Haditha Massacre Trial

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Anger Builds in Besieged Fallujah

By Ali al-Fadhily

FALLUJAH, Iraq - The city that was mostly destroyed by the US military operation Phantom Fury in November 2004 has been under curfew for more than two weeks, with no signs of relief.

Located 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, the city made headlines when four Blackwater security mercenaries were killed and their bodies horrifically mutilated on March 31, 2004.

That April the city was attacked by the US military, but resistance
fighters repelled occupation forces. That set the stage for the November siege that left about 70% of the city destroyed and turned a quarter of a million residents into refugees.

A recent spike in attacks against Iraqi and US forces in and around the city has prompted harsh measures by the US military, including imposing curfews, limiting movement in and out of Fallujah, and setting up more checkpoints throughout the city - moves which 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 a Sunni religious group, the Muslim Scholars Association, told Inter Press Service (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."

As the US occupation continues with no end in sight and the level of violence and chaos increases daily, more and more people believe that violence against the occupation is the solution.

"Day by day we find more people believe in violence as a best solution to face American war crimes," said a human-rights activist in Fallujah, speaking on condition of anonymity. "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 by US troops and the George W Bush administration for the city's attitude against the occupation.

"We know what they are doing and why they are doing it," said a local community leader, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared US reprisals. "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 kefiyeh , commonly worn by resistance fighters to hide their identity, stopped an IPS reporter and said he wanted to ”deliver a message to the sleeping world”.

"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 US-Iraqi government crackdown.

"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 US 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 US military to partition the city into small areas, possibly in advance of a new wave of raids by occupation forces.

The US military is 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."

This 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,” said a city councilman, speaking on condition of anonymity. "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 US and Iraqi forces during the curfew. Many US 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.

Last Thursday, 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.

Ali al-Fadhily, the IPS correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, IPS's US-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region.

(Inter Press Service)

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