FALLUJAH - Strict curfew and tight security measures have brought difficult
living conditions and heightened tempers to residents of this besieged city.
The siege in this city located 40 mi. west of Baghdad has entered its second
month. There is little sign of any international attention to the plight of
the city. Fallujah, which is largely sympathetic to the Iraqi resistance, was
assaulted twice by the U.S. military in 2004.
The second attack in November destroyed roughly three-quarters of the city
of 350,000 residents. Now, Fallujah faces assault of another kind by way of
a strict curfew where people are closed in from all sides.
Many people who had earlier supported the Iraqi police that works with the
U.S. military, now oppose it.
"We gave full support to the police force despite opposition from others
to forming this force," a community leader in the city who asked to be
referred to as Ahmed told IPS. "Others told us this force would only serve
the occupation forces, but we accused them of being against stability and order.
Unfortunately, they appeared to be absolutely right."
Cars have not been permitted to move on the streets of Fallujah for nearly
a month now. A ban was also enforced on bicycles, but residents were later granted
permission to use them.
"Thank God and President Bush for this great favor," said Ala'a,
a 34-year-old schoolteacher. "We are the only city in the liberated world
with the blessing now of having bicycles moving freely in the streets."
On May 21 U.S. and Iraqi forces imposed a security crackdown on the city following
continuing attacks. Local non-governmental organizations such as the Iraqi Aid
Association (IAA) have told reporters that the U.S. military is not allowing
them access to the city.
"We have supplies, but it is impossible to reach the families. They are
afraid to leave their homes to look for food, and children are getting sick
with diarrhea caused by the dirty water they are drinking," IAA spokesman
Fatah Ahmed told reporters. "We have information that pregnant women are
delivering their babies at home as the curfew is preventing them from reaching
Medical services are inaccessible to most because the hospital is located on
the other side of the Euphrates River from the rest of the city. Extra security
checkpoints have severely hampered movement within the city, and most businesses
have closed. A year ago the local police cut mobile phone services.
The curfew is also restricting residents' ability to go out and find much needed
supplies in the markets. Residents told IPS that there is on average only two
hours of electricity per day.
Residents say they are up against killing prices. "Now they are killing
us with a new weapon," a young man with a mask covering his face told IPS.
"A jar of gas costs $20 and a kilo of tomatoes costs $1.50, and people
cannot go to work."
"U.S. snipers on rooftops are enjoying themselves watching us walk around
to find a bite of food for our families," 55-year-old Hajji Mahmood told
IPS. "They laugh at us and call us names. They should know Fallujah is
still the same city that kicked them away three years ago."
Life seems completely paralysed with little sign of movement under a blazing
sun, with temperatures up to 45 degrees.
"We are sweating to death because some of us went to those damned elections,"
said a 40-year-old lawyer, speaking with IPS on condition of anonymity, referring
to the Jan. 30, 2005, elections.
"The wise men told us not to, but we believed those crooks of the Islamic
Party who promised to make things better," he said. Many people in the
city accuse the Islamic Party supportive of the U.S. of leading the "security
plan" in al-Anbar province where Fallujah is located.
A local political analyst offered his views to IPS via the Internet, on the
condition of anonymity.
"I find it rather strange that to control a city under the flag of providing
citizens with peace and prosperity, you deprive them of all signs of life,"
he said. "Arab, Muslim, and all international community leaders should
be ashamed of themselves for not even talking about this crime."
"Nonetheless, U.S. leaders are just buying more time towards more failure
that they hope will magically turn into success. I am hopeless of any peace
in Iraq as long as the democrats sold their fight cheap to the Bush administration."
Lt. Col. Azize Abdel-Kader, a Defense Ministry official who coordinates security
operations in al-Anbar, said the curfew – which runs from 6 p.m. until
8 a.m. – is necessary to maintain security.
"It is a temporary curfew and we hope it can soon end," he told reporters
in Baghdad last week. "We are looking into ways to let aid agencies enter
Fallujah, but it is too dangerous for the time being."
(Inter Press Service)