FALLUJAH - Fallujah remains a crippled city more than three years after the
November 2004 U.S.-led assault.
Unemployment and lack of medical care and safe drinking water in the city
35 mi. west of Baghdad remain a continuous problem. Freedom of movement is
The city suffered two devastating U.S. military attacks during 2004. Many
of the buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged. Several collapsed under
the heavy bombing and were never rebuilt. The heaps of concrete slabs and piles
of rubble remain where they were.
"We wonder why we have been targeted by Americans since the first days
of the occupation," Dr. Mohammad Abed from al-Anbar University told IPS.
"This city sacrificed thousands of its citizens through five years of
occupation just because they said 'no' to a project that threatens their country's
Now a less visible form of destruction is being spread, he said. "The
new wave of destruction is represented by tearing the social tissue apart.
The Americans are paying tremendous amounts of money to get people of Fallujah
to fight each other."
The road into Fallujah from the main Amman-Baghdad highway is safer today,
but nobody is allowed into Fallujah who is not from the city and cannot provide
elaborate identity documentation. That can only be obtained by undergoing biometric
identification by the U.S. military – a process that includes retina scans,
body searches, and fingerprinting before issuance of a bar-coded ID badge.
The city remains sealed. Many residents refer to it as a big jail.
"Being sealed for five years, Fallujah has lost all aspects of natural
life," Ahmad Hamid, a former member of the city council, told IPS. "A
man who has lived most of his life mixing with British and American people
told us in 2003 that we could not reach any agreement because they [Americans]
look at Fallujah as a center of Iraqi people's unity. He told us Iraq would
be divided into regions, provinces, and even tribes, but we in the council
did not listen to him."
The city remains tense in the face of power struggles and turf wars between
tribal chiefs and Awakening group commanders in Fallujah and in other areas
of the volatile Anbar province. Disputes between the Iraqi Islamic Party and
Awakening groups are also creating security tensions. The Awakening forces
are former resistance fighters whom the U.S. now pays to be on its side.
Beyond security, the health situation in the city is particularly difficult.
A study conducted by two civil society organizations and the administration
of Fallujah General Hospital over a two-year period was submitted to the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees on March 4.
The hospital administration and the two groups, the Conservation Center of
Environment and Reserves in Fallujah and the Monitoring Net of Human Rights
in Iraq, say that in 2006 they found "5,928 new illness cases that were
unknown before in Fallujah," over 70 percent of which were "cancers
and abnormalities" in children below 12 years of age.
"In the first six months of 2007 there were 2,447 cases, more than 50
percent of these cases were children. Simply, this means that most of the victims
are children, and this will threaten the new generation in this city."
"Now we face death of all kinds," said a doctor at Fallujah General
Hospital. "In addition to all known diseases, new ones are invading us.
Blackwater fever, for instance, was an unknown disease in our area, but now
it is spreading like fire in a forest. We have no medicines to give our patients,
and the black market is flourishing."
"Our best doctors fled the city for fear of being detained by American
and police forces just because they helped civilians during the two sieges
of 2004. They are now considered terrorists or at least terrorist supporters,
when they should have been decorated with medals for their heroic work in helping
Medically speaking, "the siege is total," a doctor who gave his
name as Dr. Kamal told the press recently, speaking of the lack of drugs, oxygen,
electricity, and clean water at Fallujah General Hospital.
U.S. military officials say reconstruction is under way, and that aid is being
provided to hospitals. People see little of that.
"The brutal destruction of Fallujah by the American Army was not followed
by any reconstruction, as if the city is being punished for its attitude against
the occupation," said an engineer in Fallujah, Kaltan Fadhil.
Water and electricity supply, health facilities, and roads were provided "in
a way that only made some people who collaborated with Americans richer,"
he said. "It was no more than repainting some buildings to make them look
nicer for a while, and then new contracts were announced to rehabilitate what
was already rehabilitated."
(Inter Press Service)