BBC / United Kingdom – 2004-11-07 00:51:55
(November 6, 2004) — The Iraqi city of Falluja is braced for an assault by US forces massed on its outskirts.
The BBC News website spoke by phone to a reporter in Falluja, who described how people left in the city live on through siege and bombardment. He is not named for security reasons.
“When I hear bombs falling around my neighbourhood, I keep thinking — any moment now, I could be killed. It is worst during the night, when the bombardment is most intense. If a big bomb lands somewhere nearby, you often hear crying and wailing afterwards.
It is a very strange feeling because in between the screaming, there is the sound of more missiles flying. That is when I think – I could be next.
Another sound you hear during the bombing is that of prayers. People pray loudly because they are so scared. Sometimes, you hear people say quite unusual things – they improvise, making up their own prayers.
We followed the US elections very closely from Falluja. It was a matter of life and death. Many people were hoping John Kerry would win because they felt he would not have allowed our city to be attacked like this.
Of course, we also know that the US policy in Iraq at large is not going to change. We do not forget that George Bush and John Kerry are two sides of the same coin. Still, as far as our city is concerned right now, a Kerry victory would have brought some hope.
I left my old house in the north of the city a month ago, when the Americans began bombing that area all the time. Now I live with a small group of friends near the centre of Falluja.
We are just men here. All our wives and children have left the city – some we sent to Baghdad, others to quieter areas closer by. We cook and eat together and spend most of our time in the house.
If you want to leave the house, the safest time to do so is between seven in the morning and one in the afternoon, when the Americans take a break from the bombing.
The souk [market] in the centre of Falluja is open from morning to midday and, fortunately, it has not run out of food so far. But I can’t see how long the supplies will last – two days ago, the government said it was cutting off the roads from Falluja to Baghdad and Ramadi. I don’t know what we will eat then.
I guess we might still be able to grab hold of some meat — I’ve seen a lot of goats in the city. There is only one road out of the city that is still open now – but it runs through a checkpoint manned by US soldiers.
We think they’re going to cut this route off quite soon as well.
The Hospitals Have No Medicine
A lot of people have left Falluja. Mostly only men remain. This used to be a city of 500,000 people. Now, my guess is there are about 100,000 still here. Some people who tried to leave earlier on found they had to come back because there was no way of surviving away from their homes.
Iraq is a difficult place to live at the moment. There are not many opportunities. The hospitals I have seen are full of people but empty of supplies and medicine. The erratic electricity also makes operating difficult. Ten to 18 new cases are brought in every day.
The injured know they won’t get much treatment. They come just to be near the doctor, to hear the doctor talk to them.”
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