Now Under A
Different Kind Of Siege
By Ali al-Fadhily
20 November, 2007
Inter Press Service
FALLUJAH, Nov 20
(IPS) - Three years after a devastating U.S.-led siege of the
city, residents of Fallujah continue to struggle with a shattered economy,
infrastructure, and lack of mobility.
The city that was routed
in November 2004 is still suffering the worst humanitarian conditions
under a siege that continues. Although military actions are down to
the minimum inside the city, local and US authorities do not seem to
be thinking of ending the agonies of the over 400,000 residents of Fallujah.
"You, people of the
media, say things in Fallujah are good," Mohammad Sammy, an aid
worker for the Iraqi Red Crescent in Fallujah told IPS, "Then why
don’t you come and live in this paradise with us? It is so easy
to say things for you, isn’t it?"
His anger is due to the fact
that the embattled city is still completely closed and surrounded by
military checkpoints to make it look like an isolated island. Those
who are not genuine residents of the city are not granted the biometric
identification badge from the U.S. Marines, and are thus not allowed
to enter the city.
Since the November 2004 U.S.-led
attack on the city, named Operation Phantom Fury, which left approximately
70 percent of the city destroyed, the U.S. military has required residents
to undergo retina scans, and finger-printings in order to gain a bar-code
"This isolation has
destroyed the economy of the city that was once one the best in Iraq,"
Professor Mohammad Al-Dulaymi of Al-Anbar University told IPS. "All
of the other cities in the province used to do their wholesale shopping
in Fallujah, but now they have to find alternatives, leaving the cities
businesses to starve," he explained.
All of the residents interviewed
by IPS were extremely angry with the media for recent reports that the
situation in the city is good. Many refused to be quoted for different
"Fallujah is probably
the city that had the most of media coverage in the history of the occupation,"
Hatam Jawad, a school headmaster in Fallujah told IPS. "People
are tired of shouting and appearing on TV to complain, without feeling
any change in their sorrowful living situation. Some of them are afraid
of police revenge for telling the truth."
Many residents told IPS that
U.S.-backed Iraqi Police and Army personnel have detained people who
have spoken to the media.
"I am not going to tell
you whether it is good or bad to be a Fallujah resident," 55-year-old
lawyer, Shakir Naji, told IPS. "Why don’t you just ask what
the prices of essential materials are and judge for yourself? Kerosene
for heating is almost one U.S. dollar per liter, a jar of propane gas
is 15 dollars, and it is not winter yet when the prices will definitely
Water and electricity services
are at a minimum in the city. An Oxfam International report released
in July found that 70 percent of Iraqis do not have access to safe drinking
Since the November 2004 siege,
entire neighborhoods remain totally destroyed, and with no water or
electricity. Most of the businesses in Fallujah remain closed.
"We depend upon the
private sector for electricity," Fatima Saed, a woman whose husband
was detained in 2005 and has not been released yet told IPS. "In
my situation, to pay 50 dollars a month [for electricity] is a disaster
because I have to cut it from the quantity and quality of food that
I buy for myself and my kids."
The Oxfam report also stated,
"At the beginning of May 2007, the Central Office for Statistics
and Information Technology (COSIT), part of the Iraqi Ministry of Planning,
released a survey highlighting the fact that 43 percent of Iraqis suffer
from ‘absolute poverty’. The poverty of many families is
rooted in unemployment, which affects probably more than 50 percent
of the workforce."
Fallujah General Hospital,
situated across the Euphrates River from the city, is still functioning,
but with a minimal number of specialist doctors and medical supplies.
The only doctor who would speak to IPS did not want his name published.
"The manager of this
hospital is a good man and he is trying hard to improve the services,
but the Ministry of Health in Baghdad still treats us here as a bunch
of terrorists. We are suffering both corruption from the ministry and
ignorance about Al-Anbar Province from this (Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki)
administration," he explained. "We do not have enough medicines,
and the equipment brought to us by contractors is still in boxes and
seems to be part of the corrupt contracts of the province. It is impossible
to work under such conditions."
People coming for treatment
or surgeries in the hospital appeared desperate to get their essential
"We have to buy cotton,
bandages, medicines and all we need from private pharmacies," 35-year-old
Muath Tahir, a teacher who had his appendix removed three days earlier
told IPS. "Those who can manage would go to the private hospital
for better treatment, but my 230 dollar salary is not even enough for
my daily needs. This city has become impossible to live in."
( Ali, our correspondent
in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based
specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)
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