By Raed Jarrar
12 July, 2006
few months ago, Abir Al-Janabi was just another 14-year-old Iraqi girl
in a small town called Al-Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. Both of her
parents are from the Al-Janabi tribe, one of the biggest tribes with
Sunni and Shia branches.
Omar Al-Janabi, a neighbor
and relative, was informed by Abir's mother that the young girl was
being harassed by U.S. soldiers stationed in a nearby checkpoint. That
is why Abir was sent to spend the night in her neighbor's home. The
next day, Omar Al-Janabi was among the first people who found Abir,
with her 34-year-old mother Fakhriyah, her 45-year-old father Qasim,
and her 7-year-old sister Hadil, murdered in their home. Abir was raped,
killed by a bullet in her head, and then burned on March 12.
Muhammad Al-Janabi, Abir's
uncle, reached the house shortly after the attack as well. Iraqi police
and army officers informed him and other angry relatives that an "armed
terrorist group" was responsible for the horrifying attack. This
is exactly what the angry relatives of the 24 Iraqi civilians killed
in Haditha four months before this incident had been told as well. In
that case, U.S. officials initially claimed that a roadside bomb planted
by terrorists had killed the 24 Iraqi civilians and one U.S. soldier
in Haditha, but the Iraqi people knew that it was the Americans.
Unlike the case of Haditha,
where Iraqi public opinion was furious about the massacre months before
it reached to the U.S. mainstream media, the Iraqi press had not even
heard of Abir until the U.S. army accidentally found out information
about her while investigating another incident. This raises questions
about the number of other similar cases that were never investigated
and were blamed on non-occupation parties instead.
According to Iraq Body Count,
a credible project documenting Iraq's civilian casualties, the occupation
armies are directly responsible for killing more than one fourth of
civilians in Iraq since the beginning of the war. This makes the assumption
that Abir's case is just one of many even more plausible.
The "Hadji Girl"
song is yet another indicator that what happened to Abir is most like
not an anomalous case. "Hadji Girl" is a videotaped song about
killing Iraqis written and performed by U.S. Marine Corporal Joshua
Belile while he was at the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. The song became
controversial a few weeks ago when the Council on American-Islamic Relations
(CAIR) discovered it on the internet and objected to its lyrics.
The lyrics, accompanied by
loud laughter and applause, include lines as such as "So I grabbed
her little sister and pulled her in front of me. As the bullets began
to fly, the blood sprayed from between her eyes, and then I laughed
maniacally. Then I hid behind the TV, and I locked and loaded my M-16,
and I blew those little fuckers to eternity. And I said Dirka Dirka
Mohammed Jihad, Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah, they should have known they
were fucking with a Marine". A two-week investigation held by the
U.S. army ended with no punishment for Corporal Belile. Furthermore,
according to the spokesperson for the Mike Church Show, Mike Church
is planning to record and release "Hadji Girl" and give royalties
to Belile. The right-wing presenter will sing and release the song on
air this week.
But even if you believe that
the case of Abir is a rare exception, it is still a major scandal in
Iraq. Issues relating to honor are even more sensitive for the Iraqi
public and government than the ongoing daily civilian murders. The first
Iraqi governmental reaction came when an Iraqi female member of Parliament
asked for an urgent session for which Prime Minister Al-Maliki was called
back home to attend. The Iraqi Parliament described the rape as a crime
against "the honor of all Iraqis". As a result, Al-Maliki
asked for a review of the laws put in place by U.S. Ambassador Paul
Bremer, giving foreign troops immunity from prosecution in Iraq. This
seems to be an Iraqi public demand. Iraqi tribal leaders had a number
of meetings across the country last week on the anniversary of "Thawrat
Al-Eshrin", the 1920 revolution against the British occupation.
The largest meeting was that of the mostly Shia Middle Euphrates Tribes.
During this meeting, they threatened to initiate a full-scale revolution
against the occupation, similar to what had happened in 1920, unless
the U.S. army hands over to them all soldiers accused of raping the
"Al-Mahmudiyah Virgin," as she is now known.
The uproar created in the
wake of the death of Abir is but the culmination of over three years
of pent-up frustration and rage the Iraqi people feel. It will only
end with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. What is happening
in Iraq is a rape of a nation, not just a rape of a 12-year-old girl,
and it has to be stopped as soon as possible.
an Iraqi living in the United States, is the director of the Iraq Project
at Global Exchange. Jarrar can be reached at: email@example.com