Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Fallujans Break the Siege

Despite the danger from snipers, city residents manage to share food and supplies with each other.
By Wisam al-Jaff

Earthworks block our way into Fallujah. To go proceed, we get out of the car carrying a piece of white cloth, and slowly walk around the mound toward the US Marine checkpoint.


My friend, Muamar, explains himself to an interpreter. "I'm from Fallujah,” he said. “I left three days ago to get my wife and children out, and I've come back to tell my mother and father that there is a place for us now in Baghdad, and also to see if they are okay."


The translator takes our IDs, and the Marine takes our names and checks them in his file. He waves us through. The main road is deserted as we drive into town. But when we turn onto the side streets, driving between walled compounds, we can see people watching us from their gates.


It's not long before our car is stopped by a squad of ten resistance fighters, some with heads completely covered by the checkered yishmagh shawl, others with their faces showing.


They know my friend, and he introduces me as a journalist, who has come to tell what is happening in Fallujah. This group of fighters has no problems with the media, but they are afraid others might. "Let him hide his press ID, and if he has a camera, he must leave it here. When he comes back he can take it again," said one.


"I am afraid the resistance will kill him if they see his camera and they think he is a spy,” the man explained. “If he's not a spy, then maybe the US checkpoint will confiscate the camera and then have photos of the resistance."


Further into the city, shops were closed, and nothing moved in the streets.


We spotted another group of fighters, and they waved us over. Muamar introduced me as his nephew and we asked them about the situation.


"We have a problem with the snipers," one fighter told us. "The tanks drive inside carrying snipers, and they enter empty buildings. Most people killed by them are civilians."


As an example, they talk about a doctor named Akram, who came to Fallujah with a dozen volunteers to help. According to the fighters, Doctor Akram was shot in the head as he left his ambulance, and was killed instantly.


Another fighter told us that snipers had climbed up the al-Roda al-Muhammediya mosque, and fired on anyone who left the house, "We wanted to shoot him, but one of the residents said, 'No, this is a mosque.' We agreed however to kill him with an RPG-7 [rocket launcher] to stop him killing people." They claim to have hit their target, but in the process they damaged the mosque's light fittings.


We walked on, eventually finding our way to one of Muammar's relatives, Mishaan Hamed, an engineer who runs a generator which supplies his neighbours with power. It has run out of fuel, and he is too afraid of snipers to go out into the street to re-fuel it.


"Our mosques are full of supplies and assistance which came from our brothers in Baghdad and elsewhere," Mishaan said. "The problem is that no one can go out to get them."


Mishaan introduces us to Abu Sayf, a retired military officer who is also the neighborhood "fidayee" or self-sacrificer who deliberately goes out to see which streets are safe to walk. "I decided to go out, because if we [are forced to stay] inside the house my children will die from hunger,” he said. "I can't just keep on listening to them crying. Their voices wound my heart."


"When I went out, [and survived], our neighbours immediately ran out saying [to each other] 'Hurry, hurry. Come to the mosque to get water and food and milk for your children’. I have a truck. I filled it up with food and shared it and distributed it to people whose homes were far away from the mosque.


"Women cried when they saw the food, and they had water in their hands. The children were very happy."


Wisam al-Jaff is an IWPR trainee


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