Note from Fallujah

Cross posting from the Birth Defects in FGH facebook page page:

From innocent Fallujah victims , to all honests in the international community

The 9th of April , 2016 will mark the 13th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq occupation by US/Uk coalition aggressor forces . Since that time grave human rights violations
against international law have been reported at all levels among Iraqi people . Most of the alleged violations have not been properly investigated, nor have perpetrators been
brought to justice, moreover the perpetrators in & out of Iraq are still practicing all kinds of murder and injustice against the innocent victims through their positions as leaders. As a consequence of the use of inhumane, indiscriminate and toxic weapons
Many people killed & many are still suffering physical harms without any reparations.
Our story started in 2004 and continued in atragic series in every single day till moment. The mass dirty weapons used in a city crowded with people caused the nightmare , named congenital malformations.
Women in Fallujah have different education levels and different ideologies and different ages of course, but they all share the same fear which is named congenital malformations.
In Fallujah hospital , a percentage of about 14.7% of the newborns come to life with various kinds of malformations, about 5% of children die during their 1st year of life, about 55% of those deaths being due to congenital malformations. With such a percentage, an integrated chain of social and psychological Consequences appeared and turned through the time to a partition between every couple and their dream to be parents one day.
And now & since the 30th of December 2013 another series of pain , oppression , displacement , evacuation and killings happening in Fallujah by different armed groups under the trick of fighting terrorism , the story which never heard before occupation , till the moment more than 3000 innocent civilians killed & more than 4000 wounded , most are women and children including newborns and young infants , thousands lost their houses , in addition to the poor & bad health and social services as aresult of military operations .
Now another tragedy added to the originaly bad & difficult situation of the babies and their families who are displaced and live as refugees in tents , camps and unfinished buildings in the extremely cold and hot weather, they are deprived of the simplest facilities to live and feel secure .

We, the oppressed mothers and children and even the doctors appeal the human conscience and all honests to stop creating more wars and murder in our country and in our city and to let us live in peace just like others .
We are suffering , we are dying , we are paying for the crimes and guilts of others.

No. More. War.

I don’t know where to start this post or what to say. I have been wanting to write something for this blog for weeks. Months. Ever since the Birth Defects in FGH (Fallujah General Hospital) stopped posting Facebook updates on the birth defects, because of the fighting there. Instead, a doctor in Fallujah has been posting a running total of the casualties, which I follow on the Facebook page of Muhamad Al-Darraji (a native of Fallujah who was in the documentary featured earlier in this blog, here).

Like this one from June 13th: The total civilian casualties of Fallujah people since the beginning of war against Anbar people so far, were 1657 wounded civilians and 443 killed.

The hospital was damaged in the fighting. A hospital…

FGH2

I wondered about the families, and all those babies whose pictures are in these pages. What was happening to them? I tried to keep up the best I could, but I felt overwhelmed and helpless.  And ignorant. What could I possibly do to help, what could I say about a situation that I know so little about, despite caring about deeply?

And now, I feel all of those things, plus anger, and great sadness.  I am saddened that my President, the Nobel peace prize winner, announced today that he is sending troops to Iraq, ostensibly to protect US citizens, even as he says that the troops will be combat ready. I am distressed at the statement by my Secretary of State that we are considering sending drones. More of our bombs to kill innocent men woman and children.  Bombs kill indiscriminately, as much as they would like us to believe that they will only kill the “terrorists”. And as this blog attests, weapons cause damage way after the fighting stops.

I am angry that the same cabal of war mongering neocons who started this mess with their lies is being brought out of the closet by our brain dead media and being asked “what should we do now”.  Really appalling.  (See here) What we should have done is prosecute them for war crimes. They wanted to occupy Iraq, for political power, money, empire, and greed, all of the above.  And look at it now…this is on their hands.

But I agree with the few sane talking heads who are saying that US intervention will only cause more harm, more bloodshed, and more upheaval.  I wonder what would have happened had the events after 9/11 had played out in a different way, had we prosecuted the perpetrators of the bombings through the judicial system, rather than militarily? (and of course Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11). We can’t change history but we can decide the future.

And once again mainstream media plays a role in deciding that future, just as they did in the march to the initial invasion. Painting pictures of black and white, good vs. evil, us against the “terrorists”, the same memes that paved the way for the occupation. I have seen it over and over in my work and now in this, we are woefully mislead by our media elites. Uninformed.

What can we do? Become educated for one thing.  I have read everything I could find from the non-mainstream press and have tried to become informed on what is really happening.  Listen to this interview on Democracy Now with Raed Jarrar. Read this article by my friend Ross Caputi.  And this one by Falah Alwan , President of the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq. Both good analyses of the causes of the current sectarian violence as well as possible solutions that don’t involve drones and US troops.  Seek out these alternative voices. Don’t believe what your government and your mainstream anchors tell you. Call our representatives, protest.

And remember the babies. I can only hope that they are safe. Remember that our bombs caused this (the only posting from the Birth Defects in FGH since the beginning of the year. I can’t believe that they are the only ones)

june babies 2

No. More. War. No more bloodshed on our hands. Fight for a peaceful solution to the violence. It’s the only way…

Peace,
Dawn

#The Right to Heal

I sit here this early morning, full of thoughts of Iraq, and the babies, and the soldiers who were sent to fight an unnecessary and illegal war, an occupation, and the mess that we went in and caused and left without even trying to clean up, and the continuing suffering of the Iraqi people, and the veterans who did what they were told and who are suffering too, and all the families of people who died…it’s overwhelming, this.

I think extra hard about these things today because last night I attended “The People’s Hearing on the Lasting Impact of the Iraq War”, in Washington. It featured a panel of Iraqi civil society leaders, US veterans, scientists, lawyers and doctors, well, here’s the blurb from the invite:

“On the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iraqi civil society leaders and U.S. military veterans will testify to the lasting impact of the war and make the case that the U.S. government must be held to account for the serious damage it has caused. From the U.S.’s role in sectarian violence and the ongoing health crisis caused by toxic munitions and burn pits used during the occupation, to the destructive effects of multiple and concurrent deployments and stigma faced when attempting to access care and support from the Department of Veterans Affairs, we demand the Right to Heal.”

Amen. That so needs to happen. I was there in the company of someone who I’ve written about in the pages of this blog before, someone who I admire and respect so very, very much and whose dedication to the above cause makes me humble and sorry if I am embarrassing you Ross Caputi, but it’s true. He’s a veteran of the second siege of Fallujah and founder of the Justice for Fallujah Project who is in the introductory page to my blog, and he came down to DC to attend the hearing, and I was honored to be able to spend time with him and to learn from him.

We talked with the dedicated Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a toxicologist from the University of Michigan who has done some studies of the fallout from the toxic weapons we used and the waste we left behind and she spoke of the need for more research, we have very little data because we can’t get the necessary samples, there’s no funding and besides, we (the US) are supplying the Iraqi government with weapons that they are using on the people of Fallujah.  Yanar Mohammed and Falah Alwan spoke last night of the dire situation in Iraq…we left a mess and now the government that we support is waging war on Fallujah and other cities.

I am no expert and I know that I am woefully uneducated and uninformed about the situation in Iraq. But through news from Ross from people on the ground who he knows and respects, as well as news from journalists such as Dahr Jamail and Feurat Alani, I feel that I can say that what the US government wants us to believe isn’t the reality, there. I believe that with no reservations. We have a history of lying about Iraq, and that hasn’t changed, despite the hope.

So what is the reality? The reality is that Fallujah and the people are refugees once again. It means that Fallujah General Hospital is being shelled, the electricity is being cut off. And still, the babies are being born…this picture was posted recently on the Birth Defects in Fallujah General Hospital facebook page.

Baby born in March

Baby born in March

The accompanying text said this: “the baby born in Baghdad to amother from Fallujah because of the security situation in Fallujah.” There have been no pictures posted on the page since January, and I can guarantee that it’s not because there are suddenly no more babies being born who look like this (from January):

baby born in January

The situation in Fallujah is dire. These people need help, and they need justice. And now we are hearing even less about the situation there. It’s a humanitarian crisis.

So as I started my blog I will end, I sit here in my nice warm kitchen on this cold but sunny morning in March, trying to wrap my head around it all, and trying to not feel helplessly hopeless, which is hard, given everything, including the fact that this short New York Times article was the only news coverage I could find of the hearing. I worry so much about the doctors at Fallujah General Hospital, and the babies, what is happening to them, and their families?

But, I had some nice long chats with Ross and he has some great ideas for his new expanded project, including organizing fundraisers for medical equipment to help the brave doctors who are dealing with this issue. The wonderful people on the panel last night, part of the Right to Heal project, reminded us all that it takes all of us, together.  If I can reach one person through this blog, if I can convince one person to tell another person about this issue, that’s a positive step. And that person can tell another, and maybe somehow we can get some critical mass and maybe we can get through to our “representatives”, and maybe, just maybe, there will be change. I don’t know what to do, but I have to do something. We have to do something. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Vietnam and Laos. Fallujah and Basra. We have to make it stop. We have to.

More on the new project soon…I believe that there will be lots of work to do. I hope you are ready to help.

Peace,

Dawn

 

Fallujah in the News, Again. And Still…

It’s been too long since I’ve posted in this blog.  What to say? Too much attention to my personal life. Not an excuse, just an explanation. And for those babies in Fallujah, well, not a lot has changed. Babies are still being born, looking like this:

Jan fallujah baby

So in some ways, nothing new to say.  The world still turns, the U.S. won’t acknowledge that this isn’t right, that there has to be something really, really wrong for babies to be born who look like this…not just one in a million, but hundreds, thousands of babies. No acknowledgement of responsibility. And me, knowing about this…and not really knowing what to do to help, knowing that I want to, but feeling helpless.

Still, there has been some progress. Ross (Ross Caputi of the Justice for Fallujah Project) did finish his documentary, it can be downloaded here.  Please watch it, to understand the U.S. government’s involvement in Fallujah from the perspective of a U.S. marine who fought there. It’s an informed and different point of view towards what we did in Fallujah, one that is not what the media and the U.S. government wants us to have.

Now, more than ever, that is important to understand. because now there is renewed fighting in Fallujah, and once again, the U.S. media (and our government) tells us that it’s us (meaning the U.S. backed Iraqi government) against the “terrorists” (i.e. the people of Fallujah). And even though I am someone who is woefully ignorant of the nuance and the history and the politics of Iraq and the middle east in general, to me, that doesn’t seem right. I simply can’t believe that things are cut and dry and drawn in such black and white good vs evil lines, and of course I am right.  i know that I am right because I dig deep and read and learn and listen to people like Feurat Alani, a French-Iraqi journalist who has family in Fallujah and who has made several documentaries about Fallujah…I listen to Feurat and he speaks to me in a way that feels real. Here is Feurat on Democracy Now.

And I listen to Ross, someone who I have spoken with and who through our exchanges has impressed me as a person with a good heart and a good soul. Here is his latest op-ed for the Guardian.

And I listen to Dr. Samira Alani, the brave doctor who is on the front lines of this crisis in Fallujah; who has to face the families of of these babies…

baby with multiple defects

to explain this, over and over again.  And I can’t forget, and I want to help these people and I fear that more news will only harden the people of the U.S. to the plight of these babies, and worse, that we will send more weapons over there to create more deformed babies…it’s almost too much to take in. I want to scream.

So what can we do? Push back against the media spin. Sign this petition calling for more balanced reporting.  Sign up for updates from the Justice for Fallujah Project…hopefully in the coming months there will be opportunities for all of us who care about these babies to raise money for the Fallujah General Hospital. That is my hope, and my wish for 2014.

That, and peace for the families of Fallujah, and everywhere where there is war…

There’s Good News and Still Lots of Work to be Done

The Good News: Ross (Caputi, founder of the Justice of Fallujah Project) made his Kickstarter goal, so he will be able to complete his documentary “Fear Not the Path of Truth: A Fallujah Veteran’s documentary”. This is really good news for anyone who cares about justice for the babies of Fallujah, as he plans to distribute the documentary for free to both raise awareness of the situation in Fallujah, and hopefully through that, we will be able to raise funds for the babies. Awareness has to come first, as I’ve written over and over on these pages. I so admire Ross’ dedication to this cause, and I celebrate his small victory towards his goals.

The Unbelievable News:  Last month the Ministry of Health of Iraq released a summary report on a long awaited study on the prevalence of congenital birth defects in Iraq. The study, co-funded by the Iraqi Government and the World Health Organization, was based on a 2012 survey of mothers in 10 800 households from 18 Iraqi districts and basically involved going door to door to ask mothers about details of spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and births with congenital defects since the 1980s. According to the summary posted on the WHO’s website, the study found “no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq”. They only looked at the medical files of 32% of the total reported cases. This unsigned report was released quietly, with no fanfare or press. And seemed to contradict previous statements by the Ministry of Health that the study would show damming evidence that there has been a dramatic increase in birth defects in Iraq.

The Hopeful News: The respected British peer-reviewed general medical journal The Lancet just published an article critiquing the WHO and the Iraqi Government study, noting that many experts are questioning its methodology and peer review. The Lancet article is one of several pieces critical of the summary report (see here here here). And it raises some of the questions I had when I first read it…why weren’t the doctors who are dealing with the crisis surveyed? From the Lancet article:

“Samira Alaani, a paediatrician in Fallujah, Iraq, who copublished a 2011 study utilising hospital records to conclude that congenital malformations accounted for 15% of all births in Fallujah since 2003, says the new study cofunded by WHO and the Iraqi Government should have employed hospital records more comprehensively.

“Muhsin Al-Sabbak of the Basrah Medical School in Basrah, Iraq, who copublished a 2012 study reporting a 17-fold increase in birth defects in the Al Basrah Maternity Hospital since 1994, warns that the data from Basrah in the new study does not match local hospital records.”

“Alison Alborz is a specialist on learning disabilities in children at the University of Manchester, UK, who published a 2013 studypresenting data from a 2010 survey of 6032 households in four Iraqi governates including data for more than 10 000 children and young people showing a prevalence of congenital birth defects more than 2·5 times higher than reported in the Iraqi Government study. She says the new report gives little information about sampling and does not offer any discussion of whether the districts chosen for analysis “reflect the characteristics of the governorate as a whole”.

“Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a toxicologist based in Michigan, USA, who coauthored the Alaani and Al-Sabbak studies, agrees with Alborz that the selection criteria determined by the MOH are not sufficiently explained. “Based on information available in this report, we cannot rule out selection bias issues”, she warns. She also questions the decision not to employ hospital records more comprehensively, and notes that the report suffers from a lack of detail regarding ‘which areas were exposed to bombardment or heavy fighting and which areas were not. The exposed and unexposed populations remain unidentified throughout’.”

I’ve exchanged emails with all of these caring and dedicated doctors and I trust them WAY more than that report. My hope is that their voices are taken seriously. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be Dr. Alaani, the pediatrician who works at Fallujah General Hospital and who deals with cases like these, day in and day out:

Razan is the 1st baby to her young healthy parents , she is 1 yr old born with absent Radius & fused elbow , the family was living in Joolan district & moved during the last year to Habbaneya subdistrict

Razan is the 1st baby to her young healthy parents , she is 1 yr old born with absent Radius & fused elbow , the family was living in Joolan district & moved during the last year to Habbaneya subdistrict

Sept FGH pics

Sept FGH Pics 3

So what can we do? Organize a showing of the documentary, preferably for Remember Fallujah Week, November 18 – 24 (the 9th anniversary of the second battle of Fallujah) . Think of ways that we can raise money for Dr. Alaani. Spread the word about Fallujah and the babies. Share my blog…care.