We Won't Go
We Won't Vote
By Robert Fisk
14 January, 2004
live beneath old fly-blown tents in the car-park of the Mustafa mosque
and their canvas-roofed kitchen stands next to a pool of raw sewage,
but the refugees from Fallujah will not return home.
many have no homes to go to; secondly, because they are - with the encouragement
of local clerics - listing a series of demands that include the withdrawal
of all American soldiers from the city; the maintenance of security
by Fallujans themselves; massive compensation payments; and the return
of money and valuables that those who have just visited Fallujah say
were stolen by American troops.
And they are very
definitely not going to vote in the January 30 elections. Squatting
on the floor of his concrete-walled office in his black robes to eat
lunch, Sheik Hussein - he pleads with me not to print his family name
- insists that his people are not against elections. "We are not
rejecting this election for the sake of it," he says. "We
are rejecting it because it is the 'tent' of the occupation. It is the
vehicle for the Americans to ensure that (Prime Minister Iyad) Allawi
gets back in. And we are still under occupation."
A bearded and bespectacled
academic is sitting beside the sheik. Dr Abdul-Kader, of the department
of Islamic science at Baghdad University, gravely reminds me of the
civilian dead of Fallujah.
hundreds," he says. "We found bodies in homes, and graves
in the gardens of homes."
The sheik's closest
relatives live in Fallujah - his own Sunni mosque lies at the centre
of the camp in Baghdad where 925 of Fallujah's 200 000 refugees are
living - but he says he has travelled twice to his family's homes and
tells a disturbing story of what he found.
time I visited after the Americans occupied the city, our main house
was standing. It had survived. All the things inside - beds, furniture,
rugs - were safe. But when I went back a week later, it had been destroyed.
Many other houses were in the same state."
the American-resistance battles intact but were then destroyed afterwards.
Why? People there told me they saw movie cameras and that the Americans
fired shells into the empty houses and that they were making some kind
Tales of American
theft in Iraqi cities are not new. Amnesty International has listed
numerous incidents in which US troops took money from homes or from
the clothes of arrested men. The US authorities acknowledged one case
of large-scale pilfering by an American officer south of Baghdad in
2003, but said he had been moved out of Iraq and would be "too
difficult" to trace.
The stories of looting in Fallujah, however, are only adding to the
refugees' sense of grievance. And to the enthusiastic demands for compensation.
"We will settle
for $5- to $10-billion," Sheik Hussein says. "This is for
the destruction in Fallujah, the shedding of blood and the killing of
innocents - history will write of this. The Americans started off by
killing Native Americans and still they kill people they look down on."
the sheik continues, "I was stopped and taken to an American base
and questioned by the CIA, and they said: 'You are a religious man and
we want advice'. I said: 'What I want to tell you is not to enter the
cities because the people are waiting for a chance to attack you. They
will make you suffer in different ways. Pull out your troops to the
deserts, far away from the gunfire of the resistance - though that stretches
a long way'. But they were very, very stupid. They didn't take the chance
to go out."
to force us to have elections so that they could get out and leave their
agents in power. I say this: the American troops will retreat suddenly
- or they will find themselves prisoners inside the trap of Iraq. You
know, you Westerners laugh at us Easterners, especially when we say
'If Allah wills'. But the Prophet - peace be upon him - once said the
Iraqis would be scourged, that they would not receive a single dirham
or a grain of rice in the hand - and this happened in the economic embargo
of the 1990s. Then America came here after April 9 2003, with all its
power and soldiers, so proud of getting rid of Saddam Hussein."
"But now the
morale of these soldiers is rotting each day. They have psychological
problems. My advice to them is to leave. They have a choice to make:
they must leave or they will be forced out."
each night in Fallujah, despite American claims of victory and "breaking
the back" of the insurgency. As the sheik puts it, not without
some humour: "The Americans move in the streets during the day
from 6am to 6pm but they do not move when the 'muqawama' (resistance)
imposes its own curfew on them between 6pm and 6am."
And when I ask him
if he will vote, he laughs at me. "The Americans must leave Fallujah
unconditionally. They've done too much harm to be accepted."
I suggest that Fallujah's
troubles started the day the 82nd Airborne killed 18 protesters outside
a local school just after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. Abdul-Kader admonishes
me: "It started even before that. Fallujah people suffered under
Saddam and they liberated their own city. They did not do so to live
Copyright: The Independent.
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