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Iraq Dispatches: Fallujah Refugees

"Doctors in Fallujah are reporting there are patients in the hospital there who were forced out by the Americans," said Mehdi Abdulla, a 33 year-old ambulance driver at a hospital in Baghdad, "Some doctors there
told me they had a major operation going, but the soldiers took the doctors away and left the patient to die."
November 23, 2004

"Doctors in Fallujah are reporting there are patients in the hospital
there who were forced out by the Americans," said Mehdi Abdulla, a 33
year-old ambulance driver at a hospital in Baghdad, "Some doctors there
told me they had a major operation going, but the soldiers took the
doctors away and left the patient to die." He looks at the ground, then
away to the distance.

Honking cars fill the chaotic street outside the hospital where they'd
just received brand new desks. The empty boxes are strewn about
outside.
Um Mohammed, a doctor at the hospital sat behind her old, wooden desk.
"How can I take a new desk when there are patients dying because we
don't have medicine for them," she asked while holding her hands in the
air, "They should build a lift so patients who can't walk can be taken
to surgery, and instead we have these new desks!" Her eyes were
piercing
with fire, while yet another layer of frustration is folded into her
work.

"And there are still a few Iraqis who think the Americans came to
liberate them," she added while looking out the broken window. The
glass
lay about outside-shattered from a car bomb that had detonated in front
of the hospital. "These people will change their minds about the
liberators when they, too, have had a family member killed by them."

Mehdi then takes us to a refugee camp of Fallujans over on the campus
of
the University of Baghdad. Tents
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surround an old mosque. Kids run about
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several of them kicking around a half-inflated soccer ball. Some women
are using two water taps to clean pots and wash clothing. Many people
stand around, walking aimlessly, waiting.

We contact a sheikh for permission to talk to some of the families. He
greets us then says, "You can see how much we have suffered. We have 97
families here now, with 50 more coming tomorrow. People are kidnapping
refugee children and selling them."

A 35 year-old merchant from Fallujah, Abu Hammad, starts telling us
what
he experienced, and barely breathes while doing so because he is so
enraged.

"The American warplanes came continuously through the night and bombed
everywhere in Fallujah! It did not stop even for a moment! If the
American forces did not find a target to bomb, they used sound bombs
just to terrorize the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I
cannot give a picture of how panicked everyone was."

He is shaking with grief and anger. "In the mornings I found Fallujah
empty, as if nobody lives in it. Even poisonous gases have been used in
Fallujah-they used everything-tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas.
Fallujah has been bombed to the ground. Nothing is left."

Several men standing with us, other refugees, nod in agreement while
looking at the setting sun, the direction of Fallujah.

Abu Hammad continues, "Most of the innocent people there stayed in
mosques to be closer to God for safety. Even the wounded people were
killed. Old ladies with white flags were killed by the Americans! The
Americans announced for people to come to a certain mosque if they
wanted to leave Fallujah, and even the people who went there carrying
white flags were killed!"

One of the men standing with us, a large man named Mohammad Ali is
crying; his large body shuddering with each bit of new information
revealed by Abu Hammad.

"There was no food, no electricity, no water," continues Abu Hammad,
"We
couldn't even light a candle because the Americans would see it and
kill
us."

He pauses, then asks, "This suffering of the people, I would like to
ask
everyone in the world if they have seen suffering like this. The people
in Fallujah are only Fallujans. Ayad Allawi was a liar when he said
there are foreign fighters there."

He continues on, "There are bodies the Americans threw in the river. I
saw them do this! And anyone who stayed thought they would be killed by
the Americans, so they tried to swim across the river. Even then the
Americans shot them with rifles from the shore! Even if some of them
were holding a white flag or white clothes over their heads to show
they
are not fighters, they were all shot! Even people who couldn't swim
tried to cross the river! They drowned rather than staying to be killed
by the Americans."

Mohammad cuts in and begins his plea. He is from the Julan district of
Fallujah, where much of the heaviest fighting occurred, and continues
to
occur. "They call us terrorists when we live in the city. We own the
city. We didn't go to fight the Americans-they came to our city to
fight
us. Fallujans are defending our city, our houses, our mosques, our
honor. Ayad Allawi says we are his family-can you attack your family
Allawi? Do you attack your own family Allawi?"

He now raises his hands to the sky
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and asks loudly, "We are asking Islam, all the Islamic countries to
have
a clear conscience to look at what is happening to Fallujah. We were
the
most secured city with the police and ING (Iraqi National Guard)
without
the presence of the Americans. But now when we come to Baghdad we are
afraid because our cars and belongings will be looted."

His large body continues to shudder as he talks on, "We did not feel
that there is Eid after Ramadan this year because of our situation
being
so bad. All we have is more fasting. They said they are going to
reconstruct Fallujah-but I would like to ask when and how, and what did
they do to Sadr City when they stopped fighting there? They did
nothing."

I notice a man with one leg sitting near the mosque
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nodding while he smokes his cigarette while Mohammad continues, "I
would
like to ask the whole world-why is this? I tell the presidents of the
Arab and Muslim countries to wake up! Wake up please! We are being
killed, we are refugees from our houses, our children have nothing-not
even shoes to wear! Wake up! Wake up! Stop being traitors! Be human
beings and not the dummies of the Americans!"

He is weeping even more when he adds, "I left Fallujah yesterday and I
am handicapped. I asked God to save us but our house was bombed and I
lost everything."

As Mohammad no longer speaks, a 40 year-old refugee, Khalil, speaks up.
"When the Americans come to our city we refuse to accept any foreigner
coming to invade us. We accept the ING's but not the Americans. Nobody
has seen any Zarqawi. If the Americans don't come in our city, who do
Fallujans attack? Fallujans don't attack other Iraqis. Fallujans only
attack the American troops when they come inside or near our city."

Rather than weeping like so many others I interviewed, Khalil is
raging.
His sadness is being covered with anger. "If we have a government-the
government should solve the suffering of the people. Our government
does
not do this-instead they are always attacking us, our government is a
dummy government. They are not here to help us. The Minister of Defense
and Interior are speaking that we are their family-so why do they
collapse our houses on our heads? Why do they kill all of us?"

But then tears find his eyes, and while pointing to several small
children nearby he says, "Eid is over. Ramadan is over-and the kids
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are remaining without even a smile. They have nothing and nowhere to
go.
We used to take them to parks to amuse them, but now we don't even have
a house for them."

He continues pointing at the children, along with some women nearby,
"What about the children? What did they do? What about the women? I
can't describe the situation in Fallujah and the condition of the
people-Fallujah is suffering too much, it is almost gone now."

He then explains, "We got some supplies from the good people of
Baghdad,
and some volunteer doctors came on their own with some medicines, but
they ran out daily because conditions are so bad. We saw nothing from
the Ministry of Health-no medicines or doctors or anything."

He said those who left Fallujah did not think they would be gone so
long, so they brought only their summer clothes. Now it is quite cold
at
night, down to 10 degrees C at night and windy much of the time. Khalil
adds, "We need more clothes. It's a disaster we are living in here at
this camp. We are living like dogs and the kids do not have enough
clothes."

As of today, a spokesman for the Iraqi Red Crescent told me none of
their relief teams had been allowed into Fallujah, and the military
said
it would be at least two more weeks before any refugees would be
allowed
into their city.


_______________________________________________
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