> Falluja, One Year Later, by Doug Pritchard
> Nov. 12, 2005
> Christian Peacemaker Teams visited the city of Falluja again
> on Nov. 8th. This day marked the first anniversary of a major U.S.
> assault on the city. In that attack, the largely Sunni population of
> 300,000 was expelled, its industrial base and services destroyed,
> and one-third of its homes were flattened.
> What has happened since?
> The city is now surrounded by a tight network of checkpoints
> controlled by U.S. forces and Shi'a members of the Iraqi Army.
> No one is allowed in without an identification card issued by the
> U.S. Marines, or other permission. Even with such permission it
> took 75 minutes for us to enter. These checkpoints are choking
> economic life in the city, doubling prices for basic foodstuffs, and
> cutting off surrounding villages from Falluja's markets, services,
> and hospital. The people say that they are living in a prison.
> Our first visit was to a sheikh who heads a major mosque. He
> said that most of the population has returned to the city centre,
> but those who live further out cannot because their homes were
> the most damaged. Power is only available downtown, and only
> for a few hours in the middle of the night. The majority of the
> population is still unemployed since the city's factories have
> not been rebuilt.
> The economic situation is so desperate that the limited reconstruction
> funds are being consumed by the immediate needs for food and
> material aid. Schools are mostly open, but three schools and the
> Ministry of Education offices are still being occupied by U.S. forces.
> As we spoke to the sheikh, members of the U.S. forces and the
> Iraqi Army swept up the street searching homes and threatened
> to blow-up our driver's car which was parked outside the mosque.
> Several days before, Iraqi Army troops blew up a teacher's car
> and on this day he had come to the mosque just before we arrived,
> weeping. The sheikh offered to start a collection to raise the
> $5,000 US needed to replace his car. The sheikh said that when
> they complained, the U.S. forces said, "Talk to the Iraqi Army."
> When they talk to the Iraqi Army, they say, "You are all children
> of Saddam."
> We then met with the manager of a popular downtown restaurant.
> He described the violence that is growing in the city. For example,
> in September 2005, there was an explosion in the street near his
> restaurant. On arrival, the Iraqi Army sprayed his restaurant and
> the neighbouring businesses with machine-gun fire. A few days later
> he found a sign on his door saying that anyone who sold goods to
> the U.S. forces or the Iraqi Army would be beheaded. He said that he
> felt caught between two enemies. When he refused to serve the Iraqi
> Army, they detained him for several hours, but a friendly policeman
> secured his release. He said that on Nov. 1, after another explosion
> near his restaurant, several children ran away from the danger, and
> three were shot dead by the Iraqi Army. On the same day, the Iraqi
> Army set up a new roadblock. An old man drove up the street, became
> confused by the roadblock, began driving away, and was shot dead by
> the Iraqi Army. On Nov. 6, U.S. forces broke into and commandeered
> his uncle's house to set up a sniper post. As they searched the house, they
> found his $10,000 US in savings and confiscated it as "the proceeds of
> On the same day, his cousin was passing through the checkpoints
> into Falluja. The Iraqi Army found his wages of $200 US in his
> pocket and confiscated it.
> Our final visit was to the only hospital in Falluja. They are
> operating, but are very short of modern equipment like incubators,
> anaethesia machines, and electrical generators. They said that U.S.
> officials have repeatedly promised aid, but so far have only
> supplied blankets and a few kerosene heaters. The staff said that
> the number of violent deaths is increasing, and now averages 100
> to 200 per month.
> One man visiting the sheikh challenged us by saying, "If I come
> and smash everything in your house and take all your money, and
> then I do the same to all your neighbours, what would you do to me?"
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> Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical violence-reduction program
> with roots in the historic peace churches. Teams of trained peace workers
> live in areas of lethal conflict around the world. CPT has been present in
> Iraq since October, 2002.
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