- FALLUJAH (IPS) -- Fallujah
remains a crippled city more than two years after the November 2004 U.S.-led
- Unemployment, and lack of medical care and safe drinking
water in the city 60 km west of Baghdad remain a continuous problem. Freedom
of movement is still curtailed.
- 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 future."
- 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 can prove it by providing elaborate identity documentation. That
can only be obtained by undergoing biometric identification by the U.S.
military -- a process which includes retina scans, body searches and finger-printing
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 centre 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 al-Anbar province. Disputes
between the Iraqi Islamic Party and Awakening groups are also creating
security tensions. The Awakening forces are former resistance fighters
that the U.S. pays to be now on its side.
- Beyond security, the health situation in the city is
particularly difficult. A study conducted by two civil society organisations
and the administration of Fallujah General Hospital over a two-year period
was submitted to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Mar. 4.
- The hospital administration and the two groups, the Conservation
Centre 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
- "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 their people."
- 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
- 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,
- 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."
- (*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration
with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported
extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)
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