Ewa Jasiewicz / Occupation Watch – 2004-04-11 16:24:20
I just spoke to friends in Baghdad — Paola Gaspiroli, Italian, from Occupation Watch and Bridges to Baghdad; Journalist Leigh Gordon, England, (NUJ, Tribune, Mail on Sunday); and a Palestinian friend with family in Falluja and friends in the Iraqi Islamic Party. Both he and Leigh have been ferrying out the injured from Falluja to Baghdad for the past three days. Ambulances have been barred from entry into the blood-drenched city.
Here is their news, which they told me over the telephone tonight (Friday)
Paola: There has been a massacre in Falluja. Falluja is under siege. 470 people have been killed, and 1700 injured. There has been no ceasefire. They (Americans) told people to leave, said they have 8 hours to leave and people began to leave but they’re trapped in the Desert. The Americans have been bombing with B52s (Confirmed also by Leigh in an email three days ago). Bridges to Baghdad are pulling out. We have flights booked out of Amman. Tomorow a team will go to Sadr City to deliver medicines. 50 people have been killed there.
The ‘elastic’ shiekh in Sadr City (I’ve met him, young, brilliant guy, describes himself as ‘elastic’ because he is so flexible when it comes to his interpretations of Islam and moral conduct definitions etc, he’s pretty liberal) he has told me I should leave.
He says that even he can’t control his people. Foreigners are going to be targeted. Six new foreigners have been taken hostage. Four of them are Italian security firm employees — they were kidnapped from their car, which was found to be full of weapons, and there were black uniforms.
Baghdad was quiet today except for Abu Ghraib (West Baghdad, where a vast prison is located and is bursting at the seams with 12,000 prisoners): an American convoy was attacked there and 9 soldiers were injured and 27 were kidnapped. That’s right 27. None of the newswires are reporting it though. And I heard this from (*name best not to supply without permission). It’s really really bad. They (Americans) have been firing on Ambulances, snipers are following the ambulances, they cannot get in.
Falluja, there are people in the Desert, they’ve left Falluga but they’re not being allowed into Baghdad, they’re trapped in the Desert, they’re like refugees, its terrible but the people, Iraqi people are giving all they can; they’re bringing supplies, everybody is giving all their help and support to Falluja.
I want to stay but I have to go, if I want to come back and be useful, you know I think its best to leave, Bridges to Baghdad has decided this. It’s getting really dangerous for Italians. We feel like we’re being targeted now.
(Italy has a 2500+ force including Carabinieri occupying Nassiriyah which has been subject to a number of resistance attacks including the devastating attack on the Police station which claimed the lives of 4 soldiers, one civilian, one documentary film maker, 12 Carabinieri police and 8 Iraqis).
(…) and Leigh have been great. They’ve been driving into Falluja and bringing out people, going back and forth. They know what’s going on, really they have been great. They want more people to help them but we couldn’t from here. It’s getting much much worse.
US Reported Firing on Civilian Convoys Trapped in Desert
My friend who’s been in Falluja today and for the past few days:
We’ve been seeing it with our own eyes. People were told to leave Falluja and now there are thousands trapped in the Desert. There is a 13-km long convoy of people trying to reach Baghdad. The Americans are firing bombs, everything, everything they have on them. They are firing on Families! They are all children, old men and women in the desert. Other Iraqi people are trying to help them.
In Falluja, they [Americans] have been bombing hospitals. Children are being evacuated to Baghdad. There is a child now, a baby, he had 25 members of his family killed, he’s in the hospital and someone needs to be with him, why isn’t anyone there to stay with him, he just lost 25 from his family!???
The Americans are dropping cluster bombs and new mortars, which jump 3-4 metres. They are bombing from the air. There are people lying dead in the streets. They said there’d be a ceasefire and then they flew in, I saw them, and they began to bomb.
They are fighting back and they are fighting well in Falluja. But we are expecting the big attack in 24-48 hours. It will be the main attack. They will be taking the town street by street and searching and attacking. They did this already in a village near-by, I forget the name, but they will be doing this in Falluja.
Please get help, get people to protest, get them to go to the Embassies, get them out, get them to do something. There is a massacre. And we need foreigners, the foreigners can do something. We are having a protest, Jo (Jo Wilding: www.wildfirejo.org.uk) and the others from her group are coming to the American checkpoint tomorrow.
We haven’t slept in 3 or 4 days. We need attention. I have photos, film, we’ve given it to Al jazeera, Al Arabiya but get it out too. Do everything you can. We are going back in tomorrow.
Leigh Gordon: It’s kicking off. Come by all means but me and (..) probably won’t be around. I mean they’re going too crazy. (…) is saying for foreigners to come but its not safe. Sheikh …. from Falluja said he couldn’t guarantee my safety. I mean its going to go crazy, I think foreigners will start getting killed soon – I mean people are going to start getting desperate, when they’ve seen their mother, father, house, cat, dog, everything bombed they’re going to start to attack.
They (Americans) have said this operation’s only going to last 5 days, it’s drawing to an end. They need to free up troops on other fronts breaking out all over the country. They’re going to go in for the kill.
There’s no way of guaranteeing anybody’s safety. I think you can be useful but its not like you can just not tell your mum and think you’ll be back in a week. We’re probably going to get killed tomorrow. Come, but we might not be here.
‘This Is another Jenin
Two years ago right now, the Jenin camp Massacre was tearing into its 7th day, the 1km square tight-knit Palestinian refugee camp was suffering an Israeli military invasion which would see 79 killed (in the last count after bodies had been recovered form the rubble), including a head paramedic doctor and people who slowly bled to death from superficial injuries because all medical services were barred from entering for the duration of the attack (14 days).
Over 800 homes destroyed, most in the Hawasheen neighbourhood which suffered a 4-day-long continuous bulldozer offensive, crushing residents including young children to death.
Hundreds were injured in the attack which involved also involved apache helicopter gunships, hundreds of Merkava tanks, Armoured Personnel Carriers and hundreds of troops. 23 were killed (official Israeli figure but the actual toll is estimated at much higher.
An entire road route from Jenin into ’48 (Israel) was sealed off as a closed military zone and witnesses barred whilst the dead and injured from the Israeli side were being transported out).
All Palestinian emergency services, The UN, The Red Cross, foreign aid workers, and human rights observers were banned from entering Jenin camp. The massacre gouged on as the world’s media attention was fixated on Aarafat besieged in his compound.
Jenin suffered in silence. Falluja, a city with a population 18 times the size of Jenin Camp (Jenin camp’s population was approx. 14,000, Falluga’s is 232,000), is now undergoing a parallel trauma, but with a larger, more powerful, better-armed enemy, which has carpet-bombed, recently and historically when the war-heat has forced land-troops to retreat.
This is another Jenin. This is another massacre. We have to do what we can in solidarity with the dying and the bereaved and those still struggling, defending, fighting back. Resistance is dignity, is the honor of fighting back. Iraq is on fire. The Iraqi intifada is raging. We cannot be silent. Stop the massacre in Falluja.
Remember the massacre in Jenin. Never Again.
Ewa Jasiewicz worked with Voices in the Wilderness and Occupation Watch in Iraq, lived there for eight months (Basra and Baghdad) and in Palestine, mainly Jenin camp for six months, speaks Arabic, and who got back from Iraq two months ago. She is in regular contact with her friends in Basra and Baghdad.
What to Do
This is an appeal to the anti-war movement, to the peace movement, eco-action movement, animal rights movement, anti-fascists, everybody active, everybody who can respond, can call a demo, can organise a protest, an office occupation, an embassy storming, a road blockade, mass civil disobedience, industrial shut-down, work-place occupation, solidarity work stoppage, blockade the US Embassy, Fairford Military Base action campaign – what’s taking off at Fairford? Are B52s being deployed?
Shannon Peace Camp protestors — are there new movements at Shannon? We need to address this, we need to resist this. We become the solidarity resistance in Iraq by taking action in our neighbourhoods and in our cities.
Print up a leaflet. Paint up a banner. Take to the streets. Only a small group can make a change. Show people in Iraq that we are standing by them. 700 more British troops have been flown in to quell the uprising in the South. No Pasaran. Take to the embassies, the bases, the US interests, the streets.
http://www.usembassy.org.uk/ukaddress.html — addresses of US Embassies in London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff
http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/caab/ — Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases — this site has a list of the locations of all the main US air bases used in the UK
http://www.caat.org.uk/links/companies.php — Full list of arms companies. BAE Systems, and Lockheed Martin have been principal supplies of weapons of mass destruction for the war on Iraq
http://www.caat.org.uk/support/confronting-companies.php — Tips on confronting arms companies by Campaign Against the Arms Trade
http://english.aljazeera.net/HomePage — Keep up to date with Al Jazeera
Sample Leaflet Text:
As you read this, a massacre is taking place in Falluja, Iraq. Falluja is a town which has been resisting the occupation of Iraq since June. US troops have been forced to the border of the town since then. It has fought hardest and most uncompromisingly and has regularly been pummelled by F16 fighter jets and apache helicopter gunships since then, with civilians being slaughtered on a regular basis.
Well over 470 people have now been slaughtered by US troops in Falluja, this week. 1700 have been injured. The death toll is expected to rise due to the siege nature of the military cordon around the town.
Ambulances are being fired upon and followed by sniper sights if they attempt to enter the town. Eyewitnesses have reported seeing bodies lying dead in the streets. Hospitals have been attacked. Medical supplies and bed shortages are at crisis levels.
Residents are calling it a massacre. People from all over are attempting, some succeeding, to get into Falluja to help evacuate the injured by car. People are donating food, medical supplies and water to those fleeing. All of Iraq is watching and sympathising with Falluja, say people on the ground there.
There is at the time of writing (10/04/04) a 13km column of Falluja residents fleeing the bomb-smashed town, trapped in the desert and surrounded by US troops which eye-witnesses report have been firing on them. Most of the desert-marooned refugees are elderly men, women and children.
For US soldiers stationed near the town, they have been in an impossible situation and their blood too is being shed for the market-profit-power-chasing interests of the US and UK governments and corporate interests.
Recently, the long-time-brewing discontent, frustration, humiliation, and mounting rage against the occupation has exploded. The occupation is being fought for its very existence, its racism, its violence.
• Its recycling and re-empowerment of a neo-Baathist ruling elite,
• its re-training and re-hiring of over 10,000 Baathist torturers and intelligence agents,
• its re-writing of Iraq’s laws through Coalition Provisional Authority Orders (principally Order 30 on Salaries and Employment Conditions for Civil Service Employees which sets the minimum wage for Iraqi Public Sector workers at 69,000 ID ($40 per month — less than half the recommended wage of a sweatshop worker in a free trade zone in neighbouring Iran),
• plus Order 39 on Foreign Investment which allows for 100% foreign ownership — privatization — and slashes the highest rate of income tax from 45% to 15%) has resulted in insurrection.
The climate in Iraq has moved on from protest to resistance, and now to insurgency. Demonstrations have been taking place every day all over the country since the occupation began, with protestors ranging from students to pensioners, unemployed, women, former soldiers and children.
This new uprising has been labeled a revolt in support of the anti-Occupation cleric Muqtada al Sadr, but the reality is that it is widespread, uncontrollable, inchoate and varied. It is not Islamic, it is not just nationalist, it is not Baathist. It is a generalized struggle against the Occupation, the biggest incitement to violence in the country.
Please stand in solidarity with the people in Iraq during this upheaval and time of bloodshed. Please join the protest against the bloody massacre in Falluja, which will spread if the occupation armies continue unchecked and unchallenged.