Thinking of Fallujah on Memorial Day

Finally, the media is paying attention to what is happening in Fallujah. Of course they love a good battle story right? Never mind that the people have been starving for months…

I suppose that it’s good that the current “battle for Fallujah” means that finally news is getting out about the dire situation there (although what a stupid question from Steve Inskeep in this NPR piece on why the people would stay inside the city with all the fighting going on…duh! They’re TRAPPED!) I found plenty of articles about the fighting and thankfully some also talked about the plight of the people, like this one in Al Jazerra:

 “Only a few hundred families managed to slip out of the Fallujah area, with an estimated 50,000 people still trapped inside the city proper.

According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), around 3,000 people have managed to escape the Fallujah area since May 21.

The biggest wave so far arrived to camps for displaced people on Saturday night, NRC said, but a larger influx could be triggered when the urban battle between CTS and ISIL begins in earnest.

“Our resources in the camps are now very strained, and with many more expected to flee we might not be able to provide enough drinking water for everyone,” said Nasr Muflahi, NRC’s Iraq director.

“We expect bigger waves of displacement the fiercer the fighting gets.”

$48 for a kilo of rice

The Fallujah operation has come at a human cost, rights groups said, amid battles between ISIL (also known as ISIS) fighters and the advancing Iraqi army and allied Shia militia.

One Fallujah resident told Al Jazeera by phone that there is lack of medicine and fuel in the city.

“There is some food. We have vegetables, enough to survive. But there is no rice and sugar, the price for a kilo of rice here reached $48,” the resident said. “ISIL is on alert on the outskirts of the city. Its fighters have set up checkpoints and prepared ambushes, which prevent people form leaving.”

I am grateful for groups like the Norwegian Refugee Council. This is from their facebook page:

“We walked all night through the water networks. All 88 of us were in the water. It was 1.5 metres high. We got out and we kept walking in our wet clothes. Hunger was our main motive to flee, and the constant fear of ISIS. Last time we ate rice was four months ago, but we were not the worst off. Others have had no food for much longer. For the past months we’ve fed on dried dates. We got our drinking water directly from the river. But only families with men who have bicycles have this privilege to fetch the river water. It’s considered better than the water from the agricultural water network. Those channels are salty, dirty and have animal carcasses floating in them. It’s used for cleaning and bathing, but those without men and bicycles end up drinking it too. Here in this camp we feel safe and secure. It’s the best thing that has happened to me, my family and for the rest of the people who made it out with us.”

Mohammed, his wife and their three children have just escaped Fallujah town in Iraq, since a military operation started there on Monday. They fled together with nine more families. They spent an entire night walking before they reached safety in a camp. NRC was on the ground to give them water and food.

NRC - Norwegian Refugee Council's photo.


I end this post with the words of my dear friend Ross, who – as you can read about in the introductory post of this blog – helped to found the Justice for Fallujah project after having fought there:

Happy Memorial Day, America. Here’s something worth remembering. About a decade and three weeks ago, the US was laying siege to the Iraqi city of Fallujah for the first time. Hundreds of civilian were killed and families had no access to cemeteries. So the bodies were either buried in their family’s garden or in the local soccer stadium, now known as the Martyrs Cemetery. And here we are again laying siege to Fallujah for the third time, although this time with the US military in a more ancillary (yet still essential) role, starving and bombing civilians who will only be remembered by their loved ones, or in the sketchings on their homemade tombstones. Memorial Day is for remembering, so let’s keep Fallujah in our mind this weekend.

Remember the babies…Peace to all on this and all days.





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