is Al-Adamiyah Targeted
By the Americans?
By Dahr Jamail
01 January, 2004
has Al-Adamiyah been the target of so much American brutality, collective
punishment, and so many of its residents detained?
Some insight into
the history, culture and traditions of the people in this section of
Baghdad helps answer this question. Even more importantly is the fact
that the people here are strongly opposed to the occupation of their
For starters, the
Abu Hanifa Mosque here is a very special mosque in Iraq. The nick-name
of the mosque is Al-Imam Al-A'dham, which means 'The Greatest Imam',
from which the name Al-Adamiyah is derived, which means 'The Greatest'.
Today it stands
marred with bullet holes by American guns.
In Baghdad, Al-Adamiyah
stands as the symbol of the Sunni. But even more importantly, the area
stands as the symbol of 'Kholmi', the idea and hope for one united great
Arab Nation. The area has always been known as 'The Mother of the Revolution',
even during the reign of Saddam Hussein, due to the belief of the people
here in Kholmi.
What better symbolic
target is there in Baghdad for the Americans to use in order to strike
fear in the hearts of those who might resist their Imperialism?
These proud people
stand united in their opposition to the occupation; similar to the people
of Falluja, Ramadi, Tikrit, Samarra, Baquba, Mosul and countless smaller
villages in Iraq. They simply cannot and will not accept an occupier
in their home.
Of course the CPA
continues to attempt to paint the people who are resisting the illegal
occupation of their own country as 'Baathists', or 'thugs'. Would they
ever consider calling people in America who fought against anyone who
attempted to occupy their homeland a 'Republican' or a 'thug'?
While not all in
Baghdad share the belief as strongly as those in Al-Adamiyah, they nevertheless
respect their traditions and the passion of their beliefs.
Al-Adamiyah is known
throughout Iraq for the traditions and customs the people here practice.
The birthday of
Mohammed has always been celebrated here in a special way. People come
from many cities of Iraq to two mosques in Baghdad during this time,
yet the most popular is the Abu Hanifa Mosque. During this time people
sit in the streets singing, praying, and serving one another delicious
meals. Gifts are exchanged with strangers, as well as food served to
those sitting beside them.
Abu Hanifa is buried
in the mosque here, an additional symbol drawing people here to pray.
Ramadan is also
celebrated in a special way here as well. It is another time of sharing
food with people. A time when no person will eat the food they prepare,
only that prepared by others.
The tradition of
painting the bride and grooms hands with henna the night before the
wedding ceremony is alive and well in Al-Adamiyah. This tradition has
died out in many other parts of Iraq, but not here.
All of this adds
up to form the basis of an extremely united, tight-knit community of
people who all know one another, and all look out for one another.
Many people of Al-Adamiyah
don't even consider themselves as part of Baghdad, for when they need
to go out of their area, they say, 'I am going to the city', referencing
any area of the surrounding sprawl of greater Baghdad.
A man named Faisal
told me he feels that the air is different outside of Al-Adamiyah.
"The air in
other areas, I can't breath it. Al-Adamiyah means everything for us.
We have our own people, our own traditions, and our pride. We know anyone
strange who comes in here, and we have to ask him where he is from.
But even people who move in here from other places love it here, and
can't leave. Everybody here is like this. And other people want to live
The people live
like one big family. They have a saying, "If you die in your home,
nobody knows you have died. But in Al-Adamiyah, if you die, everyone
The pride and unity
of the area is palpable as I walk down the streets.
Also palpable is
the anger, a direct result of the suffering inflicted upon the people
of Al-Adamiyah by the Americans. The area has been a prime target both
during and since the Anglo-American Invasion. As it stood as the last
part of Baghdad to fall, the fighting here was the fiercest. Thus, when
Al-Adamiyah fell, Baghdad fell.
Many people here
believe the Americans knew the importance and the symbolism of Al-Adamiyah
long before the invasion and had sent in spies with the Red Crescent
to learn more about how to crack the unity of the people here.
Perhaps the Americans
are acting on the belief that if they can break the will of the stronger
communities in Iraq, the rest of the country will fall in line with
the desires of the Americans.
Everyone I speak
with in Al-Adamiyah shares a determined resistance to what they see
the Americans trying to do here.
I talk with an older
man, Kassim Radi, selling clothing on the sidewalk on this chilly, grey
day in Baghdad. He prefers I don't use his last name.
He tells me he
believes the Americans are feeding the fire with how they treat the
"If they will
treat people well, I think they will get a good result. But when they
treat people terrible, of course they get bad results."
A man named Kassim
says that if nobody immediately opens the door knocked upon by Americans
while they are conducting home raids, if they knock, they promptly smash
it in. This is directly against Muslim and Arab traditions.
"If they keep
doing this, they will keep getting bad reactions from the people. Particularly
when the Americans continue to detain and harm innocent people."
While the heavy
handed policy of the US military has afforded many arrests of resistance
fighters, as well as arms, it has also resulted in the detention of
just as many innocent residents, and many people killed for demonstrating.
One of the main
reasons the Americans have used such heavy handed tactics in Al-Adamiyah
is because the people here fight back ferociously against the occupiers
of their country.
Kassim feels that
the people here were better off before the Americans came, and are now
fighting to end the occupation in order to have a better life.
"We can't even
afford petrol anymore. Our lives have been made miserable by the Americans.
For this reason we will resist. We will resist more and more. They have
done nothing good for us here."
Faisal Al Adham
owns a small grocery store on a street corner. He tells of how the Americans
are not only detaining members of the resistance, but even people who
have no association with it.
"If they continue
to treat us like this, we will become stronger and stronger. Even the
person not with the resistance, he will join!"
On Friday, December
26th, there was a demonstration in front of the mosque after praying
time for the people detained from Al-Adamiyah. The people here are very
angry about being targeted incessantly by the Americans and are tired
Faisal says, "The
Americans say only one soldier has been killed here. But so many have
been killed. I've seen them. If they let the cameraman film this, you
can get the truth. But the Americans seal the area and don't let press
He speaks with a
calm determination with which he firmly opposes the occupation.
you are seeing will spread around Baghdad and to more cities in Iraq.
Other people are seeing what the Americans are doing to innocent people
in Al-Adamiyah and are joining the resistance because of it."
Faisal points out
that this is what we are already seeing in the cities and villages north
of Baghdad, and now more recently in the south.
"We are not
ignorant. We see what they are trying to do here. We do not need this
occupation." Slapping his hands together as if dusting them off,
he says, "We will kick them from here."
He tells me that
no American patrol has ever passed through Al-Adamiyah without being
attacked. Even today there was a Humvee attacked here, and shortly thereafter
many more people were detained.
Faisal, and older
man, shares his worry about the possibility of his sons being detained.
"If they detain
my sons, what should I do? I am an old man; I cannot do anything without
He tries to explain
that they do not want to fight, but their culture, respect, and traditions
are being violated.
anyone into our home. But when someone uses force, we never accept such
things as this. No person in Al-Adamiyah will accept something that
is wrong. And what the Americans are doing here is all wrong."
Later I am in a
money exchange office, and begin speaking with a man named Ali. While
we are talking several other men join in the discussion.
Ali tells me,
our country. We don't resist them only for our country. We resist for
our country and for our religion. This is worse than an occupation here."
I ask him if he
worries that Iraq will be like Palestine.
"We will show
that Iraqis are very strong people. We will resist. This will be very
different than Palestine. It will not take long. We will kick the Americans
from here. Just watch."
I've heard of so
many people being detained from this area, I ask the small group what
they estimate the number to be from the beginning of the occupation
"500. At least
that many," replies one of the men, while the others nod in agreement.
While it is impossible
to obtain any figures on this from the CPA, through several interviews
by many journalists in Baghdad of people who have had their homes raided,
it becomes clear that 500 could be too low of an estimate when one considers
that the numbers of innocent people detained is growing daily.
The horrible result
of the heavy handed approach by the Americans in Al-Adamiyah causes
the resistance to strike back even harder. Thus, the terrible cycle
of violence continues as each side strikes back more viciously each
time the wheel turns.
The fighting in
Al-Adamiyah has been some of the fiercest faced by the Americans.
One of the men,
Ali, tells me that he saw seven Humvees totally burned during the fighting
on December 14th. He claims that all of the soldiers inside were killed.
happened they surrounded the area with razor wire and didn't let any
press people near to see it. Two American tanks were hit here that day
too, but you never hear about it."
While the US military
in Baghdad has failed to report any such attack, and seven being quite
possibly an exaggerated figure, the day after this battle I saw two
large black scars from explosions on the concrete in this particular
area of Al-Adamiyah. These were surrounded by pools of blood, with various
US military gear strewn about.
Ali looks me calmly
in the eye and politely asks me if he may ask me a personal question.
I tell him, "Of
After pausing, he
takes a deep breath and asks,
invades your house, kills some of your relatives while taking the rest
to jail, steals your things, remains in your home and then threatens
you and tries to tell you what to do in your own home, what would you
do? Would you welcome him with flowers? What would you do if this happened
to you in your home?"
As I drive out of
Al-Adamiyah my taxi passes 10 US soldiers walking down muddy sidewalks
under a grey sky on a foot patrol. Similar tactics are being used in
Tikrit, Ramadi, Samarra, and Falluja for intimidation and psychological
warfare. Each of the soldiers looks very afraid, walking quickly with
their eyes straight ahead, as if in a forced death march.
The residents of
the neighborhood who are outside glare at them as they walk past.
Dahr Jamail is a freelance journalist and political activist from Anchorage,
Alaska. He has come to Iraq to bear witness and write about how the
US occupation is affecting the people of Iraq, since the media in the
US has in large part, he believes, failed to do so.