Monday, November 22, 2004

Postcards from Fallujah 

Hala Jaber of London's "Sunday Times" (reprinted in the "Australian") offers another fascinating glimpse into Fallujah, with two personal stories of the city's residents.

Um Fatima is a mother of four daughters, whose husband died fighting Americans during the Fallujah offensive.

" 'There was no time to wail and sob at the death of my husband,' said Um Fatima. 'I knew that I had to leave immediately and get my girls out of Fallujah ... there was no time to waste. I did not want to remain behind now. I was not afraid of death but I was afraid for the shame that might befall my daughters once the troops took the city.'

"Helped by [a friend] Ahmad, she and the girls - Fatima, 22, Hala, 18, Sarah, 15, and Hajer, 13 - reached the edge of the city and walked into the desert. Their problems were not over.

"A passing American patrol left them alone, but the women then encountered a group of Iraqi national guards who questioned them incessantly. One of them eyed her eldest daughter and ordered her to be searched.

" 'I told him no and begged him to let her be. I reminded him that we were Arabs, Muslims, and that this was prohibited in our culture and religion,' Um Fatima said.

"But he grabbed the young woman's hand and began to force a kiss on her, she said. The distraught mother hit him and tried to push him off as her other daughters began to cry.

" 'There was not a soul in sight - a barren desert,' she said. But suddenly two American soldiers appeared, perhaps from a passing patrol. One of them kicked the Iraqi, hit him and began to yell at him.

"[The daughter] Fatima, a chemistry student who speaks English, said the American was shouting: 'If you were really here to liberate this city you would not treat the women this way. This is what people here believe how we behave and what they expect us Americans to do, but they do not expect this of you Iraqis.'

"Fatima added: 'At that instant the evil forces that had killed my father became my angel and saviour. The American saved me and the Iraqi assaulted me'."
And this, about one of Fallujah's most wanted, the insurgent commander Abu Abdullah who was arrested but got away:

"Speaking last week, he said he had not taken part in the fighting and had strongly opposed the foreign and Arab fighters who flocked into the city to confront the Americans. Nevertheless, he said, he had opted to stay during the battle.

"With hindsight, Abu Abdullah said, the local fighters and residents should have stood up to the newcomers and foreigners who, he said, had turned Fallujah into a bastion of terror...

"Abu Abdullah was eventually arrested and taken to a US military camp outside the city, where he estimated about 3000 prisoners were being held in open-air cells made from concrete slabs and barbed wire. The worst danger there, he said, was from missiles fired into the camp by insurgents.

"Under interrogation he gave a fictitious name and said he was a freelance journalist working for Arab newspapers and news agencies. He was believed and freed in a group of about 100 prisoners who were each handed $US20 as expenses."
I don't know which aspect of the story is more surreal - that Abu Abdullah has managed to con the Americans into thinking he was a journalist, or the fact that insurgents are firing missiles into the camp holding 3,000 prisoners, including many of their own but also normal civilians.

On an interesting insurgent-media connection see this
"Powerline" post. Mind you, there's no needs for family ties, as so many in the Arab media are only too happy to keep on acting as the jihadi mouthpiece and portraying the insurgents and terrorists as just and brave freedom-fighters.

And if you want to read another good article about Fallujah, check out this piece by Jack Kelly about the
historic military implications of the operations (hat tip: Leslie).


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