Scilla Elworthy Ph.D,
Did you forget about Fallujah? Fallujah didn't forget
I watched a few days ago one of Al Jazeeraís good programs "Without Frontiers" and it was about the city of Fallujah.. considering that it was the third anniversary of the Fallujah battle. I translated the most interesting portions of the program as there hardly is any news coming out of Iraq and especially Fellujah. Most interestingly I found out during that program that al Jazeera was the only TV network that managed to enter Fallujah during the first battle.. and the USís condition to stop the battle, was that Al Jazeera should leave. This is how the United States "liberated" Iraq. This is how the United States hopes to spreads "freedom" and "democracy" throughout the Middle East.
Translation of Al Jazeera Arabicís program 1st week of November 2007 "Without Frontiers. Anchor Ahmad Mansour. Guest: Scilla Elworthy Ph.D
Scilla is founder of Peace Direct, and founder and Chair of Oxford Research Group with Fallujah as a case study
Anchor Ahmad Mansour gives a little background on the destruction inflicted on Fallujah by US forces before starting the discussion:
Historic city library
All the government offices
All the infrastructure of the city
All Power stations
Entire water treatment station
Entire sewage system
Entire communication system
As for the number of killed in the Fallujah battle from April to November 2004, it exceeded 6000 deaths and as many injured. As for 300 thousand inhabitants of the city, they were either killed or transformed into homeless desperate refugees in search for a roof to spend the night under.
Some say that the Fallujah battle was the biggest battle for American forces in Iraq. Some say that it was the biggest battle for American forces since Vietnam. What many people donít know however is that until today and after it destruction in 2004, Fallujah is still under siege by US forces who donít allow anyone in except for the people of the city. That being said, they have only been allowed in or out for the past 3 years with special magnetic ID cards, retina scans, finger prints and heavy body searches. Fallujah has been transformed into the biggest prison in Iraq. Along with Gaza, both have become gigantic prison camps under the silent gaze and complicity of the whole world. Why is the city of Fallujah and its inhabitant paying this incredible price? Why has Fallujah become a prison camp for over 300, 000.00 Iraqis? Why is the world so silent and even complicit in the collective punishment of 300,000.00 people who are mostly women, children and elderly?
World media has totally forgotten Fallujah. What reports are telling us is that about 50 thousand of Fallujahís inhabitants didnít come back to it. Fallujahís original inhabitants were about 350 thousand to 500 thousand. Now to enter Fallujah and to move inside it, you have to have a special ID and be subject to a retina scan. Personal cars are also no longer allowed in the streets and people have to use horses for transportation. The situation is very bad. I got figures today from the main hospital in Fallujah which speak of a new phenomenon amongst children between age 1 and 6 that did not exist before. 114 cases of spinal cord abnormalities have been reported in additional to liver abnormalities and doctors are relating this to the use of illegal weapons.
Indeed, illegal weapons have been used in Fallujah and the US forces forbid any media to enter except their embedded complicit media. Even international organizations were not allowed in to see what really happened. Two years ago the Italian RAI channel uncovered through information given by individual US forces the use of white phosphorous and forbidden chemical weapons. Do you think that the results of the use of such weapons will start to physically show on people at some point?
Well, I am not a medical professional, but I can tell you that reports on the use of such weapons have already started to emerge and even from within the US army ... including the use of uranium.
What started the resistance in Fallujah?
US forces needlessly took over one of the schools in Fallujah so the inhabitants of Fallujah peacefully protested in front of that school. US forces again needlessly opened fire on them killing 10 of them mostly young and children. The protesters were unarmed. There were a series of wrong decisions taken by US commanders and forces. If you allow me, I shall read you a report also by the Red Cross to illustrate: US forces use to forcefully enter at night the homes. They would brutally arrest all the men including the elderly and sick and mishandle them. They also use to disrupt the privacy of homes and enter and see the women in their nighties which is something totally unacceptable in Arab culture. The US should have known better in terms of approaching the Iraqis.
You are referring to the Red cross report February 2004 on Fallujah. Jazeera was the only team that was able to get into Fallujah. The US forcesí condition to stop the first battle however was that Al Jazeera should leave Fallujah, so we left. In the second battle, US forces totally forbid the presence of any media and wanted the battle to happen ďas quick as possibleĒ away from the eyes of the world.
This is of course totally unacceptable and you could compare the behavior of the US in Fallujah with the behavior of the government in Myanmar where they forbid coverage of the revolt of the monks.
We have with us directly from Fallujah by phone Fadel al Badrani.. Reuters ex correspondent in Fallujah where he still lives. Fadel, what can you tell us about Fallujah after 3 years?
First of all, Iíd like to thank you and Al Jazeera for remembering Al Fallujah which everyone in the media seems to have forgotten after the catastrophe that befell it at the hands of US forces
Fallujah now is like a huge prison. It is surrounded by US forces and has 5 US check points through which the people have to pass at a specific determined time in order to either enter or leave Fallujah. People in Fallujah are totally paralyzed economically and socially and have no freedom to move as is normal in any city. Fallujah is still paying a heavy price of the US onslaught on it in 2004. Fallujah streets are destroyed or blocked by US forces. The markets are ruined. A lot of the original inhabitants of the city who had fled have come back to also terrible circumstancesÖ but they didnít really have any other option. Streets are blocked with concrete slabs that US forces are now decorating while claiming that these are "artistic works". Every town in Fallujah is separated from the other and it is obvious that there is some kind of complicity between the security forces and some locals of Fallujah. At least one positive thing is that the bloody massacres have ended.
What is the role of the check points and are there certain times to be observed for curfews?
Entry into the city of Felluja is allowed at 6 p.m.
Exit of the city 7 a.m.
Entry to falluja 18:00
This is a problem of course for all those who work out side of Fallujah as well as all the students who go to school outside as there is nothing inside Fallujah.
Are Iraqis and Fallujans who do not carry the ID issued by US forces allowed to enter Fallujah?
Let me explain. No one is allowed in Fallujah wherever they are from unless they have the badge given to them by the marines and unless they pass by the US base in Fallujah, show their papers, pass a retina scan and finger print test to ensure that this person is not wanted by US forces ... Many Fallujans have not been able to enter Fallujah because US forces make the process even harder than it is by using psychological war against them. Let me illustrate: it could take you one week to issue the necessary badge to enter Fallujah ..., then upon entrance at one check point, the US forces would for some reason or another ask you to go to another checkpoint to enter from ... keeping you walking and walking all day. You could spend days walking just trying to re-enter Fallujah. People are very irritated and resentful.