Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Is the annihilation of Fallujah the solution?


Haifa Zangana
Haifa Zangana

It has been years and the efforts to liberate the city of Fallujah, which embraces the Euphrates and is 50 kilometres north-west of Baghdad are ongoing. The US army "liberated" the city twice in 2004, while Nouri Al-Maliki continued the efforts to "liberate" it by various means over the eight years of his time as prime minister, a period marked by sectarianism, corruption and dependency.
After the peaceful sit-ins, which lasted all through 2013, were dispersed, the situation developed into massacres ordered by Al-Maliki. This coincided with the massacre of Hawija, located on the Tigris. This later developed into attacks, shelling and displacement as a form of collective punishment, finally reaching the extent of dropping explosive barrels on the population. In short, the US-led invaders and their helpers in Baghdad's Green Zone, have tried every means possible to overpower the brave city that stood in the face of the greatest military force in the world and its attack, which is considered to be "the most comprehensive since the Vietnam War". The Iraqi politicians — "the invaders' shoe shiners" — meanwhile, begged for their pleasure. This has made Fallujah a symbol of resistance on one hand, and the symbol of disgrace for those who collaborated with the invaders. At that time, the "secularist" Ayad Allawi was prime minister, and he was later succeeded by the "Islamist" and Dawa Party member Nouri Al-Maliki.
Nowadays, Fallujah faces a constant threat from all types of terrorism. This ranges from the government's terrorism to the terrorism of ISIS; the terrorism of the Popular Mobilisation Forces militias to that of the international coalition led by the US and the Quds Force led by Iran. The battlefield for the "liberation" attack is prepared by the media and military. The media sources all sing the same song: liberate Fallujah from the terrorism of ISIS. Many statements are issued from Iraqi "military and security sources" regarding executions, massacres, rapes and trafficking of women in the city, and the crimes of ISIS are mixed in with those committed by the government, thus serving the government, as no one has any way of investigating or proving who the criminals actually are.
Do you remember the fabricated story about the Imam and Jihadi forces commander who supposedly called, in a 2004 sermon, for girls to lose their virginity before it was taken by American soldiers? Do you remember how incredibly fast the story spread, thus demonising and tarnishing the image of resistance, deeming it as a force whose nature and power stems from the understanding of honour within the Arab community, while the rights of Arab women are violated? Do you remember how the story attracted great media attention from Western women's rights organisations? The reason for bringing this up is because the Iraqi ministry of human rights issued a statement on 2 July regarding the sale of Syrian women in Fallujah, near the Great Mosque, for low prices. How true and credible is this news? How can we confirm it, because if it follows the model of typical news reported by Iraqi officials, then the source is most likely "someone told someone".
Al-Anbar notables, including Shaikh Mohammed Al-Bijari, denied what was claimed in the ministry statement. He accused officials of being party to a conspiracy against the city of Fallujah. Furthermore, the party which reported the story and the timing of its release raises doubts. According to his biography on the ministry's website, Minister of Human Rights Mohammed Al-Bayati is a member of the central Shura council for the Badr Organisation and secretary-general of the northern organisations. The former is a militia that was founded and has trained in Iran since the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s; according to the statements of its leader, Hadi Al-Amiri, its loyalties lie with Iran and its forces fighting in Iraq. The organisation entered Iraq with the American invasion and, since 2003, has committed crimes and conducted systematic assassination campaigns, making it the alternative face of ISIS terrorism. Actually, it is the first face of ISIS, predating it by 20 years. The difference between the Badr Organisation and ISIS is that Badr's terrorism is "legitimised" by the Iraqi government and is overlooked internationally. It is just like the terrorism of the US occupation, which caused the death of over one million Iraqi citizens, and the terrorism by proxy practiced by successive Iraqi governments and the Popular Mobilisation Forces.
As such, the minister of human rights is not an independent individual; he is a leader of a militia that is roaming the country and is the Secretary General of the northern organisations (does anyone even know what these organisations are or what humanitarian achievements they have made?). It is not surprising, therefore, that the ministry has not issued a daily statement condemning the government's bombing of the Fallujah hospital 23 times in just seven months, killing a number of its staff and patients.
The minister's leader in the Badr Organisation, Hadi Al-Amiri, regards himself and his Iran-backed militias as stronger than the government, and thus more deserving of governing the country than the administration in Baghdad. This allows him the freedom to issue statements as he likes, regardless of the terror and horror they contain. Such statements include the one he gave to Assabah Al-Jadaeed newspaper: "Our next operations will be in Fallujah to end this cancerous body"; he called for the city's destruction because it is the "head of the snake".
If we assume that Al-Amiri is referring to ISIS, then what are the mechanisms that he, the Popular Mobilisation Forces and Haider Al-Abadi's government are planning to use to get rid of ISIS, liberate Fallujah and gain popular support? So far, the mechanism being used is artillery shelling and air strikes.
Since the beginning of Ramadan, Fallujah has been struck repeatedly on the pretext of eliminating ISIS. Over the past two weeks 90 civilians have been killed and 100 others have been wounded, mostly women and children. Many families were forced to flee. A medical source at Fallujah General Hospital said on 4 July: "Today we received the bodies of 21 civilians, 7 of whom were children and 5 were women. We also received 26 wounded individuals, 11 of whom were women and 6 were children. This was the result of attacks with heavy artillery, mortar shells and rockets fired at their homes in various parts of Fallujah. In addition to this, 76 civilians were killed on Sunday by army helicopter strikes which dropped explosive barrels, targeting residential areas in Fallujah, as well as the playing field at a sports club in Ramadi, where dozens of young men gathered to watch a popular Ramadan game called Mheibes." This was reported by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 5 July.
The displacement, attacks and collective punishment against Fallujah under the pretext of liberating it from ISIS did not begin on the day that ISIS, or any other organisation, entered the country. It started on the day that the city stood strong to resist the US-led invaders and defend its pride and dignity; the day its people swore that Fallujah would be a graveyard for the invaders. Since that day, the term "liberating" Fallujah has been defined as annihilating the city and its people. In addition to the policy of systematically excluding and collectively punishing the people of Fallujah by the occupation forces, successive Iraqi governments and the militias, we now see the former interior ministry's director of operations, Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, justifying to Al-Jazeera the killing of civilians in the city. "The residents of Fallujah were warned and half of them left," he claimed. "The rest are either with ISIS or supporters of the terrorist organisation." It is worth noting that he is talking about a city inhabited by 100,000 people and the size of Lebanon. If this policy is not considered the legitimisation of democide and openly supporting terrorism through the media, then I do not know what terrorism is.
Fallujah has paid dearly for confronting the terrorism of the US invasion, both in terms of human life and infrastructure. Despite this, reading the diaries of its resistance over the years show that it does not intend to accept any kind of terrorism, "legitimised" or not. This is a lesson that Al-Abadi's government, the Popular Mobilisation Forces, and the international-Iranian coalition must understand. Eliminating terrorism and national reconciliation will not be achieved through explosive barrels, regardless of what nonsense the politicians say.
Translated from Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 6 July, 2015.

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