Last week, a bomb fell 12 feet from Huda Al-Jazairy's house in Baghdad. Fortunately, she said, it fell on open ground and no one was hurt. The blast broke windows in surrounding houses. Al-Jazairy was out of her house at the time, and neighbors told her not to go back.
"There is no security. All the people are afraid to go out," she told the World, speaking by phone from Baghdad, April 27. "We live in an army camp. We hear fighters over our heads, and bombs everywhere."
Anytime a bomb or rocket goes off, "if American soldiers are near, they shoot everybody, anybody in the streets," she said.
Al-Jazairy, 41, mother of a 4-year-old son, sees fear in the soldiers' faces. "The soldiers are so afraid, so stressed. So any bomb near them, they shoot in any direction."
"I don't take my boy anywhere," said Al-Jazairy. "Every day I go to work, I worry that I will never come back." She works in the ministry of trade, near the U.S. occupation headquarters - a "very dangerous" place. "Every day there are rockets." Many children have stopped going to schools in the area because they are afraid.
Who is firing the rockets? "There are so many groups - we don't know," she said. "If you ask anybody in the street, it was better before the U.S. invasion. Before, there was security. Nobody fought each other."
Al-Jazairy is a Shiite from Najaf. Her husband, a Sunni, is from Tikrit, in the so-called "Sunni triangle." Sunni-Shia marriages are "very ordinary" in Iraq, she said. "In my family we think there is no difference between Shia and Sunni."
She blamed the media for promoting discord. "In my office, we are Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and Turkmen," she said. "My supervisor is Turkmen. I have two co-workers from Kurdistan, one from Ramadi [a Sunni area], two from Najaf [Shiite]. We don't feel that we are different. We discuss the situation in Iraq as Iraqi people, not Kurds or Sunni or Shia."
Al-Jazairy has a friend from Falluja, where the U.S. is waging a military "show of force" in a densely populated city of 300,000. Many Falluja families have sent women and children to Baghdad for safety, but the men stay behind simply because they are afraid their homes will be ransacked, Al-Jazairy said.
U.S. warplanes and artillery pounded crowded residential neighborhoods in Falluja this week. News services reported gunfire and mortar blasts reverberating for hours, with "thunderous explosions" shaking the area.
A delegation from Falluja's town council traveled to Amman, Jordan, to deliver an appeal to the United Nations to intervene, the Al-Jazeera news service reported. The delegation's leader said, "We are facing what can be called ... war crimes, and the situation can no longer bear the actions of the occupation forces who are behaving outside all international laws." He asked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to intervene "personally to stop the bloodbath."
"The human rights violations that happened in Falluja are very serious and the massacres that happened there are unprecedented," he said.
In Huda Al-Jazairy's view, "Falluja has become a center of resistance from all directions." Some foreigners came, and there are supporters of Saddam Hussein, she says. But the "real reason," she believes, is that the Americans trampled on Fallujans' strong religious beliefs and culture.
"In Fallujah especially," she said, "they are afraid of any strangers coming to their houses and looking at their women." From the beginning, she said, they told this to the U.S. Army. But over the past year, as many news reports have shown, U.S. troops repeatedly conducted house-to-house searches in Falluja, pushing into bedrooms, humiliating men in front of their families.
Many point to an incident one year ago in Falluja, in which U.S. soldiers killed and wounded dozens when they fired on a group of rock-throwing demonstrators.
Nevertheless, Huda Al-Jazairy emphasized her sympathy for the American soldiers. "I am sure they are forced to do that," she repeated several times. Last week, she saw a news photo of a U.S. soldier returning home to his family. "I saw the tears in their eyes," she said. "I was very sad. I feel sorry for all the American mothers."
"We felt the same when Saddam Hussein sent our soldiers to Iran and Kuwait. They were our husbands, fathers and sons. They were forced to do that."
She said she wants to tell U.S. families, "We are very sad when we see the American soldiers. But it's not our responsibility. The responsibility is on the American government for forcing this hard war."
The author can be reached at email@example.com.