March 29, 2007
Damascus— Fours years of occupation by Anglo-American forces in Iraq was
marked in many countries around the world by massive demonstrations this
past week. But as the occupation entered another year, Iraqis themselves
did not demonstrate. In the country where democracy was promised, a
sweeping emergency law, implemented in 2004, bans demonstrations in Iraq
without government permission.
"Every three months the government renews this emergency order," says
Baghdadi Zahra, "but even if we wanted to go into the streets, it’s too
violent to do so. After four years, we cannot even walk down the street
without risking death."
The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives has voted to
continue occupation through spending another $100 billion in Iraq; the
bill is now on its way to the Senate. Even though the legislation
contains a timeline for US troop withdrawal, and is being touted as an
end to the occupation, critics point out that at least 21,000 troops sit
poised to deploy to Iraq and an additional $145 billion is earmarked for
the war in the upcoming budget. Yet, as Mr. Bush remains convinced his
plan for a US troop "surge" will solve the crisis of violence in Iraq,
recent surveys of Iraqis residents tell a different story.
A recent poll by DS Systems, commissioned by the BBC and other media
outlets, shows that, among other things, "a majority of Iraqis believe
that the surge of US troops will worsen security (49%) or have no effect
(22%)." The Baghdad-based Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies
found in a December survey of residents in Baghdad, Najaf and Al Anbar
(regions where violence remains the worst) that "95% believe the
security situation has deteriorated since the arrival of US forces." The
same survey also found that 66% of respondents believe violence will
decrease with US troop withdrawal.
Despite surveys, Iraqis are voting with their bodies by a continued
exodus from their country. In Syria about 2,000 Iraqis continue to
arrive daily. Just walk down the street in many neighborhoods of
Damascus where Iraqis live, like "Little Fallujah" in one section of the
city, or Saidah Zaineb, which is nearly 100% Iraqi, and people are quick
to give their opinion of US occupation, resistance, and what they think
about the current situation.
Woman from Baghdad, now living outside Damascus:
Just because we can’t go in the streets doesn’t mean we don’t resist
[the occupation]. There are many ways to resist and there are many ways
to occupy. The US and the world made a war of words and of the intellect
against Iraq. We were occupied before the first tank ever rolled into
It is our right to resist in Iraq. If the people of America were
occupied by foreigners, if they had their houses bombed, their children
killed, they would also resist. For me, I resist with my poetry.
Look at Algiers and their resistance to French occupation. Who resisted?
The writers, the poets, the intellectuals! Every resistance is filled
with the thinkers as much as with those who fight.
I have a message to the mothers in America especially," concluded
Fatima, "stop sending your sons to kill and be killed.
Truck driver and his wife from Samarra, now living in Cairo:
My nephew was kidnapped by the Mahdi Army from the Iraqi Special Forces
and we paid $90,000 [US] to release him. Then I was on my way to Baghdad
and they [Mahdi Army] forced me to stop. They accused me of being from
those who blew up the [Golden] Shrine and took my lorrie.
The occupation is a disaster for us. These are the days filled with the
most sadness in my whole life. They [the occupation forces] should leave.
Director of women’s NGO in Baghdad:
The suffering for women in Iraq cannot be put into words since the
The anti-war forces in the US are very important to us in Iraq…we get
great encouragement to continue on with our resistance. And we do resist
occupation of our country in our own way. They [occupation forces] must
Man from Kadamiya, now living in Damascus:
I’ve been here six months and left because of the violence, which was
continuous. I had a death threat on my house and had to leave.
The start of another year of occupation…it’s a very black day …I just
wish to go back home.
58-year old office worker still living in Latifiyah:
I’m a typical Arab person—I feel like anybody who’s been occupied by
anyone; like anyone who’s been stolen from. Anyone who’s had their lands
taken would resist. I’m a revolutionary because of this
occupation--anyone would be.
I have a big hope that the occupation will end. Our people won’t be
easily defeated. I call it one Iraq. I won’t say "groups" because what’s
going on has been imported. The sectarianism is made 100% by the
Americans. They want Iraqis to be busy with these things so we don’t see
The armed resistance should have political groups, but about political
resistance alone…this is not useful when someone points a gun at you and
wants to smash you with a tank. What is taken by force can only be taken
back by force. The occupation won’t leave by this way [political]. It
will leave when the coffins reach a high number, that’s when they’ll leave.
The big number of journalists killed in Iraq is a form of resistance,
too. These are the people who risk everything. This is the style of
democracy brought to us: you can say what you want, but you will be
Protests will put pressure on the government and the American people
should do this more—if we are talk as human beings, then this is the
language of humanity and it makes me feel happy. This means a lot to us.
I do have a message to the American people especially: when we talk
about "the Americans," we are talking about the administration. We are
not attacking the people. They are the victims too.
Freelance journalist from Mosul, now living in Damascus:
I believe they [the occupying forces and Iraqi government] are trying to
kill anything that is independent in Iraq.
The American people should do more and more protests to end this
occupation. Please do more, but we do thank you for what you’re doing.
I do have a message: the Iraqis condemn any terrorist attack against the
Political analyst from Baghdad, now living in Cairo:
The resistance in Iraq is filled both by the political and the armed
resistance. I am from the political resistance, because we have both a
legal and a moral obligation to resist foreign occupation of our land.
When the families of those who’ve lost their sons and daughters speak
out against the occupation, we are encouraged.
I remember Mr. Bush condemning the Democratic party saying they are
encouraging the resistance…well, is this a bad thing? Who would not
resist occupation of their country? They need to understand this fact.
We are not al-Qaeda. We are not terrorists. There is the al-moquawamah
al-shrifah, the "honest resistance" in Iraq.
Two sisters from Ghazalia, now living in Damascus:
1st sister: I feel so bad. Even the first year of occupation was better.
My husband was threatened and we had to leave. Now we have no work.
We’re just seeking asylum anywhere.
But, really, I just ask the Americans to help us go back to our country.
If they really came to help us, they will do this.
2nd sister: Our mother is a Christian, our father is Muslim. My husband
is Palestinian and he was kidnapped by the Shi’a because of this. It was
much better under Saddam. We never had these things.
There must be a solution in another country if they can’t give us peace
Woman from south of Baghdad, now living in Damascus:
It’s the worst days of my life and if the Americans are still in Iraq in
2008, it will be even worse than a disaster.
Woman from Baghdad, now living in Damascus:
I’ve seen a lot of Christians killed in Iraq. We’re [Christians] much
worse off now, it’s much worse after the US invasion. All the churches
are closed and the militias have taken them for their offices. In my
house I had the death threat posted to the door, so I left. When you
leave your house, you can never look back because it will be gone.
I don’t blame them [the American people], but it was very secure before
the invasion. It was much better financially. Now, we’re suffering a lot
because we had to leave our country and we have no money. The Americans
should leave Iraq.
Former military officer from Baquba, now a shop owner in Damascus:
I just have this to say; this is the worst period in the whole history