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Falluja, One Year Later

Doug Pritchard, Electronic Iraq

November 13, 2005

Christian Peacemaker Teams visited the city of Falluja again on Nov. 8th. This day marked the first anniversary of a major U.S. assault on the city. In that attack, the largely Sunni population of 300,000 was expelled, its industrial base and services destroyed, and one-third of its homes were flattened. What has happened since?

The city is now surrounded by a tight network of checkpoints controlled by U.S. forces and Shi'a members of the Iraqi Army. No one is allowed in without an identification card issued by the U.S. Marines, or other permission. Even with such permission it took 75 minutes for us to enter. These checkpoints are choking economic life in the city, doubling prices for basic foodstuffs, and cutting off surrounding villages from Falluja's markets, services, and hospital. The people say that they are living in a prison.

Our first visit was to a sheikh who heads a major mosque. He said that most of the population has returned to the city centre, but those who live further out cannot because their homes were the most damaged. Power is only available downtown, and only for a few hours in the middle of the night. The majority of the population is still unemployed since the city's factories have not been rebuilt. The economic situation is so desperate that the limited reconstruction funds are being consumed by the immediate needs for food and material aid. Schools are mostly open, but three schools and the Ministry of Education offices are still being occupied by U.S. forces. As we spoke to the sheikh, members of the U.S. forces and the Iraqi Army swept up the street searching homes and threatened to blow-up our driver's car which was parked outside the mosque. Several days before, Iraqi Army troops blew up a teacher's car and on this day he had come to the mosque just before we arrived, weeping. The sheikh offered to start a collection to raise the $5,000 US needed to replace his car. The sheikh said that when they complained, the U.S. forces said, "Talk to the Iraqi Army." When they talk to the Iraqi Army, they say, "You are all children of Saddam."

We then met with the manager of a popular downtown restaurant. He described the violence that is growing in the city. For example, in September 2005, there was an explosion in the street near his restaurant. On arrival, the Iraqi Army sprayed his restaurant and the neighbouring businesses with machine-gun fire. A few days later he found a sign on his door saying that anyone who sold goods to the U.S. forces or the Iraqi Army would be beheaded. He said that he felt caught between two enemies. When he refused to serve the Iraqi Army, they detained him for several hours, but a friendly policeman secured his release. He said that on Nov. 1, after another explosion near his restaurant, several children ran away from the danger, and three were shot dead by the Iraqi Army. On the same day, the Iraqi Army set up a new roadblock. An old man drove up the street, became confused by the roadblock, began driving away, and was shot dead by the Iraqi Army. On Nov. 6, U.S. forces broke into and commandeered his uncle's house to set up a sniper post. As they searched the house, they found his $10,000 US in savings and confiscated it as "the proceeds of terrorism." On the same day, his cousin was passing through the checkpoints into Falluja. The Iraqi Army found his wages of $200 US in his pocket and confiscated it.

Our final visit was to the only hospital in Falluja. They are operating, but are very short of modern equipment like incubators, anaethesia machines, and electrical generators. They said that U.S. officials have repeatedly promised aid, but so far have only supplied blankets and a few kerosene heaters. The staff said that the number of violent deaths is increasing, and now averages 100 to 200 per month.

One man visiting the sheikh challenged us by saying, "If I come and smash everything in your house and take all your money, and then I do the same to all your neighbours, what would you do to me?"

Donate to CPT Iraq and our other CPT projects on-line with your credit card! Click the DONATE button to make a contribution through Network for Good, a secure way to help support CPT.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical violence-reduction program with roots in the historic peace churches. Teams of trained peace workers live in areas of lethal conflict around the world. CPT has been present in Iraq since October, 2002. To learn more about CPT, please visit http://www.cpt.org. Photos of CPT projects may be viewed at www.cpt.org/gallery

:: Article nr. 17787 sent on 13-nov-2005 22:51 ECT


Link: electroniciraq.net/news/2195.shtml

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