Visit the World Crisis Web Front Page

United In Opposition To The Occupation

Dahr Jamail

Comment on this article
Print-ready version
Email this article
Visit the World Crisis Web

Why 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 country.

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.

The damaged the Abu-Hanifa mosque stands as testimony to the recklessness with which USA occupiers have treated Iraqi tradition.

The damaged the Abu-Hanifa mosque stands as testimony to the recklessness with which USA occupiers have treated Iraqi tradition.

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 (a revered 8th century Islamic scholar and philosopher) 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 here.” 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 knows.”

For the Muslim men and women of Al-Adamiyah, the Abu-Hanifa mosque is a central part of their lives.

For the Muslim men and women of Al-Adamiyah, the Abu-Hanifa mosque is a central part of their lives.

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 of the Americans 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 people here: “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 USA 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.”

Since 'Operation Iron Hammer' started in the so-called 'Sunni-triangle', it's been turkey-shoot time with impunity for trigger-happy soldiers.

Since ‘Operation Iron Hammer’ started in the so-called ‘Sunni-triangle’, it’s been turkey-shoot time with impunity for trigger-happy soldiers.

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 of it. 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 in here.”

He speaks with a calm determination with which he firmly opposes the occupation: “This resistance 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 them.”

He tries to explain that they do not want to fight, but their culture, respect, and traditions are being violated: “We welcome 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, “they destroyed 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.”

The increased USA violence in recent weeks has done nothing to deter Al-Adamiyah Muslims from resisting the occupation.

The increased USA violence in recent weeks has done nothing to deter Al-Adamiyah Muslims from resisting the occupation.

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 until now. “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 of people who have had their homes raided by many journalists in Baghdad, it becomes clear that 500 could be too low of an estimate when 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: “When this 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 USA 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 USA 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 course.” After pausing, he takes a deep breath and asks, “If someone 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 ten USA soldiers walking down muddy sidewalks under a dark 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 neighbourhood who are outside glare at them as they walk past.

Published Sunday, December 28th, 2003 - 06:23pm GMT

Dahr Jamail, is an independent American journalist reporting from Iraq. He can be reached at

Article courtesy of the Information Clearing House

Make Your Comments on this Article

Member Comments

Register         Log-In         Log-out

For security purposes, submit the word you see below:

Readers' Comments on this Article
24460338 page visits since October 2003.
Best viewed with open source software.