“Listen, listen, the warplanes,” Abu Mohammed cried. I could hear the planes over the phone. “They are over us, over the house, almost 10 meters away.” Tonight is the last night of Ramadan, and tomorrow is the first day of the Islamic feast `Eid Al-Fitr. Abu Mohammed is currently in Al-Amiriyah neighborhood in Baghdad, with his family, and 4 other families who fled Fallujah a few months ago.
“We are 45 people in one house,” his daughter Inas said. She complained about the difficulty of living with so many people in a very small house. But her aunt Umm Waddah is grateful that she could find a place to stay in. “At least we are better off than the Fallujans currently living in tents, or on Baghdad’s streets with no place at all to shelter them.”
Those in Baghdad might be better off than Fallujans still locked inside their home town, which is currently being razed to the ground by the US Army. Everything is being wiped out. “The residential areas, our houses, they are all destroyed. They bombed the hospital, the clinics, the doctors, the infrastructure, everything,” Abu Mohammed said.
As the blood of the people of Fallujah mingles with the ground underneath, the question remains:
“Which is more valuable to the USA?"
Even the animals, the trees—the snipers spread all over Fallujah shoot at any motion they spot. “They shoot at the animals moving in the streets, the trees waving their leaves in the wind,” describes Umm Omar, who managed to leave Fallujah yesterday.
Her nephew was killed a week ago, but his body still lies on the street. “They haven’t even let us pull his body to the house.” She couldn’t help crying. Death is overwhelming. An old man they originally didn’t know died in her house. They found him bleeding at the door. Taking him inside didn’t help a lot. Phones don’t work; and if they worked, there are no more doctors in Fallujah anyway, as they were all expelled by US and Iraqi forces and weren’t let back in. So the strange old man bled for three days until he died inside the house.
Houses are full of injured civilians left to bleed to death; the streets are full of dead bodies, which lie there until US tanks roll over them. “Inside the house, everything is shaking because of the strength of the raids from airplanes very low in the sky. If we run outside, the planes are right over us,” says Umm Usama, who left Fallujah two weeks ago.
Another Fallujan woman, Umm Waddah, left Fallujah after a US rocket destroyed the house opposite to hers, and the remains and flesh of its inhabitants’ bodies scattered to her house’s roof. The next day, she and her family ran off to Baghdad. She prays that her old neighbors, the Ghanems, rest in peace.
And she asks, “What have we done? Our women and children got killed, our youth got killed, our houses got demolished; why?” The interim Iraqi government’s politicians and US Army spokesmen say that they are after “terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi” who, they believe, is hiding in Fallujah along with his followers, “the insurgents.”
“What Zarqawi? Where is Al-Zarqawi? Is he a ghost?” asks Umm Usama. “There is no Zarqawi in Fallujah, no Arab fighters as they claim.” In the name of Al-Zarqawi 1200 people have been killed in Fallujah—according to the American military, which describes the victims as “insurgents” and “guerrillas.” Eyewitnesses say the dead are civilian residents.
“Our neighbor’s house was raided; they killed her and two other women, two men, and two children—eight people—in the name of Al-Zarqawi.” One of the women was in her seventh month of pregnancy. Her fetus got out of her body and stayed alive for 6 hours then died, according to the neighbors and relatives who retrieved the bodies from under the rubble.
They were normally asleep at 3:30 a.m. when the rocket fell on their house, flattened it, and killed them all—the mother Hazima Mohsen, her two sons, two daughters, her daughter in law, and three grandsons.
One of Hazima’s daughters, Mona, was “lucky” enough to escape to Baghdad days before her family was killed in the name of Al-Zarqawi. To her, Al-Zarqawi is like the weapons of mass destruction claim. “They came up with the weapons of mass destruction lie to invade Iraq, and they have come up with Al-Zarqawi lie to wipe out Fallujah,” she says.
Twenty months since the invasion and massive destruction of Iraq have revealed that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq Survey Group Report, a CIA report released on October 6, reiterated what has been stated in one report after another: Iraq did not possess stock-piles of illicit weapons at the time of the US invasion in March 2003 and had not begun any program to produce them.
“And there is no Zarqawi in Fallujah. This is a false, baseless claim,” Mona argues.
They also claim they are liberating Iraq, all of which has been already “liberated,” except for Fallujah, which US forces have retreated from in April, 2004, following a previous tragedy in the very town. They are, once again, trying to subdue it and bring to it “democracy and freedom,” as they brought them to the rest of Iraq.
“We now hate the terms ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’; they are a curse on our people,” Amer Al-Zawbaey said with intense bitterness. Amer is the Baghdadi man hosting Abu Muhammed’s family and four other Fallujan families in his house.
The claim of democratizing and liberating Iraq was a pretext for the March 20 invasion, which has resulted in the massive destruction of the country and unprecedented losses for its people. Almost daily car bombs go off in Iraq. More than 100,000 extra deaths have taken place since the US-led invasion, and the risk of death by violence for civilians in Iraq is now 58 times higher than before the invasion (The Lancet, according to research conducted by scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US city of Baltimore). Moreover, unemployment rate has reached 70%, according to a study by the college of economics in Baghdad University.
“Whoever believes that America has invaded and occupied Iraq to bring democracy and freedom is either stupid or in cooperation with the US against the Iraqis,” says Monther Yaakoub, another Fallujan in Baghdad.
As I listened—over the phone—to the sound of American war planes and tanks outside Amer’s house in Baghdad, where tens of Fallujans sought shelter, I could hear the noise of children in Cairo playing with fireworks to celebrate the end of Ramadan and welcome `Eid Al-Fitr that was to start the next morning in Egypt—and in Iraq. I remembered Mona’s children: “During the continuous air strikes at night in Fallujah, my kids would wake up at night and scream, ‘Mama, our house has fallen, mama; our house has fallen. Where will we go?”
Finally, I am obliged to fulfill my promise to the Fallujans I spoke with and get their calls across through this article: Abu Mohammed calls upon the Western media to cover the horrific situation they are living in. Umm Waddah calls upon the Arabs, who view the Iraqi tragedy on Arab TVs, to act and help their brothers and sister in Iraq. And Umm Usama asks us to pray for Fallujah, and for Iraq.