
Phantom Fury in November 2004 has been under curfew for over two weeks, with
no signs of relief.
Located 45 mi. west of Baghdad, the city made headlines when four Blackwater
USA security mercenaries were killed and their bodies horrifically mutilated
on March 31, 2004.
That April the city was attacked by the U.S. military, but resistance fighters
repelled occupation forces. That set the stage for the November siege, which
left approximately 70 percent of the city destroyed and turned a quarter of
a million residents into refugees.
A recent spike in attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces in and around the city
has prompted harsh measures by the U.S. military, including imposing curfews,
limiting movement in and out of Fallujah, and setting up more checkpoints throughout
the city moves that have greatly angered residents.
On May 19, most of these measures, perceived by many people here as a form
of collective punishment, began to be more strictly enforced.
"Americans and their Iraqi collaborators are blaming us for their failure
in controlling the city and the whole country," Ahmed Alwan of the Sunni
religious group the Muslim Scholars Association told IPS. "This kind of
collective punishment only means slow death to the people of the city and is
adding to their agonies that have continued since April 2003."
Referring to the sieges of Fallujah along with the ongoing checkpoints, curfews,
restrictions, and clashes, Alwan added, "The Americans have proved themselves
to be the cruelest human beings ever by such shameful crimes against humanity."
As the U.S. occupation continues with no end in sight and the level of violence
and chaos increases daily, the disconcerting trend of more people believing
violence against occupation is the solution has become more prevalent.
"Day by day we find more people believe in violence as a best solution
to face American war crimes," a human rights activist in Fallujah, speaking
on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "To impose a curfew in a city that
was already destroyed more than once is indeed a major crime against humanity."
Many people in Fallujah believe the harsh tactics are revenge tactics by U.S.
troops and the George W. Bush administration for the city's attitude against
"We know what they are doing and why they are doing it," a local
community leader, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared
U.S. reprisals, told IPS. "They hate this sacred city because it was the
first to stand against their dirty occupation since it started."
On a side street of Fallujah, a man with his face covered by a kaffiyeh
scarf, commonly worn by resistance fighters to hide their identity, stopped
an IPS reporter and said he wanted to "deliver a message to the sleeping
"Fallujah city has become a symbol for all Iraqis and all good people
in the world who decided to fight this monstrous American occupation and no
siege will stop the great victorious resistance that represents the voice of
all Iraqis who believe in Allah and in the dignity of Iraq," he said. "We
can see the world is sleeping while America is conducting a dirty plan to enslave
all the human beings on earth."
Residents told IPS how their lives are being affected by the ongoing U.S.-Iraqi
"They [Iraqi security forces] are dividing the city into sections in a
way that does not allow people to move and make their living," said Jabbar
Amir, a shopkeeper in the main market area. "It takes me four checkpoints
to reach my shop and most of the week I cannot make it there. This new security
force is worse than the Americans who give them full support regardless of
what they do to people."
The U.S. military brought in members of the Shi'ite Badr militia and the Kurdish
peshmerga militia to run patrols and checkpoints throughout the city after the
devastating November 2004 siege. Many residents believe that this was an act
of provocation and an attempt to foment sectarian conflict.
Concrete walls have been set up by the U.S. military to partition the city
into small areas, possibly in advance of a new wave of raids by occupation forces.
The U.S. military are now supported by an Iraqi security force known as the
"Anbar revolutionary force," which is accused of carrying out dozens
of executions during the past months as well as detaining hundreds of young
men for no obvious reason.
"Human life is worth nothing in Fallujah these days," said Jameel
Nassir , a 21-year-old university student. "The government soldiers executed
so many young men, just like what happened in Haditha, and the new security
force conducted massive killings against us while Americans pay both armies
millions of dollars to do the dirty work for them."
That sentiment is common now in Fallujah.
"All army and security forces in Fallujah are monsters," Bilal Ibrahim,
a journalist in training in Fallujah, told IPS. "I watched one of their
inhuman acts today and realized how brutal they really are. A young man jumped
in the river for a swim near the hospital, but he was swept by the current and
he was screaming for help. We were ready to save his life, but soldiers started
shooting at us and they were laughing at the drowning guy until he died."
IPS learned that the young man's name was Mohammed Hikmet and he was a member
of a well-known family in the city.
"They know this will fail in stopping armed attacks against them just
like all their failures, but they want to plant the seed of division among people
in the city and Anbar province," a city councilman, speaking on condition
of anonymity, told IPS. "Now our sons are killing each other in vain while
Americans dream of moments of peace that they will never get as long as they
do not show clear signs of intentions to leave the country for its people."
The man was referring to the numerous attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces
during the curfew. Many U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have been killed by car bombs,
suicide bombers, and mortars that appear to underscore the failure of imposing
more drastic security measures.
On May 31, a suicide bomber attacked a police recruiting center in Fallujah,
killing at least 25 people and wounding 50.
As has become the norm in Fallujah, civilians continue to pay the highest price
despite the security measures that are supposed to be protecting them.
(Inter Press Service)